Local Democrats Honor Capel, Gilmore at Event
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall turned to that notable philosopher Kermit the Frog of Sesame Street to encourage Moore County Democrats Saturday.
"It's not easy being green," she quoted Kermit as saying, adding her own observation that "It's not easy being a Democrat in Moore County."
Marshall, an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Richard Burr, was keynote speaker Saturday for a Moore County Democratic Party fundraiser luncheon at Little River Resort and Golf Club.
She was referring to the Republican majority in the county's voter registration, a factor that means the GOP controls county government and most legislative seats.
"Your hard work is very valuable," she said. "In the face of adversity, don't give up. This is not a county that gives up."
Marshall, the first woman elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina, reminded her audience of Democrats that their votes added thousands to her grand total in the last general election.
The event, with a theme "Celebrating Community Leader-ship," honored Felton Capel, a Southern Pines businessman and community leader, and the late Voit Gilmore, a philanthropist, scholar and civic leader. The two men are recognized for their successful and peaceful efforts to end racial segregation in Moore County in the 1960s.
At the end of the program, the party presented a $1,000 check to the Coalition for Human Care. Algene Johnson made the presentation on behalf of Moore County Democrats in honor of Gilmore and Capel.
In accepting the gift, Caroline Eddy, Coalition executive director, said the money would be used to buy food, prevent utilities from being cut off, pay rent for people facing eviction and meet medical needs of needy families throughout the county.
'Can't Stand by and Watch'
In what was clearly a campaign address, Marshall focused on the health-care reform issue now commanding the attention of both congressional chambers.
"We can't stand by and watch as health-care costs keep going up," she said. "We can't stand by and watch. We have to have a public option of some sort."
She urged Democrats to call their congressional delegation despite the differences in their political affiliation and let them know they want health care reform with a public option.
"It won't make a bit of difference to Howard Coble, but call him anyway," she said. "It won't make any difference to Richard Burr, but call him anyway."
Coble, who represents Moore County in the U.S. House, is a Republican.
Gilmore's Legacy Continues
Eddy made the presentation on behalf of Voit Gilmore, who died in 2005 at the age of 87.
"Voit Gilmore was friend, father, husband, and philanthropist," she said, explaining that these characteristics are in addition to his service as a human rights leader and a travel expert.
Eddy went down a lengthy list of contributions Gilmore made to the overall community, including a gift of land to Pinecrest High School, a gift of 10 acres to the town of Southern Pines for the Head Start program, and more land to house the Coalition for Human Care, the latter large enough to accommodate a community garden, where families can grow their own vegetables.
Elsewhere, Gilmore donated land to the park system, now accommodating the Appalachian Highland Learning Center. His estate has also established the Voit Gilmore Distinguished Geography Professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a doctorate in geography in his later years.
"Voit was changing the world when he was alive, but his legacy continues to change the world," Eddy said. "He was not afraid to take a stand."
Gilmore, who was white, and Capel, who is black, joined forces to carry out a joint integration of a movie theater in Southern Pines, a bowling alley, a golf course and other cultural and recreation sites in the county during the 1960s, when desegregation was an emotional and sometimes violent political issue across the country. In Moore County it was accomplished without violence.
"He was a visionary, a world traveler, a Tar Heel forever, a philanthropist and a Democrat forever," Eddy said.
Wilma Laney read a response on behalf of the Gilmore family, none of whom was able to attend the luncheon. His children are scattered across the United States and as far away as Ecuador.
'Be a Lifter, Not Leaner'
Jeff Capel II and Ken Capel deferred their comments on behalf of their father to their brother, Mitch Capel, a well-known entertainer and educator. Mitch Capel is best known by his storytelling persona, Gran'Daddy Junebug.
"I'm here to talk about my father, who taught me how to talk," Mitch Capel said. "We grew up Democrats in our household."
He recalled a childhood when on Election Days he wore a pin that said, "I'm too young to vote. What's your excuse?"
"My father was a great athlete, a great baseball player," he said. "He also taught us to be generous and how to do the right thing. He taught me to be a lifter, not a leaner."
Capel called Gilmore and his father "two of the strongest lifters I ever knew." He told of watching them as they integrated the Sunrise Theater, the bowling alley, the golf course and any number of other public places in the community.
He also paid tribute to his mother, Jean Capel, whom he called "a great woman."
Through the years, the elder Capel has received so many honors, awards and recognitions that his son said they really need to build another house to have enough wall space to display all these honors.
John "Bingo" Barringer followed the three sons but did not hesitate to list all the honors bestowed through the years but added that his long-time friend was the first black to serve on the Southern Pines Town Council and the first black Rotarian in Moore County.
"Fayetteville State University thinks so highly of him that they named the arena for him," he said. "So, he gets a good seat at all their games."
Mostly Barringer regaled the gathering with humorous anecdotes about Capel and his family.
In responding, Felton Capel said he could spend a lifetime telling all the things that Voit Gilmore did. He shared the fact that his affiliation with the Democratic Party dated to age three or four.
Finally, Ken and Jeff were persuaded to speak, although briefly, on behalf of their father.
"Voit Gilmore was a common name around the house when I was growing up," said Ken Capel, who recalled that Gilmore and his father accomplished racial integration peacefully.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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