Tom Drew, who spent decades vexing local politicians with lengthy, rambling philosophical question and comments, was found dead at his residence Saturday by Goldsboro police.
Tuesday, Wayne County commissioners said that while they often disagreed with Drew that he still was an example of what being an American citizen is all about when it comes to the exercise of free speech.
Police were called to Drew's residence at 307 N. Audubon Ave. Saturday afternoon after neighbors asked for a welfare check.
Drew, who was last seen Monday, Feb. 13, was found dead in his bed. He was 62.
Foul play is not suspected and the case is closed.
Drew referred to himself as a "citizen reporter" and always carried an audio recorder. He published his reports in his Card Post.
His most recent favored topics were education, public forums and free speech, suicide prevention and protesting elections. More often than not they were all entwined in convoluted questions or comments.
Drew was a frequent commentator at most meetings of commissioners where anyone from the public can speak for four minutes on their topic of choice.
Even then commissioners would still have to remind Drew of the time limit. There were even occasions when a deputy would be called on to escort Drew to his seat.
Drew brought handmade signs to the meeting until commissioners banned them.
He passed out handouts until commissioners put in place a requirement that handouts be given to the clerk to the board to distribute.
"I want to thank this board of commissioners, you know because we looked around, and we tried to find reasons, and I am including myself, not listen to Tom, not let him get up to have his public time," Commissioner Ray Mayo said during the public comments portion of the meeting where Drew would normally have spoken."
The board still gave Drew his time to speak, Mayo said.
"There are some other places around town that forbade him to attend different meetings and so forth." he said. "We did not. I think that what we saw, and what we had seen through Tom Drew is exactly what the constitution of the United States is all about.
"Every person, no matter who they are, has a right to stand up and say, as long as it does not offend anyone or get out of hand. I found a lot of things to do sometimes when Tom was speaking -- like iPhone or looking through my agenda."
Mayo said he has heard that early on years ago Drew brought ideas to the board that commissioners actually used.
"I think it is a perfect example of what being an American citizen is all about -- that we have that right to stand up and be heard," Mayo said.
Drew was sincere in what his beliefs were, Commissioner Wayne Aycock said.
"He had the same right as all of us to express his opinion, and he did," Aycock said. "He will be missed."
"I didn't always agree with him, and I like I said, sometimes I couldn't understand him," Chairman Bill Pate said. "But he was passionate about what his beliefs were. You have to applaud him for that."
Drew was a very "unusual person," Commissioner John Bell said.
"I will never forget the time about maybe eight years ago the school board and county commissioners were having some sort of intense dialogue with each other," Bell said. "Tom came up and he diagnosed it f or us. He said, 'The problem with the school board and the county commissioners,' he said they are operating like a 'breadless banana sandwich.'"
Bell said no one figured that out.
People need to take heed as to what free speech really means, Commissioner Ed Cromartie said.
"Although we might not always agree with what another person is saying, or their point of view, it's always respectful to be able listen to their point of view because we see things through a different lens," he said. "We just don't see things alike.
"Mr. Drew spoke his mind, and I think somebody has already said that he brought up subjects that a lot of us had not thought about. Certainly when he passed out those papers and you glanced at them, there were some things on there that clearly we hadn't thought about."