Distinguished Persons of the Year
1980 - 1989
Robert B. Byrd
No information available at this time.
George M. Fouts
Throughout the late summer and early fall of 1988, George Fouts gave tirelessly of his characteristic imagination, intellect, and personal initiative as he chaired a task force which won passage of a referendum that will significantly improve the water and sewer services in Morganton. It is largely for that effort during 1988 that our civic leaders have chosen to honor Mr. Fouts with the Morganton Man of the Year Award. However, in doing so, they have given us the opportunity to recognize his many other civic contributions and personal accomplishments which make this award not only timely, but also richly deserved.
George Fouts’ first and present contribution to this community and its people is his teaching at Western Piedmont Community College. Since he came to Morganton to assume that responsibility in 1973, hundreds of students have been inspired and motivated by his love of knowledge and his energy for its pursuit. Likewise, his colleagues at Western Piedmont have been inspired by his example, choosing in 1979 to honor him with the college’s first Outstanding Faculty Award.
Mr. Fouts held a variety of administrative roles at the college from 1980 to 1987, including Vice President for Academic Affairs and Executive Vice President. His outstanding leadership at Western Piedmont attracted statewide attention and resulted in his nomination by the president of the community college system, former governor Bob Scott, to serve as interim president at two community colleges in the state: Mayland Community college in Spruce Pine from August 1986 to February 1987, and Roanoke-Chowan Community College in Ahoskie from July to December 1987.
Beyond his roles as an outstanding educator in this community and educational leader in North Carolina, Mr Fouts has been heavily involved in the life of this community. He is a member and past president of the Morganton Rotary Club. He was active in the promotion of Burke County’s first CROP Walk. In 1986, he worked with the citizens’ group which won passage of the bond referendum to build the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium and currently serves to the advisory committee of CoMMA. He has made significant contributions to Burke County United Way. An active supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, he is past chairman of their annual giving campaign in the Table Rock District.
He is a member of Grace Episcopal Church and serves on its finance committee and as a lay leader. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Patterson School in Lenoir.
George Fouts brings an impressive record of personal accomplishments to each of these groups and endeavors. As a 1965 honor graduate of Thomasville Senior High School, he attended Catawba College where he was president of both his junior and senior classes and recipient of the 1969 Whitener Medal, awarded annually by a vote of student and faculty for outstanding character, leadership, and scholarship. He was Valedictorian of Catawba’s class of 1969, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion magna cum laude. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where in 1973 he earned a Master’s degree in English.
While an instructor at Western Piedmont, he was chosen as one of twenty college English teachers in North Carolina to participate in a U.S. Department of Education seminar on the teaching of English and reading at Western Carolina University in 1976. In 1979, he was one of twenty-two freshman writing program directors selected in a national competition to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar in rhetorical theory and practice at the University of Iowa.
Mr. Fouts is a veteran of the North Carolina National Guard. Both he and his wife, the former Sharon Embry, are natives of Thomasville. Sharon Fouts, a former elementary school teacher, is director of the pre-school program at Morganton’s First Baptist Church. Their children are Lenora and George Michael.
This city and county are extremely fortunate that Mr. Haworth chose to come here in 1969 with Drexel Heritage Furnishings. Over the years he has taken a keen interest in and become deeply involved in almost all places of community life, with special interest in education.
A “give-oriented” person, Mr. Haworth makes a significant difference for good in any endeavor with which he is connected. When he believes strongly in a cause, he gives his wholehearted support.
His major commitment now is to quality education for students not only here in Burke County, but throughout the state of North Carolina. In January 1987, he gave up the post of North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, which he had held for two years, to devote more time to improving the state’s education system. He was appointed to the State Board of Education last year and was elected its new chairman this month.
Also in the field of education, he has served as first vice president and a director of the Western Piedmont Community College Foundation. He has been a key advisor and supporter of the N.C. Outward Bound School from its beginning and encouraged efforts to impact mainstream education through the Outward Bound program.
Mr. Haworth is currently president of the Haworth Group and the Haworth Foundation. He is executive consultant for Masco, the parent company of Drexel Heritage Furnishings and Henredon Furniture Industries. He was president and chief executive officer of Drexel Heritage 1972-83 and chairman of the board 1983-85.
His community service also includes being a member and president of the Grace Hospital board of trustees for several years. He was president when the hospital was working on its last expansion project and played a key role in this project. A member of the First United Methodist Church, he serves on the administrative board there and the Beatrice Cobb Preaching Mission committee which oversees this countrywide event. He also is on the historic Burke Foundation board of trustees, a past board member of the Piedmont Council, Boy Scouts of America, and past chairman of its sustaining membership campaign in Burke County.
Mr. Haworth is now a director of First Union Corp., Carolina Freight Corp. and Myrtle Desk Co., a former chairman of the Morganton board of NCNB and a former director of Surety Federal Savings and Loan. IN the past he served on the Burke Way board of directors and chairman of its industrial division.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Mr. Haworth has lived in North Carolina for most of his 53 years. He is married to the former Patricia Garrison and they have two daughters, Ellen and Lucy.
He is a graduate of Guilford College of which he has been a faithful supporter for years and received the highest awards the college can bestow. As commerce secretary he was credited by Gov. Jim Marin with engineering the economic development blueprint for the state’s long term growth.
Statewide, he has been a member of the N.C. Council of management and development, Governor’s Commission for Literacy and the N.C. Board of Science and Technology, and chairman of the N.C. Business Committee for Education, which presented him an honorary award given by the governor to recognize people for outstanding public service to the state.
A native of Burke County who was reared in a family tradition of community service, this year’s recipient left Burke County as a youngster and returned as a young professional, seeking to build both a family and career here. Soon, however, he came to realize that it was also necessary to give something back, and over the past decade he has given much to many worthy causes and efforts.
During recent years, the 1986 Man of Year has perhaps been best known for his efforts to see that Morganton had a municipal auditorium which its citizens could enjoy and take pride in.
Although many said that Morganton voters would never approve a bond referendum to pay for such a facility, he refused to accept such negativism and instead set out to build community support for the sale of the bonds. On a cold February day in 1984, those efforts came to fruition, and the citizens of Morganton turned out to say “Yes” to the building of a new municipal auditorium.
Today, that auditorium stands proudly on the crest of a hill near the center of our city, a shining testament to the efforts of our 1986 Man of the Year and of all those who worked with him.
And, while others might have wanted to rest on their accomplishments once the facility was completed and opened, he has continued to serve as head of the city’s auditorium advisory committee. He believes that it is not enough just to have a new auditorium but that instead, it must be managed wisely and used so that it will be of the most benefit to all of our citizens.
While the auditorium has been the most visible of our 1986 Man of the Year’s efforts, he has at the same time worked on countless other projects to improve the quality of our living in this community.
He has worked hard to preserve the integrity of our downtown as a place where people shop and gather to meet friends, serving as president of the Morganton Merchants Association, as vice chairman of the Historic Morganton Festival and as a member of the Downtown Revitalization Committee.
Additionally, he has been active in the Morganton Rotary Club since 1983 and is now serving as the club’s president. He is a member of Calvary Lutheran Church where he is a former vice chairman of the Church Council.
He has also been very involved with the Morganton Jaycees, including a term as president of the organization. In addition, he has served on the steering committee which developed the Morganton/Burke Crimestoppers program.
He has also been active with the Therapeutic Riding Association of the Carolinas, worked with the Burke County United Way in a number of capacities including co-chairman of special projects, and has worked with the American Red Cross.
Andrew M. Kistler II
As mayor of Morganton for the past 12 years, the Man of the Year for 1985 has played a vital, active role in the growth and development of the city through long and dedicated public service. That the honor comes in the wake of his decision to return to private life is equally appropriate because it allows this community to say “thank you” for a job well done.
A native son who was reared in a family tradition of community service, this year’s recipient served an unprecedented six consecutive terms as mayor of Morganton. In this role, he provided leadership not only at home, but in other reaches of government. He served, for example, as president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, as chairman of the Governor’s Advocacy Council, as chairman and executive committee member for the Western Piedmont Council of governments and as a board member of the N.C. Municipal Power Agency No. 1.
In addition to his work as a strong voice within the state, he also kept open the channels of communication between the local and national governments. He served as a member of the National Association of Development Organization’s committee on Title V and the Appalachian Regional Commission’s committee on general revenue sharing.
But it has been at home where his efforts have been most strongly felt. As mayor, he was instrumental in the city’s portion of funding for renovating the old Burke County Courthouse, in securing state money to build the Morganton-Burke Senior Center and in helping provide funds for enlarging and renovating the library.
During his tenure, the city worked to streamline municipal operation. It adopted the public safety officer program, it built the new Law Enforcement Center and city warehouse and it renovated the wastewater treatment plant and water plant.
Under his leadership, Morganton also built Carbon City Park, Bethel Road Park, Gene Turner Memorial Park, Freedom Park and completed the Shuey Field complex.
But above his service as an elected official, the 1985 Man of the Year has also contributed his time and talents in other areas of community involvement. For example, he has been chairman of the Burke Economic Development Council, trustee of Grace Hospital, a director of the Burke County Public Library and a member of the Morganton Recreation Foundation.
Additionally, he has served as president of the Burke County Chamber of Commerce and the Burke County United Way and is a former member of the Western Piedmont Community College Foundation.
He also has been president of the Morganton Jaycees, from which he was honored with the Jaycees’ Distinguished Service Award—its “Young Man of the Year” designation. And, he served as vice president of the North Carolina Jaycees.
In the fields of youth and education, Mr. Kistler has served as a board member of the Patterson School in Lenoir and the Children’s Home Society in Greensboro. He also is past chairman of the Table Rock District of Boy Scouts of America.
In business, the 1985 Man of the Year is president of Stoney-Kistler Insurance Agency and also serves as director of Wachovia Bank and Trust Co., Alba-Waldensian, Inc. and Valdese Manufacturing Company.
Within his church he was been a vestryman and past president of Grace Episcopal Church Foundation. He is a member of the board of visitors for Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, the finance committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina and is president of the Episcopal Foundation of Western North Carolina.
He is the father of three children, Andrew II, Dorothy and Christine. Given the vast scope of his service and his selfless dedication to the well-being of his fellow citizens through such a smorgasbord of community service activities, it is both a timely and fitting that the Morganton Rotary Club honor him as the Man of the Year for 1985.
William P. Widenhouse
Morganton’s Man of the Year for 1984 is a man whose wise-crackin’ ways often belie his keen interest and serious efforts in making Morganton a more progressive community and better place in which to live.
Ever since William P. (Bill) Widenhouse came to Morganton some twenty-five years ago he has been involved in community affairs. But since his retirement as veterans representative with the Employment Security Commission in 1979 he has had more time to devote to various civic endeavors.
His involvement spans a wide panorama of organizations and activities, ranging from Lions, United Way and Arts Council to Anti-Litter Committee, Crimestoppers, Spring Expo and Burke Farmers Market. He has entered into all with great enthusiasm which inevitably rubs off on those working with him.
He has long been active in the Morganton Lions Clubs of which he has been a member about 20 years. He is a past president and has held most offices on the local level. He’s a familiar sight working on the broom sale and last year was chairman of the White Can drive which raises money for the North Carolina Lions Association.
Widenhouse also has been actively involved with the Burke County United Way, serving on the board of directors, a past chairman of the individual division. He is a board member and membership chairman of the Burke County Chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.
With an interest in the arts, he serves on the board of directors and as treasurer of the Burke Arts Council and is past membership chairman. He also is a member of the Historic Burke Foundation.
His interest in his adopted city has led him to become involved in Morganton city affairs. He is a member and was chairman for three years of the Morganton Redevelopment Commission.
A Navy veteran of World War II, Widenhouse is a past commander of American Legion Post 21 and of Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 5362. He is a past chairman of the Table Rock District of the Boy Scouts of America, for 15 years was on the American Legion Baseball Committee and has been active with the Spring Expo for five years, serving on the planning committee and the board of directors.
He is a member of the First United Methodist Church where he has been teacher of the Women’s Bible Class for 25 years. One of his key interests now which he enjoys very much is the Burke Farmers Market which he serves as president. He also was treasurer for four years.
A Cabarrus County native, Bill Widenhouse was born on July 26, 1915 to Charles and Carrie Widenhouse. His family included eight brothers and sisters and he was named after the doctor who delivered him. He graduated from Concord High School and was later married to the former Sue Wilson of Morganton. They have been married for 45 years and have one son, Carroll of Dayton, Ohio, and three grandchildren.
He worked at various occupations, including being shoe salesman in various towns in North Carolina and Virginia and was employed at an aircraft plant in Baltimore, Md. before joining the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.
Widenhouse worked with the ESC in Wilmington, Rutherfordton, Spruce Pine, Salisbury and Lenoir from where he transferred to Morganton. He was a veterans representative with the agency, working with veterans and helping create job opportunities for them. He had completed 27 years when he retired six years ago.
More recently, he helped in garnering the necessary public support for passage of the 1-cent local option sales tax designated to build new junior high schools. As a member of the Committee for Better Schools, he actively worked to make citizens aware of the conditions of existing schools and the need to upgrade them.
Just last year, Widenhouse became interested in the movement to start a Crimestoppers program in Burke County. The Morganton Lions and Rotary clubs instigated the initial effort and he attended pre-planning meetings and worked to get the program underway.
Perhaps one of his greatest assets is his knowledge of people and his natural instinct of communicating, leading and injecting enthusiasm. And he works equally well with people from all walks of life.
This year’s honoree, as most people soon discover, is quick to pop a joke, swap one-liners and is generous with praise, a one-man public relations agency for whatever organization or effort he is promoting.
A man of genuine unselfish community spirit, high caliber leadership and volunteerism in its truest sense, Bill Widenhouse is justly deserving of the honor being bestowed on him.
Melvin C. Cohen
With the selection of Melvin Lenard Cohen as Morganton’s Man of the Year for 1983, the community pays tribute to a young man who has rallied individuals and groups—and the city itself—to work together for both immediate and long-term betterment. His selection returns the Morganton Rotary Club’s designation to its original purpose, of honoring a man for outstanding civic and public service work during the previous year.
Actually, Cohen’s leadership, hard work and promotional enterprise on behalf of downtown Morganton spans the past two-and–a-half years. Still, his enthusiasm, imagination and initiative have been instrumental in recent sweeping changes in Morganton: in fact, the revitalization movement of the inner city and Cohen have become almost synonymous.
A Morganton native and a “super salesman,” Cohen is the City of Morganton’s Main Street coordinator, chairman of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and president of the Morganton-Burke County Merchants Association.
Under his leadership, the city’s rejuvenation efforts have taken flight and brought a new sense of purpose and togetherness to Morganton’s downtown. It was Cohen, for instance, who conceived and spearheaded the first Historic Morganton Festival, a day-long arts, crafts and ethnic foods fair in 1982 and who guided the festival to double its size again last September.
In addition, he has been instrumental in:
- Downtown businesses cooperating to put in overhead utility lines underground;
- Instituting a Loan Pool whereby inner city businesses could borrow money for renovation at a reduced rate of interest;
- Encouraging and coordinating numerous Main Street businesses to renovate their facades to provide a livelier looking downtown shopping district;
- Purchasing new Christmas lights last year and initiating the Memorial Christmas Tree on the Courthouse Square this season;
- Implementing a training workshop and morale builder for workers in downtown stores;
- Initiating last summer’s “Street Scenes” which blocked off traffic and promoted leisurely shopping and live entertainment downtown;
- Providing additional free parking in the Caldwell and Belk parking lots downtown;
- Developing Main Street Park, its new Park Place eatery and encouraging the Morganton Service league to have a wall mural painted beside the park;
- Helping to eliminate downtown merchant’s closings on Wednesday afternoons;
- And, staging a more attractive and entertaining annual Morganton Christmas parade.
His salesmanship and hard work, however, are not new. He has been a promoter of sorts all his life and as early as 1960 was elected “Most School Spirited” at the old Morganton High School.
The youngest son of Mrs. Dorothy and the late Si E. Cohen, he was born 41 years ago here in Morganton.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and finished his studies in three and a half years, with an A.B. degree in political science.
He worked for Morganton Dyeing and Finishing Co., and after his basic training in the Army reserves he joined Paul Lavitt Mills in Hickory. Later he worked for Fashion and Trend Line Furniture Co., also in Hickory.
He was a co-founder and owner of the now-defunct Woodlyn Hill Furniture Co., here in Morganton, for a time and in 1968 Cohen went to work as a salesman for Van Raalte, a prestigious lingerie firm. Two years later, he became a salesman for Movie Star Lingerie, a volume lingerie house, for whom he still works.
In 1981, Cohen was asked to head up a project of negotiating with property owners in the Morganton Hardware block of West Union Street to transfer overhead utility lines underground. The success of that task led an expansion of the project in other downtown blocks. The following year, he was appointed to the Revitalization Committee and quickly was elected its chairman.
About the same time he was asked to fill a vacancy on the board of the Morganton Merchants. Again, he was elected president, and under his leadership, the first Historic Morganton Festival, among other innovative projects, was begun.
Last April, nine months after Morganton was named a Main Street city in the state’s historic preservation/revitalization program, Cohen assumed his duties as coordinator of the Main Street project.
But downtown revitalization is not Cohen’s only interest. He serves as president of the Morganton Rotary Club this year. In that role, he is working with the Morganton Lions Club to organize a Crimestoppers program for Burke County.
In 1979, Cohen served as president of the Burke County Shrine Club. That year, the club broke all records by raising some $20,000 locally for burned and crippled children.
He also served as projects chairman for all the club’s and units of the Oasis Temple Shrine, headquartered in Charlotte, which serves the area from Greensboro to the Tennessee line. During his tenure, which ended this year, Shrine projects raised nearly $900,000.
And, he was recently selected by six Shrine clubs as their designated nominee to the temple’s board of trustees. He also is expected to be named to head up a new Shrine Circus for the temple, another first for this area.
Cohen is married to the former Brenda Hester of Drexel and they have three children, Stacey , Amy ,and Mitchell.
In a relatively short time Mel Cohen has exhibited such a high degree of civic purposefulness and generated such a dynamic rekindling of city pride, it is both appropriate and appealing for him to be honored.
Clarence Perkins Reinhardt
Morganton’s Man of the Year for 1982, like so many of his predecessors, has been so deeply involved in civic improvements and worthy projects (particularly in the field of recreation) that his accomplishments read like a brief history of the city he has served faithfully since coming here in 1939.
A native of Newton, he was graduated from Wake Forest College in 1936 where, during his senior year, he played football and basketball and served as captain of the Deacon’s football squad. The following year, he remained at Wake Forest as assistant coach in charge of freshmen football and baseball and then accepted a job as coach at Wadesboro High School. It was at Wadesboro that he met Martha Austin of Albemarle, who soon became his bride.
In 1939 the couple moved to Morganton where he coached the old Morganton High School for four years. During this time, his teams won conference championships in 1939, 1940, and 1941. He also served as Shrine Bowl coach in 1940.
Instead of having a banquet, his 1841 team invested $100 in a War Bond that when in matured was used to establish a memorial trophy given annually to some “unsung hero” of the MHS football team until 1972 when the school consolidated into Freedom High.
After military service during World War II, Morganton’s Man of the Year joined Drexel Furniture Company as personnel director and remained with the firm (now Drexel Heritage Furnishings) until his retirement in 1975 as vice president for industrial relations.
After joining Drexel, the Man of the Year continued his education, graduating from the Executive Program at the University of North Carolina School of Business Administration. IN business, as in athletics, he excelled, serving on the board of the N.C. Manpower Development Corp., the board of the Southern Industrial Relations Conference and on the executive steering committee of the furniture program at Catawba Valley Technical Institute. He also was named to a sex-year term on the first State Personnel Board when it was created in 1965.
In Morganton, he served as president of the Recreation Commission and was chairman of the board of governors of the Morganton Parks and Recreation Foundation, which developed most of the city’s recreation facilities; he still serves as a member of the foundation. He also served as co-chairman of the drive to raise $250,000 to build a stadium for Freedom High School.
He is a director and chairman of the board of Surety Federal Saving and Loan Association, a member and past chairman of the official board of the First United Methodist Church, chairman of the Marion District of the Methodist Conference and a member and past president of the Morganton Kiwanis Club.
For 13 years, he served on the board of trustees of Grace Hospital. He was the first president of the Burke County Fair Association in 1951 and was also president in 1959 when the fair moved to its present location on Boast Road and when it got the county’s Ruritan clubs involved. Just last month, he was named executive manager of the fair board.
Early in its formation, Perk became involved with the Burke County United Fund and he was general chairman of the 1958 campaign. He was also a member of the Morganton Chamber of Commerce and chaired a chamber committee that first stirred interest in the United Fund, now United Way.
Although his lovely and devoted wife Martha died two years ago, the Man of the Year remains interested and active in his community. He is still an avid sportsman and golfer, having served as president of Mimosa Hills Golf and Country Club, of which he is a member.
His vision and his hard work toward improving his community through recreation, through commerce and through his leadership in numerous projects and organizations which seek to make Morganton a better place in which to live have earned him the Morganton Rotary Club’s annual distinctive honor and sincere gratitude as the Man of the Year for 1982.
William L. McCombs
William McCombs was born Aug. 21,1917, in Richland County, S.C., he was a son of the late Joseph and Ludie Hinton McCombs. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Morganton. He received his B.S. degree in commerce from the University of South Carolina. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In 1947, Mr. McCombs opened Bob's Cola, a soft-drink facility on West Union Street, and from 1949 until 1953, he owned and managed the Alva Service Station on North Green Street. He owned and operated the Western Auto Store on Avery Avenue until 1971. He then worked for Pilot Life Insurance until his retirement at age 62.
He married Corene Stack McCombs. His son is the Rev. Joseph Arthur McCombs and his wife, Joyce of Lincolnton. His daughters are Byllye Boardman and her husband, Colin of Knoxville, Tenn., and Beth Coley and her husband, Bill of Raleigh. He has seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
H. Clinton Foust
H. Clinton Foust was born in Alamance County on October 15, 1929 and was a son of the late Harvey Clinton Foust, Sr. and Aileen Thompson Foust. Mr. Foust was a U. S. Army veteran serving in Italy during the Korean conflict. Clint graduated from Pheiffer Junior College and then transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill where he earned a BA degree in recreation administration. He was the assistant director of recreation in Mooresville before moving to Morganton in 1958 to become director of the Recreation Department of the City of Morganton. Under his direction Collett Street Recreation Center was built and additions were made to the Mountain View Recreation Center. He oversaw the construction of Shuey Park, Carbon City Park, the Children's Park, Shadowline Park, the skeet range, softball fields at Edwards Nursery, Gene Turner Park and Freedom Park. He served as president of the NC Recreation and Parks Society in 1967 and in 1969, was honored with the organization's highest recognition, the Fellow Award.
Besides his career as a public servant to the citizens of Morganton, Clint was an outstanding member of his community serving in the Morganton Rotary Club where he was past president and recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow. He also was active in the Morganton Jaycees and in 1961 was honored as Young Man of the Year. He served and was president of the Burke County Fair three times, president of the Freedom Athletic Foundation, and served on the Christmas Cheer, Inc. board of directors.
Clint was a devoted and active member of First United Methodist Church, teaching Sunday School and serving on the administrative board and board of directors.
He was married to Rosetta Follette Foust. His sons are Harvey C. Foust, III and his wife, Young Soon, and C. Michael "Mike" Foust, all of Morganton. His grandchildren are Barbara K. Foust, Evan Foust, and John-Elam Foust.