SP Council to Rename Road to Honor Capel
Mitch Capel was in his car when he got word that the Southern Pines Town Council was going to honor his father by renaming a street Felton Capel Lane.
“I had to pull over because I was crying so bad,” Mitch Capel said last week. “It’s such a wonderful honor, especially at this time in his life when he’s on the downslope.”
Mitch Capel was even more taken aback when he learned that Felton Capel Lane will run from Morganton Road to the roundabout behind Pinecrest High School and link with Voit Gilmore Lane over what is now a portion of South Knoll Road.
Felton Capel, who is black, and the late Voit Gilmore, who was white, are credited with quietly — almost unobtrusively — breaking the back of racial segregation in Southern Pines at a time when other states in the South were beset by racial violence that reached epidemic proportions.
In 1962, the highly successful businessmen and prominent civic and political leaders walked together to the first tee at Mid Pines and began a round of golf, into the whites-only section of the Sunrise Theater and watched a movie, and into a local bowling alley and bowled a game.
No one blocked in any doorways. No one shouted racial epithets. No one tried to reject them.
“I think it shows the character of both men,” Mitch Capel said. “I don’t think it could have happened anywhere else but Southern Pines.”
Capel said his father, who is 85, will attend the monthly Town Council meeting Nov. 13, at which time the council is expected to adopt a resolution renaming the portion of South Knoll Road.
“He’s received so many accolades over the years, but this may be the best one,” Capel said. “It’s unreal that my father and Voit will be connected forever. My family is so excited and happy for him to be honored in that way. It’s pretty awesome.”
Mayor David McNeill, council member Mike Fields and Carol Haney, wife of former Mayor Mike Haney, met about a month ago to discuss ways in which the town could honor Felton Capel.
“From there, several ideas were explored and it became very obvious that naming a street after Felton Capel that connects to Voit Gilmore Lane would be the best way to do so,” McNeill said. “Felton Capel is a giant of a man in more ways than one. Southern Pines is a stronger community today because of his exceptional leadership and service.”
Capel, who was elected to the council in 1959 and subsequently served as mayor pro tem, became a mentor to Fields.
“When I first ran for the Town Council in my late 20s, Felton gave me a lot of wise counsel,” Fields said. “When I was mayor, I always bounced ideas off him. Felton is so good at giving positive feedback. Even when I made bad decisions, he’d still give me positive feedback. He always made me feel good.”
Fields added that Capel has always been “a great bridge” between the black and white communities in Southern Pines.
“Not many people have that ability,” Fields said. “Felton is just a great man and a great citizen of Southern Pines. I’m quite honored that I can be part of this recognition for Felton.”
Haney said she has always felt that Capel “is a giant among us.”
“He’s won so many other awards, but I felt like we needed to do something in the community in which he’s graced us with his presence,” she said. “He’s one of my all-time favorite people. You’ll never meet another Felton Capel.”
Haney said the symmetry of Felton Capel Lane running behind the Pinecrest football field and connecting with Voit Gilmore Lane was “just meant to be.”
“It’s a perfect eternal marriage when you consider what Felton and Voit did for this community,” she said. “It’s also perfect because the road goes behind the school where Felton was a play-by-play announcer on the radio for decades.”
Fields remembers listening to Capel when he attended Pinecrest.
“I always knew Felton was the voice of the Patriots,” Fields said.
Mitch Capel called his father “a role model’s role model.”
“I’ve never heard anyone speak ill of him my whole life,” he said. “They don’t make them like that anymore. He’s a pretty amazing guy, and this honor makes me proud to know that he has done some great things.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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