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Two local luminaries’ hard work and dedication shined in the national spotlight on Wilson this month — one for a lifetime of public service and another for rebounding from adversity to take his place among the nation’s top young athletes.
Retired Wilson City Councilman A.P. Coleman received a sincere salute on Capitol Hill during a June 11 floor speech from U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson. And Greenfield School alum and University of North Carolina star freshman Coby White joined the NBA when the Chicago Bulls selected him seventh overall in Thursday’s draft.
Coleman and White represent different eras — the former is 82; the latter is 19 — and took different paths, but both reflect well on Wilson and have earned the community’s pride and admiration.
Avant P. Coleman was first elected to the Wilson City Council in 1975 — when gas sold for 59 cents a gallon and the average cost of a new car was just $3,800. After 38 years, Coleman stepped down on May 31. He is the longest-serving elected official in the city of Wilson’s history.
Noting that Coleman’s been his next-door neighbor for 25 years, Butterfield touched on his career highlights and praised his singular dedication to public service during a speech televised on C-SPAN that will be preserved in the Congressional Record.
Coleman taught vocational agriculture in Greene and Lenoir counties and completed a 31-year career with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. In nearly four decades on the city council, Coleman championed economic development, balanced growth and fair housing and sought to curb crime and violence, Butterfield said.
“His campaign slogan embodied his mantra of service to the community to improve the lives of its people,’” the congressman recalled. “He would say, ‘A new way for a new day.’”
Coleman’s personal motto, said Butterfield, was the Golden Rule.
The councilman held numerous leadership posts, including as president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, vice president of Wilson County Crime Stoppers and member of the United Way of Wilson County Board of Directors. He is the proud father of three and grandfather of one.
“His selfless and lifelong dedication to public service and community are beyond remarkable, and he is truly a role model,” Butterfield said. “His love for his family, friends, church and community know no bounds.
Wilson needs more men and women like A.P. Coleman. We thank him for his service to our city, county and state and call on the next generation of local leaders to follow the sterling example he set.
STAR ATHLETE GETS PERSONAL
Coby White’s story is one of personal tragedy and professional triumph. In a soul-baring personal column posted Monday on The Players Tribune website, the soon-to-be first-round draft pick recounted his father Donald “Doc” White’s August 2017 death from liver cancer.
Losing his father caused White to question God and withdraw from his friends and teammates. While those closest to him may have known the source of his pain, he kept it hidden from the world at large. This week was the first time he’s opened up about the experience.
It was vulnerable. It was brave. It lights a path out of the darkness for young people, especially fellow athletes, dealing with depression and loss.
White wrote that he’s reconnected with his faith and now prays daily. He’s learning to express his emotions and cope with his grief. He misses his father fiercely, but he’s playing the game he loves in part to honor his dad’s legacy. White’s social media posts include the hashtag #FMF — For My Father.
In a recent interview with Times sports editor Paul Durham, White credited his success to his dad’s work ethic, encouragement and support.
“My father taught me how to be a man and that in life you have to work for everything that you get and nobody is given anything, so you have to earn it,” White said. “From a young age, he taught me that. My dad, he was a hardworking man and he did whatever he could to provide for his family and for his children. So I feel like for him raising me to be the person that I am and the man I’ve become, I just try to do those things every day and live how he lived.”
Greenfield School’s star alumnus is making his father, his family, his school and his community proud. He’s serving as an excellent role model for the student-athletes who will work to follow in his footsteps.