Devotion of former county commissioner remembered by friends, colleagues

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 05:32 PM

A 20-year county commissioner is being remembered by colleagues as a family man, friend and neighbor with the good of the community in his heart.

William Lewis “Bill” Fleming Jr., who served as a Vance County commissioner from 1982-2002, died Saturday. He was 76.

Fleming was commission chairman in 1988, 1992 and 1997. He was part of the board and called instrumental, along with former commissioner Danny Wright, in moving Vance County to a county manager form of government, one of the last counties in the state to do so in the early 1980s.

“I was always impressed with his devotion to the community, particularly his county commissioner role,” said Bev Tucker, a local physician.

Tucker lauded Fleming as a business owner at Henderson Fruit and Produce, and said he was there for groups in need when they came by with fundraisers or needed donations.

Jerry Ayscue, the county manager hired in November of 1984 and still serving today, said Fleming was pro-public education and helped push for funding to build three new elementary schools and a new high school in the late 1980s.

Ayscue said Fleming favored the county and City of Henderson working together on projects, resulting in the joint 911 communications center and Perry Memorial Library.

“Mr. Fleming’s leadership as a county commissioner opened several doors of opportunity for us to do things with the City of Henderson we might not otherwise have been able to do on our own,” Ayscue said.

During his five-term run as a commissioner, Fleming also served on the boards for the Department of Social Services and Kerr Area Rural Transportation System.

“Bill was a fine fellow as far as I know,” said Tim Pegram, who served as a commissioner for 48 years. “He made a good commissioner, and I enjoyed serving with him.

“He was a good, fine fellow.”

Fleming, a Democrat, dabbled in local sports radio with Kemp Collins and eventually the popular Town Talk show with George Rush at WIZS-1450 AM. He was a Duke graduate Rush affectionately called an “ultraconservative Dukie.”

Rush, the station’s general manager, said Fleming’s business background helped shape his view on politicians who made money decisions but who never had to make a payroll outside of politics.

“He had an opinion on a lot of things, most from the conservative viewpoint,” Rush said. “He was a fun guy to be around.”

John Charles Rose, majority owner of the radio station, remembers being in his 20s and trying to match wits with Fleming. He said he didn’t always agree, but certainly respected Fleming’s opinions.

“I think with his being in the community as a business owner, with Henderson Fruit and Produce all those years, he could relate to the community and the community could relate to him,” Rose said. “If he said something, to me, it had a lot of value.”

Fleming is survived by his wife, Jane Link Fleming; three daughters and four grandchildren. Services are scheduled for today at 11 a.m. at Shocco United Methodist Church. (An obituary is on Page A4.)

Rush said the radio station’s Town Talk program for Wednesday will be devoted as a tribute to Fleming.

“I think he will be missed in the community,” Rush said, “and certainly here at WIZS.”

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