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A chronological view of World War II and the ways in which it affected Alamance County and its people in the years between December, 1941 and September, 1945.
Alamance: A County at War is a unique book. It tells the story of a single American county and how it adapted to the changes brought on by war – rationings, curtailment of travel, shortages of tires and food and nylon hosiery. It tells of the war bond drives and metal collections and scrap paper drives.
And it tells of industry that the war brought to Alamance, and with it new people to the community.
In its pages, you will read how the war affected sports activity, business operations, family vacations and family plans for the future. You will meet many people who were a part of our county then who helped Alamance through the difficult days of World War II.
Alamance: A County at War is a chronological history of the war both on the fighting fronts and in Alamance County from December 1, 1941 through September 2, 1945. As those months pass off the calendar, you will also meet some of those residents of Alamance who went off to war and endured the terrors of combat. You will hear their stories, often in their own words. There will be other names which you will read – the names of those young men who died on those foreign battlefields.
The people whose war stories are related in this book should be viewed as representative of all those who served from Alamance. It is impossible to include the story of each one. But every person who served from Alamance deserves our thanks. Those who are included were residents of the area then or now. There is a list of war dead from the county at the end of the book. Effort has been made to make this a complete list, but there is no one source from which they can be obtained, so it represents an unofficial listing.
The Times-News is publishing this book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and to preserve the story of Alamance: A County at War for future generations – the descendants of those who were a part of the story in 1941-1945.
– Burlington, N. C.
8 – 12 years old during World War II
Bolden, who grew up to become the editor of the Burlington local newspaper, experienced World War II as a child — playing war games with his friends, seeing soldiers in uniform in Alamance County, participating in scrap and stamp drives, watching plywood airplanes fly out of Fairchild Aviation, and feeling the impact of rationing. With still-vivid memories of a father who was the air raid warden and a grandfather who maintained a victory garden, Bolden provided a window to the home-front during a world event that continued to permeate his daily life.
Gold Star mothers are women entitled to display a gold star on a service flag as the mother, stepmother, adoptive mother or foster mother of a United States Armed Forces member that died while engaged in action against an enemy recognized by the Secretary of Defense.
Farewell to a native son
By Madison Taylor
Special to the Times-News
Don Bolden signs a copy of his book, “LabCorp, The DNA of a Corporation,” last fall at an Alamance Community Foundation event at Alamance Country Club. Bolden, longtime editor of the Times-News, died Thursday at age 85. [TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO]
Local journalism and education leaders on Thursday weighed in on the passing of longtime Times-News editor Don Bolden at age 85:
“Every community needs a few Don Boldens, but too few communities have even one. Alamance County is most fortunate that Don headed the Burlington Times-News so faithfully for so long, and I am equally fortunate to not only know him but to spend a good part of my career working for him.” — Madison Taylor, former executive editor of the Times-News
“Don Bolden was about as fine a human being as you could ever hope to meet, blending equal parts intelligence and kindness. His enduring contribution to Elon was the foundation he helped build for the Elon University School Communications as founding chair of its advisory board. His high aspirations for the school helped us imagine what we have today. And no one was prouder than Don regarding the cultural, intellectual and athletic opportunities the University offers to the broader community. He was a dear friend, and I will miss him greatly.” — Leo M. Lambert, president emeritus and professor, Elon University
“Don was a constant advocate and champion for Elon University. He believed deeply in our mission of educating young people. We will be forever in his debt for his many contributions to Elon and our wider community.” — Connie Ledoux Book, president of Elon University
“The world is a lot darker today. Don Bolden was a true gentleman, community steward and most of all, a great friend. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Don during his last year as executive editor of the Times-News and for the last 18 years as editor emeritus, and for that I will forever be thankful. He loved the newspaper and Alamance County like no other, and his actions demonstrated that every day of his life. He was an amazing man who served as a ‘second dad’ and mentor to so many, including myself. Alamance County would not be what it is today if it were not for Don Bolden. We are completely heartbroken.” — Paul Mauney, publisher of the Times-News
“Don Bolden was the second person to call me on my first day at the Times-News, a little more than a year ago. He was as gracious and supportive as could be. I’m saddened that I had him as a mentor for such a short time, but I’m grateful for that time.” — Rich Jackson, executive editor of the Times-News
“I'm saddened to hear of Don's passing. I first met Don at Cummings High School where his wife, Billie Faye, taught English. He exemplified the meaning of community involvement. He not only wrote about Burlington and Alamance County, but he represented us by serving as an ambassador. In 1989, Don accompanied the Cummings Show Choir on their trip to the Soviet Union. He took some credit when the Berlin Wall came down a few weeks later. Rest in peace, my friend.” — Steve van Pelt, Alamance-Burlington School Board member and former principal of Cummings High School
Don Bolden became news editor for the Times-News in 1974. [TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTOS]
Don Bolden gets ready to share cake with the staff in the 1980s.
Don Bolden, who led the Times-News as its editor for 18 years, and made a long-lasting impact on Alamance County as a reporter, columnist, historian and community champion, died Thursday, Aug. 2, at Hospice of Alamance Caswell after a battle with cancer. He was 85.
The embodiment of a mild-mannered reporter and editor, Bolden was a witness and recorder of decades of Alamance County news and history during a journalism career that spanned 51 years as a photographer, reporter and editor, and 60 years as a weekly columnist. He was the author of more than a dozen books about history in Alamance County, its towns, communities and businesses. Upon his retirement from the Times-News in 2000, he was named the first and, so far, only editor emeritus in the newspaper’s more than 130-year history. He was, ultimately, a community champion.
Bolden was a lifelong resident of Burlington, leaving only during his time as a student at the UNC-Chapel Hill. He never worked for any newspaper other than the Times-News. He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years and high school sweetheart Billie Faye Johnson Bolden, who died April 1, 2017, after years of declining health. He was her primary caregiver the last several years of her life.
A community journalist before that label became widely popular, Bolden was a significant figure on the Alamance County landscape for decades, ensuring the newspaper provided strong coverage of issues and events that affected Alamance County and the figures who shaped and led local government, education, industries and nonprofits. He was involved in dozens of civic and church efforts over the years with strong interests in public education, literacy, higher education, health and military veterans. Few figures in Alamance County earned the respect Bolden gained during the time he was a reporter and later editor of the Times-News. For a half-century he was the trusted face of the Times-News for thousands of Alamance County readers.
“He was always looked upon as a fair editor and a fair reporter,” said Walter Boyd, a historian in Alamance County who first became interested in history by reading Bolden’s popular Alamance in the Past columns, first published in the late 1960s. “He was the type of fellow — and they’re very rare — that no one ever says a bad word about. In that respect he’s like [the late Elon University president emeritus] Earl Danieley. Earl and Don were genuinely liked.”
Steve Buckley, the final publisher for whom Bolden worked as executive editor, agreed. “Don had the ability to maintain good relationships with a broad spectrum of people even when he didn’t agree with them or they didn’t agree with him, which is a hard job for an editor.”
Bolden’s time as editor and then executive editor extended from 1982 to 2000. He served in that leadership capacity at the Times-News longer than any editor before or since with the exception of Staley Cook, who hired Bolden for what turned out to be his first and only newspaper job. Bolden believed in covering the news accurately and with fairness, but didn’t run from controversial topics when it came to covering issues and events. He was seldom if ever contentious, critical or pugnacious as an editorial writer on the newspaper’s opinion page, but displayed an even hand in his writing that still managed to make important points and enlighten readers. He was a believer in supporting the community, not tearing it down.
“He was such a gentle person. Some of the newspaper editors who preceded him were contrary,” Boyd noted. “Where some of the editors caused great offense by some of the positions they took, Don never did.”
“He was a leading editor in North Carolina for decades and the unequaled chronicler of Alamance County and its history,” said Paul Parsons, now retired dean of the Elon University School of Communications who worked with Bolden in establishing a board of advisers for the school when it was launched.
For his part, Bolden always maintained he was only doing a job he loved. In a June 2012 interview for a story in the special section noting the 125th birthday of the Times-News, he told reporter Roselee Papandrea, “Someone once said if you find a job you like, you will never work a day in your life. I got away with it for 51 years. I’m very proud of this newspaper and very proud of my years here”
Bolden was born Jan. 19, 1933, in his family home on Grace Avenue in Burlington to the late Mary Lee Stadler Bolden and Ralph Bolden. He was one of two sons. His brother Earl Bolden preceded him in death. Ralph Bolden, who worked in textiles, taught his son Don how to handle a camera and develop photographs, skills that directly led to his career in journalism. Bolden began by chronicling life at Burlington High School, where he was the student photographer for the campus newspaper and yearbook.
Growing up in the 1930s and ’40s, Bolden had vivid memories of earth-shaping events and how those stories affected people at home. The Daily Times-News was at the center of it all. In a column written in 2015, Bolden recalled his 14-year-old brother Earl’s heading downtown Dec. 7, 1941, to help sell rapidly produced “Extra” editions of the newspaper offering fresh details of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that led to U.S. entry into World War II. On Aug. 14, 1945, with brother Earl in the Navy, Bolden, then 12, ventured downtown to sell Daily Times-News “Extras” giddily reporting the end of the war.
Bolden’s more official start with the newspaper began a couple of years later, in 1948. While a student at Burlington High School, he accepted a $5 dollar a week job in the newspaper mailroom, which is part of the home delivery department. In addition, he offered his services as a photographer to then-editor Staley Cook, who published the photos but encouraged Bolden to continue his studies, go to college and get a degree in journalism. He promised Bolden a job would be waiting for him upon his return.
After graduating with the final class at Burlington High School in 1951, Bolden attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning a B.A. degree in journalism. As a senior he won the university’s writing contest when he submitted a profile of Dr. Floyd Scott of Alamance County.
After returning home from Chapel Hill, Cook proved true to his word, and Bolden began working as a photographer and reporter, most often for then-sports editor Bill Hunter. When a news reporting and column-writing slot opened in 1957, Bolden took it. He would write a weekly column for the next 60 years.
Later in life Bolden regaled audiences with tales from his early days as a reporter in Burlington, including a popular one about venturing atop a downtown building to get a better angle for a photo of a fire. City firefighters allowed Bolden to use a ladder to reach the top of the building. They then forgot he was up there and left the scene, stranding the young reporter for several hours.
Most of his assignments were not so fraught with peril, and many were noteworthy adventures. During his journalism career Bolden met or interviewed presidents, visited the White House Oval Office, spent two weeks in the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain, and once received a letter from late former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover complimenting him for an editorial he had written.
But Bolden’s biggest impact was on local news coverage in Alamance County. He believed in presenting important local news honestly and fairly. Nothing could be more important to readers. As newspaper readership began to decline in the 2000s, he observed, “Newspapers can do quite well if you give local news to local people.”
That was a hallmark of Bolden’s life in newspapers. As a reporter, he covered everything from high school football games to National Teacher of the Year Donna Oliver of Cummings High School receiving her award — a crystal apple — from President Ronald Reagan at the White House. No story was too large, too dangerous or too weird. He reported about important and controversial events, including a Ku Klux Klan rally on the steps of the courthouse in Graham, racial strife and rioting in Burlington, and school integration. In the just-plain-odd department, Burlington gained some fame in the 1980s via stories by Bolden — then the editor — about a goat, owned by his brother, that could accurately predict when snow would fall. “Lulu the Snow Goat” was so accurate, then-Burlington Schools Superintendent Joe Sinclair made decisions on whether to postpone or cancel school based on when Lulu went to the barn as bad weather approached. Bolden loved the story as well as the national and regional attention it received. It’s a story that exemplified his dedication to community news, no matter how quaint or curious.
Bolden covered criminal cases, wrecks and fires, but never lost sight of how these tragic events affected victims and the community. One fire on Christmas Eve claimed the lives of a mother and three children. Bolden was haunted by the images he saw as a reporter and recalled returning home that morning and weeping on his back porch.
Boyd said Don was a stabilizing force during controversial times. “Especially in the 1960s and ’70s during our period of integration and riots. Others took sides and stayed with those sides. Don always looked at both sides when most people didn’t. Don was open to and published all opinions.”
Bolden was drawn to all aspects of newsroom production, from writing or editing stories to designing news pages and writing headlines. He was named managing editor in 1975 but continued to write stories and columns about subjects that interested him. Bolden rose to the position of editor in 1982 after his often controversial predecessor was dismissed following an incident in a bar in which a fight ensued. The ouster of the editor left the newspaper in turmoil for a brief period. Bolden was able to restore peace in the newsroom and trust from the community. Ultimately he was able to hire a succession of highly talented reporters, photographers and editors. Many of those who worked under Bolden at the Times-News went on to stellar careers at publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tampa Tribune and Rolling Stone magazine. One, Jo Craven McGinty, an Elon graduate whose first job was with the Times-News, was part of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting teams with the New York Times and Washington Post.
McGinty, whose first news beat was covering the city of Burlington, remembers Bolden’s calm and unflappable presence in the newsroom.
“He oversaw stories large and small with the same aplomb, and he contributed to a sense of belonging, camaraderie and encouragement in the newsroom. The Times-News newsroom felt like a family, and like a wise patriarch, Don welcomed, and perhaps even celebrated, the eccentrics whose talents some might have overlooked,” said McGinty, who now works as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
McGinty said Bolden also created a culture that spawned equal opportunities for women in the newsroom in the mid-1980s, when it wasn’t so common.
“In the age of #MeToo, I think it’s important to note that Don’s character was above reproach, and as far as I could tell, there wasn’t even a sexist bone in his body. For a time I was the only woman reporting for the news pages. I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t the last, and it was a complete nonissue. That tone, although embodied by others, was set at the top.”
While Bolden went about his daily routine quietly and without fanfare, he also enjoyed a good prank every so often and was fond of corny jokes, said Lee Barnes, who worked for Bolden as a city editor and managing editor and counts Bolden among the finest men he has ever known. Barnes recalled Bolden taking part in a fake argument behind closed doors — but still visible through an office window — involving Barnes and another reporter, all for the benefit of spoofing an overly curious co-worker out in the newsroom. Don sat quietly as the fake argument escalated into shouting. All three inside Bolden’s office could see the shock on the curious newsroom colleague’s face as people left the office slamming doors. And once with then-managing editor John Pea, Bolden participated in a prank involving longtime newsroom administrator and columnist Frances Woody. She arrived at work on one of her birthdays only to find all of her office furniture in the newspaper lobby.
Bolden’s laid-back nature in the newsroom was also largely displayed for the public, including local political and government leaders. He quietly handled complaint calls but could be stern when needed. One particularly cantankerous politician, now deceased, once publicly bullied a new reporter at a meeting of the Alamance County Board of Commissioners. Bolden called the politician and asked to meet at the newspaper office. Behind closed doors, Bolden sternly told the politician that this behavior toward one of the newspaper’s staff members would not be tolerated and warned that should it happen again, “I’ll turn you into a greasy spot.” The cowed politician heeded this advice.
Bolden won multiple honors for journalism. In 1969 he received an award from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association for coverage of the arrest in Alamance County of a suspect in a New York murder case. During his tenure as editor the Times-News, he was honored by the N.C. Press Association for General Excellence among mid-size daily newspapers in the state. He also served as president of the Associated Press News Council and started a Newspapers in Education program at the Times-News.
Buckley, who worked with multiple editors at different newspapers in his career, rates Bolden as among the best at understanding the readers he served. “It’s no surprise because he was with the paper for 50 years, but he had absolutely the best sense of the community of any of the editors I worked with. He had a sense of lots of things that may not have been obvious. Don could tell me who was related to whom, and who should have been related to whom. He had to be a great resource for reporters looking for background.
“He was also one of the nicest people I’ve ever known,” Buckley added.
Shortly after arriving in Burlington, Buckley nominated Bolden for a newly created award given by Freedom Communications, the then-California-based owner of the Times-News. The R.C. Hoiles Award was to be given annually to someone who exemplified the values of the company’s founder. Bolden received the award for a series of editorials opposing a proposed Major League Baseball stadium in the region. “As a libertarian company the judges were happy Don was not in favor of tax money being used to enrich baseball players,” Buckley said with a laugh. “He and Billie Faye went to California for the ceremony, and it was great. I was tickled to death for him.”
‘An A+ journalist’
Bolden and wife Billie Faye were a devoted couple, loved to travel and were seldom apart. While she participated in Times-News events, Bolden was also an integral part of her teaching career at Turrentine Middle School, Burlington Day School and Cummings High School. The couple chaperoned school trips, including two visits to Europe with Billie Faye’s English Honor Society students. On one notable visit, the Boldens accompanied a choral group from Cummings to Socha in the former Soviet Union.
Outside of careers and travel, the Boldens had a host of interests. They were central figures in the First Baptist Church in Burlington for nearly 50 years. Bolden served as a Sunday School teacher, deacon and trustee of the church. He was first moderator of the church and first moderator of the Mount Zion Baptist Association. For more than 20 years he was a member of the board for the Biblical Recorder, the N.C. Baptist Newspaper, served on the Institutional Relations Committee of the Baptist State Convention, and in 2001 won the Baptist Heritage Award from the N.C. Baptist State Convention.
While still a supporter of his alma mater, the Boldens gave their hearts to Billie Faye’s alma mater, Elon. The couple were tireless supporters of Elon University’s academic and athletic programs and involved themselves with the university in numerous ways. Bolden was a founding member of the first advisory board for Elon’s then fledgling School of Communications. It has become one of the leading journalism programs in the nation. Bolden’s contributions made a difference, Parsons said.
“To use academic terminology, Don Bolden was both an A+ journalist and an A+ professional partner to Elon,” Parsons said. “He was an enormously important partner to Elon during its rise to national prominence, serving as chair of the School of Communications Advisory Board. His wisdom, wit and good will propelled the school forward and will have a lasting impact on Elon.”
The Boldens became fixtures at Elon’s cultural and athletic events, especially women’s basketball, and created a scholarship for the women’s team. Bolden, who often called Elon one of the most important assets of Alamance County, received the Distinguished Service Award from the Elon Alumni Association, was selected as a member of the Elon chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and in 2010 was given the university’s highest honor, the Elon Medallion. Bolden’s endorsement of Elon was unwavering. In his final months he wrote a letter to the Times-News Open Forum asking that consideration be given to placing “Home of Elon University” on interstate signs welcoming people to Alamance County.
After retirement in 2000, Bolden settled into his role as editor emeritus for the Times-News. A portrait of Bolden hangs in the newsroom on South Main Street, the only editor in the newspaper’s history so honored. He continued to write a column that was published each Sunday in the Times-News for the next 17 years. He spent some of his free time playing golf or taking long walks. He once said that any day spent playing golf with retired Times-News photographer Jack Sink “is a good day.” The only time that was proved to be false was the morning he and Sink were playing golf and first heard of the terrorist attacks on what has come to be known as 9/11.
History was a passion while Bolden served as editor, and it remained so after his retirement from the daily newsroom grind. He often wrote columns about events or colorful characters from the community’s past, like Hardrock Simpson, an Alamance County long distance runner who could cover a prodigious number of miles and once outraced a horse. During his time at the newspaper’s helm, he produced the centennial edition of the Times-News, a special section celebrating Alamance County’s 150th birthday, a year-long series of historical nuggets about Alamance County marking the 125th birthday of the Times-News, and special sections about the history of textile manufacturing in Alamance County. For a brief time his Alamance in the Past columns were expanded into a monthly magazine.
“What people will remember Don for is his study of history,” Boyd said. “Everybody looked forward to that history column because it was interesting and always included a picture. That’s how I got to know Don: I sent him a picture from a historic event on Davis Street.”
Bolden continued to write books about local history right up until 2018. He was very proud of a book he completed that was released in 2017 about Alamance County’s largest employer, Laboratory Corporation of America. “LabCorp: DNA of a Corporation” was co-written with one of LabCorp’s founders, Dr. Jim Powell. His final book was part of the Images of America series. This one focused on Elon — the town and university. Bolden’s other Images of America books featured Burlington, Saxapahaw and Glencoe. He also produced a book about Alamance County during World War II.
Bolden was always in demand as a speaker for civic groups or public events. He developed a presentation with photographs, recounting historic events. Sometimes he would describe his role in them with humor. Boyd said Bolden was in large demand as a speaker about the history of the community or Elon. “About a year ago he told me he just couldn’t do it anymore and he started sending them to me,” Boyd said. “I really feel like I’m just carrying out what Don started.”
A love for history, the military and Alamance County fueled a project that Bolden called one of his proudest accomplishments: Creation of a tribute to Alamance County men and women killed in military action and a salute to all veterans in the community. Bolden said the idea was born from a discussion he had with then-Alamance County Commissioner W.B. “Junior” Teague in the mid-1990s. Teague, who also served as a state lawmaker, mentioned the impact the death of his brother during World War II had on him and his family. The two longtime friends agreed a monument was needed to honor those who served the nation.
Bolden and Teague did not hesitate and immediately launched a community-wide fundraising effort through the newspaper, civic groups and veterans’ organizations. In less than a year, $65,000 was raised through private donations, and a monument bearing the names of residents from Alamance County killed in wars from the Civil War through the ongoing military action in the Middle East was created. The Alamance County War Memorial was placed on West Elm Street and is now the site for an annual Memorial Day Observance in which the names of Alamance County veterans who died over the past year are read and a bell sounded for each one. Bolden read the names for the first 22 Memorial Day observances. He was unable to attend the 23rd, held this past May.
Military events nationally shaped Bolden’s early life, a path that led to the creation of the War Memorial. In many columns he recalled the attack on Pearl Harbor. He often noted the young Alamance County men lost during that devastating global conflict at places like Normandy and Iwo Jima. The headlines and stories made a lifelong impact.
While Bolden often singled out completion of the Alamance County War Memorial as one of his proudest accomplishments, during his lifetime he touched almost too many areas of the community to list. He could arguably be called Alamance County’s Citizen Emeritus.
Bolden served on countless civic leadership roles or boards, including The Alamance County Historical Museum, the Textile Heritage Museum in Glencoe, the former Elon Homes for Children, the Alamance-Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce, the Burlington Downtown Corp., the Christian Counseling Center, the Jaycees, Crimestoppers, The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, and the Village at Brookwood. He had a longstanding affiliation with Hospice of Alamance-Caswell, was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and played a role in the creation of the Burlington School.
The Burlington City Council proclaimed March 29, 2013, Don Bolden Day in the city and surprised Bolden with an event at City Hall and a reception afterward. He was named Alamance County Man of the Year in 1990, the American Business Women’s Boss of the Year in 1997 and Boy Scouts Man of the Year in 2003. He was given the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award in 2014.
Don Bolden’s final column for the Times-News was published March 5, 2017. It was his goal to reach 60 years as a weekly columnist, and he did. Fittingly, his final column ended with a traditional newspaper ending from the past: The symbol -30-. When Bolden entered the newspaper business, stories were written on typewriters with sheets of paper passed to copy editors who would then look for mistakes. The designation -30- let a copy editor know the story was completed.
It meant the same thing to Bolden on March 5, 2017.
“Today I retire as a columnist. I think 60 years is enough,” he wrote and added. “Sooner or later everything ends, and I think this is as good a time as any to stop writing the column — after exactly 60 years.”
As a reporter and editor Bolden witnessed a lot of Alamance County history and wrote about it. He documented the heyday and decline of downtown Burlington, the emergence of retail centers like Cum-Park Plaza, Holly Hill Mall and Burlington Mill Outlet Center, as well as their decline. He noted the national emergence of Elon College into Elon University, as well as the consolidation of the Burlington City and Alamance County school systems. He recorded the economic evolution that transformed the area from one dependent upon textile manufacturing and Western Electric into one related to medicine and laboratory testing. In politics, he chronicled the rise of a man from Hawfields to the governor’s mansion.
Bolden once said he decided to spend his career in Burlington because he loved the flexibility working at a smaller newspaper offered. He could write about or photograph nearly any subject he wished. He also liked working in his hometown, a place he never truly left.
“It was fun to see my community take shape and to run with it and be part of it,” he said.
Madison Taylor was executive editor of the Times-News from 2007 to 2016. Prior to that, he worked at the Times-News from 1984 to 1992 as a sports writer, weekend editor and city editor.