Businessman and petroleum entrepreneur Emmett Judson "Buddy" Pope Jr. is being remembered as personifying the hard-nosed and astute businessman, but also as someone who loved his family and community.
Pope, whose family owns E.J. Pope Inc. and its subsidiaries, Handy Mart and Pope Transport, died Wednesday night at Kitty Askins Hospice Center.
He was 86.
Pope was very social and enjoyed being around all people and loved being with his family, especially getting together for meals, his son Judson Pope said.
Pope said his father was fond of pancakes with hot, hot butter and extra, extra syrup, he said.
"He enjoyed the beach and watching UNC football and basketball," he said. "You had to close your eyes when riding in the car with him. He drove fast and tailgated other cars.
"He was very good at reading people, very good at making gut business decisions. He could be very gruff sounding, yet he had a heart of gold."
Pope loved Mount Olive, First United Methodist Church and Wayne County, serving on many boards, including as the chairman or president of several boards, he said.
Pope was competitive while playing golf and had made seven holes in one.
Kaye Thompson worked with Pope for nearly 30 years and served as his vice president for finance.
He was a unique individual, she said.
"He had sort of a reputation as being a tough guy, oil-jobber and that sort of thing," Thompson said. "But he was the most generous, kind, respectful person you can ever imagine."
He respected his employees, and he gave responsibilities to those in management and then kind of stepped out of the way and let them do their jobs, she said.
Pope was very liberal and generous in that way and was a mentor and leader when needed, Thompson said.
Pope was innovative and stayed involved in the industry, including the N.C. Petroleum Marketers board where he served as its president in 1993.
That same year, Thompson served as president of the N.C. Convenience Association. The two boards have since merged, she said.
Thompson said she was one of the first women in managent in that industry -- something that Pope always promoted.
There was no glass ceiling for women in Pope's company, something that was unusual at that time, Thompson said.
"He allowed women to grow in their profession, careers and lives, and supported us entirely," she said. "He was a leader in a lot of ways. Of course he led in the community with his assistance and constant support to the college serving on that board, and also being very benevolent in setting up the Handy Mart scholarship endowment fund.
"He was a tough boss in that he set the expectations high, but he allowed us to achieve them by giving us support. He was a great friend to me and my family, always very supportive."
Pope was one of the giants of the industry, well respected in the state and nationally, said Gary Harris, N.C. Petroleum and Convenience Marketers executive director.
"I have seen Buddy sit in our board meetings and vote on things that were good for the industry on the whole, but they probably won't particularly good for his business," Harris said. "He was the kind of guy who understood and grasped what was good to help everybody, and he never minded doing that."
Pope was a prince of a fellow, he said.
"Under that gruff exterior there was a heart of gold because if you needed something or if he could help out, even his competitors, he would do what he could to help," Harris said.
"Yeah, he was tough in the business environment. I think that gruff exterior might have put some people off but underneath it, if you needed help, Buddy would help you out."
Former Wayne Community College President Ed Wilson worked with Pope on the former Wayne County Economic Development Commission.
"He was a fine gentleman and was dedicated to economic development," Wilson said. "He did a lot to join the efforts in the Mount Olive area with the overall county's, which was very remarkable when sometimes there was always a little jealousy below and above the (Neuse) River."
In that aspect, Pope was a unifier, Wilson said.
"He was really a wonderful person, obviously a great businessman," Wilson said. "I enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. I always thought the world of him."
Pope served on the board of directors of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. for 25 years.
"He was an outstanding businessman, a mentor and a good friend of mine," said Bill Bryan, executive chairman, Mt. Olive Pickle Co. "Buddy was a strong supporter of the Mount Olive community, especially his church and the university.
"While Buddy sometimes displayed a gruff exterior, he had a heart of gold and was always one of the first to respond favorably to an important project or a worthy cause."
Pope loved Mount Olive, his family and his community, said Jimmy Williams, special assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement at the University of Mount Olive.
Pope served as a member of the UMO board of trustees for 19 years. In that role, he brought hard-nosed business sense to the governance of the university, Williams said.
He set the example for trusteeship by leading, raising money and being personally generous of himself and his resources, he said.
His leadership was always astute, sometimes a little blunt, but never flagging in his commitment to deal with all situations, good or bad, Williams said.
"It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Buddy Pope," Williams said. "He and his family have been very close personal friends of mine for many years and my condolences are with his entire family.
"I had the distinct honor and privilege to work with Buddy Pope over the years in my involvements with the University of Mount Olive, Wayne County Public Schools and First United Methodist Church."
Pope, alongside his son, Judson, established the Handy Mart scholarship endowment for the university with a golf tournament in the late 1980s. Today, it is one of the largest scholarship endowments at the university.
"While we will miss Buddy's involvement in our community, his legacy will continue to make a positive impact, all because he cared," Williams said. "We have all lost a dear friend.
"The University of Mount Olive is deeply saddened by the loss of Buddy Pope who over the years has played such an important role in the university's growth and development. To the Pope family we extend our condolences for their loss and heartfelt appreciation for sharing his life and talents with us."
Pope was an outstanding contributor to the university and expanded his gifts by leading fundraising programs, most notably the Handy Mart Golf Tournament, which over the years has raised more than $2.6 million for scholarship support, Williams said.
"Judson Pope continues to fulfill a family tradition through his service on the university board of trustees and by his same qualities of crispness and astuteness that have been the hallmark of the Pope business agenda," said Teresa Hines, vice president for institutional advancement.
Pope was the son of the late Emmett Judson Pope and Mary Newman Pope.
Pope graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a business degree in 1953.
After his service in the military, he joined his father in the operation of the family business, established in 1919 by the elder Pope following his own return from World War I service.
Pope, an Eagle Scout, was a civic and community leader and had served on numerous boards, which include Mt. Olive Pickle Co., Mount Olive College (now University of Mount Olive), N.C. Petroleum and Convenience Marketers, N.C. Aquarium, Goldsboro Country Club, Coral Bay Club and various other local boards.
Pope was a member of First United Methodist Church of Mount Olive, where his life was remembered during a worship service on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Rev. Marti Hatch and the Rev. Michael Binger officiated. The Pope family received friends in the church fellowship hall during the hour before the service. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Handy Mart Business Scholarship Endowment, University of Mount Olive, 634 Henderson St., Mount Olive, N.C., 28365, or to First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 420, Mount Olive, N.C., 28365.
Pope is survived by three children, Mary Louise Pope and her husband, Patrick Willard Kennedy, of Clayton, Cornelia "Nealy" Pope Lambert and her husband, Dr. James Royall Lambert, of Mount Olive, and Emmett Judson Pope III and his wife, Kimberly Mewborn Pope, of Goldsboro; three grandchildren, Gray Sloan and wife, Jessica Davis Sloan, of Garner, Abbey Pope and Margaux Pope, both of Goldsboro; two great-grandchildren, Sadie and Stella Sloan of Garner; a sister, Mary Elizabeth Pope Davenport and husband, Ed, of Raleigh; and several nieces and nephews.
Preceding Pope in death are the mother of his children, Cornelia "Connie" Williams Edwards; an infant granddaughter, Cornelia Elisabeth Sloan; and a sister, Jean Pope Montague and husband, Ira.