Leadership of former state senator remembered

Oct. 16, 2013 @ 07:53 PM

Former state Sen. Charles Blackburn is being remembered as one of Henderson’s most influential citizens.

Blackburn died Tuesday. He was 88.

“Charlie will always be known, not only as an outstanding attorney, but as someone who got our community college started when it was Vance County Technical Institute,” said Chick Young, the Henderson mayor of 24 years from 1979 to 2003. “He was always interested in the educational benefits for our citizens, particularly our younger citizens.”

Blackburn, a lawyer, was elected to the Senate in 1959, representing Vance, Warren, Halifax and Northampton counties. In addition to helping start the community college, his list of accomplishments included chairmanship of the community college’s board of trustees, presidency of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce and receipt of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the highest citizen honors in the state.

Blackburn served his country in the U.S. Navy, training as a pilot for World War II, and later in the N.C. Army National Guard, from which he retired as a colonel.

Friends said his development as a leader began early.

“He was a leader in our class,” said Preston Powers, a Henderson High classmate. Both graduated in 1942. “He was involved with the newspaper and the band. And he was always president or vice president of our class.”

As chairman of the Kerr Reservoir Commission, Blackburn assisted in the development of the parks and recreation areas bordering the lake. He also served several key positions while in the General Assembly.

“Charles was a state senator when we were forming the community college system.” said Opie Frazier, a member of the Vance-Granville Community College Board of Trustees. “He told me he was a cosponsor of the bill that established the community college system.”

When the hospital moved from Chestnut Street to its present location on Ruin Creek Road, the county acquired the vacated property.

“Charles got us through the process of getting this done,” Frazier said. “It took a great deal of work. He was a tremendous citizen. He did things for this county that people don’t know about.”

A memorial service will be conducted by Dr. John Check in Rose Chapel of First United Methodist Church at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.