Two named to county's hall of fame
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 31, 2010 1:50 AM
Two former residents of Goldsboro were memorialized Saturday night as part of the Wayne County Museum Wall of Fame and a third was honored with the unveiling of a portrait.
Willis Casey and George C. Royall were inducted for their many contributions to the community, along with Mary Johnstone, who was instrumental in the organization of the museum, where she met husband Andy during World War II when the building served as the USO.
Casey, born in Goldsboro in 1920, was swimming coach at N.C. State University for 21 years. In 1943 his team won the National AAU outdoor event. The school's aquatics center is named for him and he is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Casey died in 1992.
Edwin Shumate paid tribute to his lifelong friend.
He called Casey an innovator" who developed the current model for athletic administration when he served as athletic director for N.C. State University.
"In the '30s Willis and I both came along in poor times and ran into the Depression," he recalled. "We all met at the Community Building. Willis and I swam together in high school. We were state high school champions for three years. The fourth year they closed the Community Building for lack of coal."
Casey contracted tuberculosis and the two lost contact for several years. But when they reconnected, Shumate said he was impressed with all his friend went on to accomplish.
"In 1944, he served as assistant to varsity coach Dick Jamerson at UNC-Chapel Hill, being the youngest coach to serve in that position," he said. "In 1946, he started his association with N.C. State University, serving as coach of the swim team. He won 11 conference titles and produced 33 All-American swimmers. He was named Wolfpack athletic director in 1969 and served in that capacity until 1986."
All told, Casey devoted 40 years of service at N.C. State, Shumate said, bringing the state program to national prominence.
"I can't think of a person more qualified for this honor," Shumate said.
Pamela Lawrence spoke about Royall, her great-uncle, who was born in Goldsboro in 1860 and died in 1943.
"He grew up in one of those large houses on South Center Street, between Spruce and Pine," she said. "He finished school at 17 and became a teacher. But at 18, he became the local representative of the three railroads that ran through Goldsboro, a position he held for 20 years."
At 21, Royall and John L. Borden organized Royall and Borden Manufacturing Co., which lasted for more than 50 years, making furniture, felt and mattresses.
Royall accomplished much for his community, Mrs. Lawrence said. He was one of the organizers of the city Chamber of Commerce and served as its first president. He was a Goldsboro alderman and mayor pro tem and a member of the board of trustees of the old Goldsboro Hospital, serving as chairman for 15 yeas. He also was founder and president of the Argus Publishing Company and the Goldsboro Daily Argus, which preceded the News-Argus.
"I don't know how he had time to do anything else, but he did," she said. "He was also quite a family man ... and his family is all very proud that Goldsboro is giving him this honor and I am, too."
Nancy Delia spoke about Mrs. Johnstone, her longtime friend and neighbor. She recalled how the couple had met at the museum building while Mary served as a volunteer with the USO.
"The Women's Club building remained a site for the Wayne County Museum. Andy and Mary were very active in raising money for the project," she said.
Andy died in 1992 and his wife remained a staunch supporter of the historic district of Goldsboro, especially the Paramount Theatre.
"She cried when she saw the theater burn down," Mrs. Delia said. "She watched from her bathroom window."
Sue Schell said she met Mrs. Johnstone in 1975 when Mrs. Schell first moved here.
"I said when she died, 'The history of Wayne County just left.' She knew about all the houses," she said, adding that her friend was also responsible for the book "Heritage of Wayne County," published in 1982.
Jane Rustin, librarian at Wayne County Public Library, said she also had the privilege of knowing Mrs. Johnstone.
"She was the kindest person I think I ever met. She just exuded kindness and warmth," she said.
"And she'd have smiled to think her friend Zeno Spence painted a portrait of her and that it was hung in the building where she and Andy courted almost 70 years ago," added Mrs. Delia.
The painting will permanently be displayed at the museum entrance, announced museum Director Terry Williams.
At the program's conclusion, Mrs. Rustin called it a "great day."
"This is what the museum is all about and what history is all about, people's stories," she said. "This is really an appropriate time to recognize those people who made such strong contributions. It's wonderful that we have two worthy additions (for the Wall of Fame). We know how important these folks are and how vital they are to understand who we are today, so that we will remember and they will be remembered and will hang on that wall for a long time."