Hall of Honor 2003 Inductees
Robert A. Gibbons, Sr.
Moving to Lenoir before his first birthday, Robert Gibbons attended local schools, including the newly built East Harper Elementary. Gibbons graduated from Lenoir High School in 1937 and embarked on his successful business career. Gibbons worked for Home Electric Company where he served as estimator, manager and vice-president. In 1950 he founded his Company, which remains a success today, 52 years later. Gibbons served the City of Lenoir as a councilman from 1961 until 1971 when he was elected Mayor, serving in that position for 24 years. In 1995, Governor Jim Hunt presented Mayor Gibbons the Order of the Longleaf Pine award for his dedication to the citizens of Lenoir. He is a lifetime member of the Lenoir Lions Club, the Hibriten Masonic Lodge, Lenoir York Rite Bodies and the Oasis Shrine Temple. Gibbons' service also includes 32 years on the Bank of Granite Board of Directors, President of Lenoir Little League Baseball, Director of Caldwell Memorial Hospital Board and Director of Caldwell County Economic Development Board. Mayor Gibbons' dedication to business and community has enhanced the lives of all Caldwell County citizens.
Dr. Donald W. Lackey
A native of Lenoir, Dr. Donald Lackey graduated from Lenoir High School in 1940, attended undergraduate school at NC State University and received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lackey practiced in Lenoir from 1946 to 1977. Through exemplary service to community and profession, Dr. Lackey received the 1991 L.A. Dysart Award, the 1989 NC Veterinary Medical Association Distinguished Veterinarian Award and is honored with the Dr. Donald Lackey Award for Excellence in Teaching at CCC & TI. Dr. Lackey has served as Chair of the CCC & TI Board of Trustees, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Caldwell County Arts Council, President and 50 year member of Lenoir Rotary, Director of Bank of Granite and Caldwell Memorial Hospital Boards, President of the NC Veterinary Medical Association, President of the Piedmont Veterinary Medical Association, President of the NC Veterinary Medical Board and Chairman of the Lenoir City School Board of Education. He was appointed by Governor Hunt to the State Board of Health. Dr. Lackey is a life long member of the First Presbyterian Church where he served as deacon, elder and trustee.
Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes
A Granite Falls native, Dr. Vaughn Starnes attended Dudley Shoals Elementary School and graduated from Granite Falls High School in 1969. At UNC Chapel Hill Starnes received a BS in Chemistry in 1973 and graduated from the UNC School of Medicine in 1977. Dr. Starnes spent two years researching cardiovascular physiology at Vanderbilt University and received cardiac and transplantation training at Stanford. In 1982, Dr. Starnes studied congenital heart and lung disease at Little Children's Hospital in London, returning to Stanford where he became Chair of the Heart and Lung Transplant Department. Four years later, Dr. Starnes established his own cardiothoracic surgery program at the USC School of Medicine and Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. Dr. Starnes made history when he performed a successful heart-lung transplant on a four-month old boy and the first successful "living related" lung transplant. He also pioneered double-lung transplant surgery for Cystic Fibrosis. Named one of the Best Doctors in America, 1994-1997, Starnes is considered the foremost pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon in the world.
Captain James C. Harper
A native of Lenoir, Captain James C. Harper graduated from Lenoir City Schools in 1911, earned a bachelor's degree from Davidson College and MA in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill. Harper joined the US Army during WWI and received the rank of Captain. Returning to Lenoir in the early 1920's, Captain Harper conducted the American Legion Band and began the Lenoir High School Band, devoting 34 years to students. In 1965, Davidson College awarded Captain Harper an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities. Captain Harper was the first high school band director to be elected President of the American Band Master Association and later became an Honorary Life President, an honor he shared with John Phillip Sousa. Captain Harper also served as trustee and Clerk of Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir and on the committees that founded Caldwell Memorial Hospital and Caldwell Community College. In 1958, the Lenoir City School Board named the Lenoir High School Band Building the James C. Harper Band Building and named Captain Harper, Director-Emeritus. Captain Harper's legacy continues across the nation and world as his commitment to students and community remains an outstanding model of lifelong devotion and services.
Major George L. Shade
A Lenoir native, Major George L. Shade graduated from Freedman High School in 1941. After graduation, Shade entered the Tuskegee Institute where he received a BA in Industrial Education. During World War II, Major Shade became the first African-American commissioned officer from Caldwell County serving in the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Squadron and the 477th Bombardment Squadron. Major Shade was stationed in the European Theater of Operation and was engaged in 37 combat fights. The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 sorties, destroyed over 1,000 German aircraft, received hundreds of Air Medals and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, records that have never been broken to date. After twenty years in the military, Major Shade returned to community service as an official in public housing and co-owner of Shade Pavillion Rest Home. He served as chair of Headstart and Blue Ridge Community Action. Major Shade also taught Auto Body Repair at Caldwell Community College. Continuing to serve his community and country, Shade has become a renowned speaker and historian of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Captain John Gordon Witherspoon
A Lenoir native, Captain John G. Witherspoon graduated from Freedman High School in 1959. After a tour of duty in the US Army, Witherspoon enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1963 serving an exemplary thirty-four years of active duty. Captain Witherspoon was selected to attend Officer Candidate School in June, 1971 where he received his commission as Ensign in the US Coast Guard. The first African-American to command a Coast Guard Cutter and shore unit, Commander Witherspoon was the Commanding Officer of the Mallow, Valiant, and Dependable.In addition to many other distinguished assignments, Captain Witherspoon's last assignment was Chief of the Eighth Coast Guard District Search and Rescue Branch in New Orleans. Captain Witherspoon's military decorations for distinguished services include the Meritorious Service Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal and Coast Guard Humanitarian Service Medal. The US Coast Guard recognizes his service through the annual presentation of the Captain John G. Witherspoon Leadership Award to a Coast Guard officer who exemplifies the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. Captain Witherspoon also received the NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award for his constant humanitarianism. Blazing a trail for minority officers to follow, Captain Witherspoon will be remembered for the lives he influenced through example and compassionate mentoring.