Hall of Honor 2014 Inductees

John Christian Bernhardt

  • John Christian BernhardtJohn Christian Bernhardt was born October 11, 1906 in Lenoir at Sweetbriar, the youngest of four children born to John Matthias Bernhardt and Ellen Harper. He attended the old Lenoir Graded School until 1923 and was a member of the first graduating class of Lenoir High.  The quality of education in Lenoir has been credited for his acceptance to Davidson College, where he graduated in 1927.

    John Christian Bernhardt had a love of his community, a desire inspired by his ancestors. His grandfather, Major Harper, led Confederate troops in the Civil War; operated a hardware store; established the Bank of Lenoir and the Pioneer Library; and led the effort to bring the railroad to Lenoir. In 1889, his father, J. M. Bernhardt, began a small box factory in Lenoir that would later grow into the largest privately owned and oldest furniture company in North Carolina.

    After graduating from Davidson College, John Christian ran a logging camp in the mountains of North Carolina. By 1930 he returned to Lenoir, joining the furniture business with his father and older brother George Harper Bernhardt. Following his father’s death in 1935 and his brother’s death in 1946, John Christian Bernhardt became the head of Bernhardt Furniture Company, which grew to employ more than 2000 people at its height and will soon be led by the fourth generation of Bernhardt Family leaders.

    Throughout his life, John Christian helped create services his community needed, among these were Caldwell Memorial Hospital, Lenoir Bi-Racial Committee, Koinonia Retirement Center, Town and Country housing development, Caldwell Hospice, Caldwell Halfway House, The Jesse Rankin Historic House, and several recreational centers and areas throughout the city. He was a lifelong member, elder, and trustee of the First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir. He served Davidson College in several capacities, was a director of First Union National Bank and the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, and served on numerous boards. Among his awards were the Davidson College Bible Medal and the Alumni Service Medal, an award from the NAACP, the L. A. Dysart award as Lenoir Man of the Year, the James T. Ryan Distinguished Service Award from the SFMA, the first ever Johnson Wax Centennial Award, and the New York City award from the Brotherhood of Christians and Jews.

    On October 14, 1931, John Christian Bernhardt married Jean Thornwell Alexander of Morganton. They built their home, Homewood on Woodside Place in Lenoir where they reared their three children, daughter Nancy Thornwell, and sons, John Christian, Jr. and George Alexander. He died May 29, 2003 at his home in Lenoir, having been predeceased by his beloved wife of 63 years, who died in 1994. He was a student of literature and history, had an artist’s eye for design, both for furniture and architecture. He traveled throughout the world and had a wide circle of friends abroad.

Lymon C. Kirby, Ph.D.

  • Lyndon C Kirby After graduating from Hibriten High School, Lyndon Craig Kirby attended Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and after two years, transferred to UNC Chapel Hill where he majored in Biology while working in a yeast research laboratory. One of the highlights experienced during his undergraduate degree was to travel to Haiti as part of a medical mission where he aided physicians and dentists in the treatment of local children. He graduated from UNC in 1985 with a BA in Biology and worked for two years as a Laboratory Technician in the UNC Department of Chemistry. In 1987, he began graduate studies at Appalachian State University and graduated with a MS in Biology in 1991 with research focusing on bacteriology and molecular biology.

    In 1989, Lyndon Kirby entered the PhD program at East Carolina University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology where his research focused on organic synthesis of a novel bile acid with subsequent analytical and biochemical studies of bile acid metabolism by endogenous gut bacteria. While at ECU-SOM he worked with local high school students as a mentor on science projects and was a microbiology tutor at the medical school. In 1995, Lyndon Kirby successfully defended his PhD and immediately started post-doctoral research at Bowman Gray University School of Medicine in the Department of Gastroenterology working on the human Ileal Bile Acid Transporter. This research helped to describe the specificity of the transporter and had direct clinical implication in that the lab showed a correlation between mutations occurring in the bile acid transporter and disease etiology in patients with Primary Bile Acid Malabsorption. In 1996, Lyndon Kirby started a Research Fellowship at ECU-SOM Department of Physiology where research was focused on the enzyme, antizyme, in gut epithelial cells. During this fellowship, he taught Gastrointestinal Physiology in the Physician’s Assistant and Nursing programs at ECU as well as mentored graduate students.

    After completing three years of post-doctoral research, Lyndon Kirby moved to clinical research and drug development.  In 1999, he began work at Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in the area of anti-viral clinical research where he worked on HIV clinical studies in South Africa.  In 2000, he joined Otsuka Maryland Research Institute in Rockville Maryland to participate in the preparation and submission of a new agent for schizophrenia, helping to write and review submission documents required for the New Drug Application (NDA) filing.  In 2002, he moved back to North Carolina to join GlaxoSmithKline as Clinical Research Scientist in the area of Phase I Oncology. Lyndon Kirby spent nine years at GSK working on multiple anti-cancer compounds in early phase clinical trials and was involved on several NDAs.  Responsibilities included authoring clinical and regulatory documents, input on study design and execution of oncology clinical trials and overall management of Phase I clinical development programs for selected oncology compounds in the United States and worldwide.

    From 2011 to present, Lyndon Kirby has been at Quintiles, Inc as Director, Clinical Project Management and Head of the Early Phase Oncology Center of Excellence, a virtual group of scientists and staff with expertise in early phase oncology who provide scientific and clinical operational services and consultation to customers that include input on clinical development from pre-clinical through early phase development programs. Additional responsibilities include providing senior oversight and guidance to study teams conducting Phase I studies and critical review of protocols and placement of oncology trials globally. He has also co-developed an Early Phase Oncology training curriculum for internal operations staff working in Phase I Oncology. Lyndon Kirby is the author/co-author of over 25 journal articles and abstracts as well as multiple clinical documents

    Lyndon Kirby and wife Suyong Yun Kirby have been married since 2006 and have a daughter, Ella Gabrielle Kirby (5) and son, John Noah Kirby (3). In his spare time, Lyndon Kirby enjoys being a dad, playing guitar, hiking, camping and cycling.

James Miller Whisnant

  • James Miller Whisnant After graduating from Hudson High School, James Miller Whisnant attended NC State University and while there, he competed on the NCSU Wrestling Team and was elected to both the Mathematics Honor Society Pi Mu Epsilon and Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honor Society. He graduated with honors in 1963 and continued at NCSU until 1965 when he completed an MS Degree with honors in Applied Mathematics, with a minor in Physics.

    In that same year, Miller Whisnant took a position at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where he continues to serve today. His early responsibilities at the Space Development Department included modeling for satellite attitude control, design and development of software for navy navigation satellite on board computers, investigation of ionospheric effects on satellite communications, modeling of tropospheric and ionospheric effects on satellite range measurements, design of software for NASA communication switches, and analyzing and modeling for the Rolling Airframe Missile simulation.

    From 1984 to present, Miller Whisnant has worked in the Air and Missile Defense Department, in Program Management for the following programs: U.S. Navy Ship Self-Defense, Battle Force Engineering, Single Integrated Air picture, High Energy Laser, and several electronic warfare and international missile programs. He also serves as department designee for review of material for Public Release and is the Department Export Control Coordinator. Miller has published more than 30 journal articles and professional reports on his work for unclassified programs.

    Miller Whisnant has taught mathematics courses at The National Institutes of Health in Maryland and is currently is an instructor in mathematics and computer science for the Engineering for Professionals graduate program at The Johns Hopkins University.  Currently he is also Vice-Chair of the Computer Science Program.

    Miller Whisnant and wife Patricia (Merson) Whisnant have been married since 1966, and their daughter Nicole Hurst received her PhD in Toxicology from the University of North Carolina in 1999. She currently works for Infinity Pharmaceutical Company in Boston, Massachusetts. In his spare time, he enjoys Chinese watercolor painting.

Bishop Leonard Homer Bolick

  • Bishop Leonard Homer Bolick Leonard Homer Bolick, the only child of Homer J. Bolick and Naomi F. Bradshaw, grew up in western Caldwell County, and before graduating from Happy Valley High School in 1964, he served as Secretary to the Congregation Council of St. Mark’s Church and taught Sunday Church School. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in History from Appalachian State University. In 1972 he received a Masters of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, where he served as Student Body President and completed internships at Orangeburg Lutheran Church in South Carolina and Attoway Lutheran Parish (four congregations) in Southwest Virginia.

    With his continued commitment to education, he received a Doctor of Ministry in evangelism and church administration from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois; a Doctor of Ministry in pastoral counseling from Graduate Theological Foundation in Donaldson, Indiana and a Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina.

    From 1972 to 1986, Leonard Homer Bolick pastored congregations of more than 800 members in Concord and Fayetteville, North Carolina, serving as Chairman of the Synodical Parish Life and Ministry Development Committee and the Contact Counseling Ministry of Fayetteville. He was an Assistant to the Bishop for two bishops of the North Carolina Synod until 1997, when he was elected Bishop of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the third oldest Lutheran body in the Western Hemisphere.  He has served as bishop for the last 17 years and will soon be the longest serving bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

    As a member of the Executive Committee of the Conference of Bishops, he is one of 65 bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made up of over 10,000 congregations, and the largest Protestant Denomination with over 7 million members. His responsibilities have ranged from chairing the Carolinas’ Evangelism Conference for three years to assisting congregation councils to lecturing on evangelism and the Christian mission.

    Bishop Leonard Homer Bolick is married to Rita Marie Abee Bolick, graduate of Presbyterian School of Nursing.  They have two children, daughter Sarah, who is a student at the University of Chicago and Lutheran Theological Seminary in Chicago and son Joseph, who is a pastor in Charleston, South Carolina, where he serves with his wife, Sarah, who is also a pastor, and they have one daughter, Lilly.

Rear Admiral Magruder Tuttle

  • Rear Admiral Magruder TuttleMagruder Hill Tuttle, was born July 21, 1908 to Reverend Magruder Hill Tuttle, Sr. and Almyra Louisa Ervin Tuttle.  He graduated from Lenoir High School in 1926.  He was an outstanding athlete in high school where he served as team captain.  He was selected as an All State football player during his senior year.  He was awarded a football scholarship to Duke University (then Trinity College) where he also served as team captain during his freshman year.  After suffering a back injury that could have jeopardized his scholarship if he could no longer play, he decided to leave college and enlisted in the Navy in 1927.

    Because of his high test scores, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.  During the fall of 1928, with his back injury healed, he played football at the U.S. Naval Academy where he again served as team captain.  Tuttle was selected for numerous All-American teams as one of the finest leaders developed on the football field both on offense and defense.  He has been recognized as Caldwell County’s first great football player and county’s first All-State selection and first collegiate All-American in football.

    Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1932, Tuttle began flight training in Pensacola, Florida.  He was then assigned to the USS Yorktown and then to the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor.  He was on duty during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

    Tuttle held a number of positions in the military over the next few years.  Some of these assignments included Commander of Patrol Squadron 201; Commander of Bombing Squadron 111; Commander of Headquarters Squadron Fleet Air Wing 15, and Commander of the Tactical Test Section at the Evaluation and Test Command Center.  He was among the first naval pilots to transition to jet aircraft.  Following World War II, Tuttle continued his military service.  He achieved the rank of Rear Admiral, which is the third highest ranking officer in the U.S. Navy. He is believed to be the highest ranking military officer from Caldwell County.

    During his service as a Rear Admiral, he wanted to establish a Naval Aviation Museum to collect, preserve, and display the history of Naval aviation.   That museum officially opened in Pensacola, Florida, on June 8, 1963.  Magruder Tuttle, was recognized as the visionary and one of the founders of the museum. He retired in 1967 after 41 years of service in the Navy.   He married Dorothy Mae Courtney, a native of Lenoir, on July 6, 1935.   They had four children:  Harry, Robert, Courtney, and Jane.  He was a member of the Rotary Club of Pensacola and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow.  He died November 6, 1998.  A plaque to honor Admiral Magruder Tuttle in the Naval Aviation Museum states:  An All American on the field and an inspirational leader on the sea and in the air.