KFP: An early look at Kinston’s municipal races

By Bryan Hanks, Editor 

Thanks to a flurry of filings in — literally — the 11th hour this week, there are now three candidates for Kinston mayor and eight for the two Kinston City Council seats.

Only a week ago, we were wondering if there were going to be enough folks filing to even fill the ballot for city council. However, thanks to seven candidates joining incumbent Robbie Swinson for the council and B.J. Murphy’s surprising decision to run for re-election against Ralph Clark and John Marks for mayor, we’ll have spirited contests in Kinston’s first nonpartisan municipal races.

Before we take a quick look at those races, a reminder: The Free Press will be holding candidate forums, not just for those contests, but for many others throughout Lenoir, Greene and Jones counties. We’re also going to tape podcasts with candidates in all the races in our coverage areas before the November election.

So, on to some early observations. As always, these prognostications should not be taken as endorsements — they are just some early thoughts about what is shaping up to be a heck of a fun election season.

KINSTON MAYOR’S RACE: Murphy’s re-entry — remember, he announced earlier this year he wasn’t running for re-election — turns an almost certain Clark victory into a true race. The previous statement is made with absolutely no disrespect to Marks, but conventional wisdom dictated that Clark — who had garnered support from both sides of the local political spectrum before Murphy’s announcement — would cruise to the victory against Marks, a relative political neophyte who had previously lost three times in city council races.

Murphy is supremely confident he will win re-election after becoming the city’s first Republican mayor since Reconstruction — and it’s easy to see the source of his confidence. After a “perfect storm” victory in 2009 over two established candidates in Earl Harper and Jimmy Cousins, the personable Murphy has built strong consensus from Democrats and Republicans in his first term as mayor.

He has shown several times he will shed the GOP label and do what’s best for Kinston, regardless of what some local Republicans think might be quasi-blasphemous actions.

But it’s not going to an easy race against Clark, who — as mentioned earlier — has built a strong base of support from the city’s movers and shakers. The former Kinston City Manager didn’t jump into this mayoral race on a whim; he did his homework, talking to many potential opponents (including, ironically, Murphy) to defuse any political problems and opposition. It’s certain Clark didn’t think Murphy would run for re-election, but since he has, we’ll get to see a spirited race.

The wild card here is Marks. It’s almost certain that — just like in 2009 — local Democrats will be split between Clark and Marks, with virtually the entire GOP base supporting Murphy. Even if Clark garners 70 percent of the local Democratic vote (a fair guess, I think), with Murphy and Marks getting the remaining 30, that skews the race again towards Murphy. If this was just Clark vs. Murphy, I think Clark would stand a strong chance of victory; with Marks in the race, I can see Murphy coming away with another win.

KINSTON CITY COUNCIL RACE: Now, THIS is where it gets really fun.

With eight candidates vying for two seats, anything can happen. However, I’m pretty confident that Swinson, who is going for his third term on the council, will be the top vote-getter when Nov. 5 rolls around. That’s the easy prediction; Swinson is well-liked in all parts of Kinston, has done a solid job in his first two terms and has the all-important name recognition factor in his corner. If he doesn’t earn the most votes in November, I’ll be shocked.

However, Swinson is facing some strong opposition, including from another 11th-hour filer who reversed course: John Nix. The local businessman — who lost in his first run for council in 2011 — is best known for being one of the primary forces that brought nonpartisan voting to Kinston. However, like Murphy in the mayor’s race, he announced publicly last month he wasn’t running for city council.

Nonetheless, like Murphy in the mayor’s race, Nix did a 180 on Friday and announced his bid for city council.

Swinson and Nix are joined by six other candidates — Teddra Hussey-Smith, Marc McKnight, Adrien Meadows, Lennie Peterson, Carol Tokarski and Wynn Whittington. Of that sextet, Whittington (a former Kinston High School principal) and Peterson (a former candidate for city council) have the most local name recognition. Of course, that can change a lot between now and November.

Regardless of who wins and loses at the ballot box in November, I hope you join me in thanking these 11 citizens — along with the other candidates in La Grange, Pink Hill, Greene County and Jones County — who care enough about their communities to try to make a difference. They’re not sitting around on their backsides waiting for things to happen; they’re working to try to improve the cities, towns and communities in which they live.

You have earned our respect and admiration.

Bryan C. Hanks is the editor of The Free Press; his column appears in this space every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at Bryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BCHanks.

KFP: Hanks – A busy news week finally comes to a close

By Bryan C. Hanks / Managing Editor 

There are some weeks where I struggle to come up with a good idea for a column. But then there are those weeks where I could seriously write a column every day.

Last week would fall into the latter category. There was literally a big news story breaking every single day — so, dear reader, please allow me to take a few minutes of your precious Sunday and share my opinion on a few things that filled your Kinston Daily Free Press last week.

B.J. MURPHY’S DECISION NOT TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION : The most surprising news to hit Kinston in 2013 came Tuesday morning when Kinston’s young mayor, B.J. Murphy, announced he was not going to run for re-election in November.

To many — myself included — it was a foregone conclusion the 32-year-old, considered an up-and-comer by statewide Republicans, would run for the office he initially won in an upset in 2009.

However, citing familial obligations and potentially preparing for a future race for another office, Murphy decided against running for mayor this year.

Like everyone else, I was surprised. One thing I’ve discovered about the young mayor is he’s not afraid of a fight — and November was shaping up to be a slobberknocker between him and whoever the local Democratic Party was going to send against him. I know there was a part of him that was relishing the opportunity to prove 2009 wasn’t a fluke.

Now, it won’t happen, which leads to the next logical question: who is going to run for mayor? Names I’ve heard bandied about include current city councilman, Joe Tyson — although he told me unequivocally he is not interested in the position. Although he said the thing about running for another term on the council the last time around and ultimately ran again, I believe him. Tyson is one of the smartest men in this town and he knows he has more power on the council than he does as the mayor.

Danny Rice is another potential candidate; the energetic sparkplug behind the successful Woodmen Community Center coming to Kinston is universally admired. He’s retired and has a genuine love and affection for this community and would be a formidable candidate.

I’ve heard Kinston City Councilman Robby Swinson’s name bandied about as a potential candidate, too; but with his own young family, a successful business to run and health issues (he’s still recovering from a heart attack in late 2012), I doubt he’ll run for mayor — although he’s a virtual lock if he decides to run for his council seat again.

Other names out there in the ether include retired Kinston Department of Public Safety Director Greg Smith, Lenoir-Greene United Way Director June Cummings, former councilman Jimmy Cousins and Platinum Club owner Tharol Branch. All would be solid candidates for the position.

Regardless of who is the next mayor of Kinston, Murphy has earned respect for the job he’s done — turning a position that was almost entirely ceremonial into a true advocate for Kinston and its people. I’m interested to see what happens in the next chapter of his political career.

Murphy joined Jon Dawson and I on last week’s Free Press Radio Show to discuss his decision, his future and his thoughts on potential successors, among many other topics. You can listen to the show by going to Kinston.com, scrolling down to the Web Exclusives tab and then clicking on the link.

Which leads us to …

BOARD OF ELECTIONS SEEKS TO OUST DANA KING : One of the subjects we discussed with Murphy on The Free Press Radio Show was the Lenoir County Board of Elections attempt to oust its director, Dana King. On our show, Murphy was adamant that he thought the move was a vendetta against King.

Of the current three-person board of Chairman Sharon Kanter, Secretary Oscar Herring and Kim Allison, Murphy said, “(The current board has) had it out for (King) since Day 1.”

I’ve read the 106-page petition the board sent to N.C. Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett … and it’s pretty damning, if the allegations included in it are true. You can view the petition online here: co.lenoir.nc.us/documents/BOE01222013-Redacted.pdf.

I know this much — since assuming the managing editor role of The Free Press in June 2008, I’ve dealt with King and her office on dozens of occasions. She has always — and I mean ALWAYS — been readily accessible to me, my reporters and my photographers.

We’ve surprised her at the last minute on multiple occasions with story and photo requests of her and her workers and she’s complied 100 percent. When I or a reporter has needed to talk to her about a story, if she doesn’t answer the phone immediately, she calls back as soon as possible.

Dana King has always been a consummate professional in her dealings with The Free Press.

After Murphy’s story appeared online at Kinston.com, I — along with Jon Dawson and Christina Alphin (Murphy’s secretary) received an email from Kanter. In it (which you can view at my blog at bhanks.encblogs.com/?p=8115), Kanter (along with Herring and Allison) take issue with Murphy’s stance on our show.

Among other items, the letter to Murphy states, “The rumors are wrong. Contrary to their — and your — stated perception, this Board has not been ‘out to get’ the Elections Director, from ‘Day 1’ or at any time since then.”

After receiving the email, I forwarded it to Free Press Publisher and Editor Patrick Holmes (my boss and “the buck stops here” guy at your paper) and asked him if we could run it as a letter to the editor. He said we couldn’t since we don’t run letters to the editor addressed to a third party (in this case, to Murphy). However, I was instructed that if Kanter rewrote the letter and addressed it to the editor, we would consider it for publication in The Free Press.

I decided to run the email in its entirety on my blog; the letter was from a public board to a mayor and nowhere in the letter did it say “Top Secret,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “Off the Record” or the like.

Additionally, the email was sent to a managing editor of a newspaper and a columnist (Dawson), along with Alphin.

Not long after I posted the letter on my blog, I received a scathing email from Kanter — who I’ve never personally met, to the best of my knowledge — in which she questioned my “journalistic training and/or integrity,” among other blasts.

We had a couple of heated email exchanges back and forth, but the crux of the situation is this common sense note: If you send an email or letter to a reporter, editor, photographer or columnist of a newspaper, you are granting implicit permission to publish the content of that email or letter in the newspaper or online UNLESS you clearly state you don’t want it published.

When Kanter emailed me the original letter to Murphy, there were no conditions placed on that letter. It was a letter to the mayor and sent to Murphy’s secretary, to me and to Dawson. Later, she decided she didn’t want it for public viewing and when I refused to pull it from my blog, that’s when she began to question my training and/or integrity.

This brings us back to the original issue — the BOE’s attempt to remove King as director. As stated above, I’ve never had an iota of concern with her performance; she’s literally bent over backwards to accommodate your Free Press and your Constitutional right to know what is going on with her department in the pages of your local newspaper.

I’ve peripherally known Herring for a long time and found him to be a man of high character. I became acquainted with Allison a little bit last year when she ran unsuccessfully for the county clerk’s office and, like Herring, found her to be of high character.

But for a person who doesn’t personally know me — Kanter — to question my character (she accused me in her final email exchange that I’m attempting to “advance my political cred”) is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous.

Dana King might lose her job and if she does, it’s a serious loss for our county. But after initial contact with one of the people trying to fire her, it makes King’s case for staying on the job that much stronger to me.

GRAHAM ATTEMPTING TO TAX FROM RALEIGH : In 2008 and 2012, the voters of Lenoir County clearly stated they do not want a 1/4-cent sales tax, the last time in an overwhelming 2-to-1 vote.

Evidently, freshman N.C. Rep. George Graham, the longtime Democratic Lenoir County Commission chairman didn’t get that message. He proposed a bill Thursday giving the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners the ability to put that 1/4-cent sales tax in place without a public vote — if the commissioners decide to do so.

Some factors are in play here, though; first, with a Republican super-majority in the House, I have more of a chance of becoming America’s Next Top Model than this bill does of even getting out of committee.

Secondly, the county commissioners are not dumb enough to enact this power if it is given to them. When every single precinct in Lenoir County rejected it last year, that should have been a clear enough signal to Graham or anyone that citizens here don’t want it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I really didn’t have a problem with the proposed 1/4-cent sales tax — there is no fairer tax than one in which everyone who purchases goods has to pay the same thing. Without the money that tax would have generated, property taxes are probably going to go up and no one wants that.

But it’s a little shady to go against the will of your electorate and propose a tax bill they overwhelmingly rejected. Let’s hope Graham’s next bill proposal is one his electorate supports.


Bryan C. Hanks is the managing editor of The Free Press and his column appears in this space every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at Bryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

Educating Kids on Personal Finances

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Podcast with Kinston Free Press’ Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson:

Begin at 31:30

“Why in the world in the public school system do we focus so much on engineering and mathematics, like calculus, when most of the people aren’t going to go in to biometric fields and aerospace fields. Now there is a market, don’t get me wrong. We need to offer those classes. But we should be drilling into our students how to manage a checkbook. How to manage a debit card. How to manage a credit card.

“Why in the world would we only leave that up to the parents is beyond me, because we obviously as a culture, which is obvious with the debate in DC now with the federal deficit, we can’t even manage our own personal finances. So, how in the world would you expect some politicians in DC to do that for you?

“Why we put so much emphasis on that type of academia is beyond me.  We should be drilling our students how to focus on a checkbook.”

KFP: Audio: B.J. Murphy discusses his big decision and the Dana King/Board of Elections controversy

By Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson 

On this week’s edition of The Free Press Radio Show, Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson are joined by Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who talks about a variety of subjects, including his decision not to run for reelection, who he thinks might run to replace him, his future in politics and his opinion about the Lenoir County Board of Elections Director situation. Bryan and Jon also discuss area politics, the post office and introduce this week’s iPod Shuffle.

Click HERE to listen to the show.

Click HERE to read some of the Q&A.

KFP: Sitting down with the mayor

KFP0208_Mayor Murphy Q and A.jpg
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy kicks off Kinston’s 250th anniversary celebration with a speech last year. Earlier this week, Murphy announced he would not be running for re-election in November.

Zach Frailey / The Free Press




By Bryan Hanks, Managing Editor
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 21:33 PM.

On Thursday, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy joined Free Press Managing Editor Bryan Hanks and Columnist Jon Dawson on The Free Press Radio Show to discuss a variety of topics following Murphy’s announcement earlier this week that he wouldn’t be running for re-election.

Following are some of Murphy’s responses to questions from Hanks and Dawson; go to Kinston.com for the complete interview.

The Free Press: How tough was the decision not to run for re-election?

B.J. Murphy: In terms of ranking life decisions, it was probably in my top 3. … Everything you do today has an impact on your life, not just tomorrow, but 10 years from now and 20 years from now. I’ve always taken life at that — it’s not just what I do today, it’s how the decisions today, no matter how big or small, they impact you exponentially throughout the years. …

I understand the likelihood that I’ll run for mayor again is diminished considerably because of this decision. It doesn’t mean I won’t consider running for mayor again but the likelihood has diminished because of the decision.

TFP: If you had decided to run (for re-election), would you have won?

BJM: Absolutely — and for a number of reasons. It would be my third time on the ballot and name recognition on a ballot is important. You’ve got to remember, there are only 4,000 to 5,000 voters in Kinston that vote in every election and that would be the third time they’d see my name on the ballot.

Another (reason) is the incumbency. Obviously, in some political years, being the incumbent is not good but historically speaking, an incumbent has a tremendous advantage. … The third reason is because of nonpartisan elections; that was going to play to my benefit this year. …

One thing I haven’t really talked about a lot and I probably won’t go into a lot of detail but one of the biggest things people have said me as a Republican that goes against me is the support in the black community. I’ll be honest, I have a lot more support in the black community than people either realize or would like to admit.

TFP: Why is that?

BJM: Because I grew up here. I was public school-educated; I went to Northwest (Elementary), Bynum (Elementary), Rochelle (Middle) and Kinston High School, LCC and East Carolina. My entire life was public school education. I was cross country, track and field and I played football for three years. I know a lot of the black community although I’m white.

It’s like I’ve explained to a lot of folks: my father’s generation, they went through integration so you could understand how that generation might have some racial tension issues. … But the thing I’ve mentioned when I’ve talked to people about race relations is my generation doesn’t have that same problem. We just don’t. … I grew up playing sports with black friends and white friends; that’s all we knew.

I grew up in a white home, but in a working class family. My mother was a retail merchant and my father was a bread man and it was a blue collar family. We just survived and we made it happen. … I lost my birth mother when I was 4. There’s a lot of things I can identify with the black community. … I’m a Republican but I have a lot more support there than people realize. …

Hands down, I would’ve won. But it’s all speculation now.

TFP: What is your opinion on the dust-up with the Lenoir County Board of Election’s dust-up with its director, Dana King?

BJM: I think the entire board needs to change. I don’t know how soon the board changes after the governor’s race, but the fact is you have a Republican governor, so you should have two Republican board members now. …

(The current board has) had it out for her since Day 1. The Democratic Party didn’t even tell the two former members they weren’t going to be gone. They replaced them with two new people. I like them; don’t get me wrong and it’s nothing personal. … Eventually, there comes a time when it’s time to step down.

TFP: What is your advice for the next mayor of Kinston?

BJM: Continue to increase street resurfacing money and continue to engage people via social media. I think it’s real important and I think it’s going to become the norm in politics.

TFP: What is your future, politically?

BJM: It’s not the last election I’ll ever be involved in. I’m very confident I will run for another office one day. I live in three districts on the state and national level that would be favorable towards a candidacy like mine.

I have a good political base. Obviously, I’ve shown I can govern a community that is a majority minority town, a majority Democratic town and do it with class and getting things accomplished. I think there’s a good track record of working, quote-unquote, across the aisle, although I’ve always argued there’s not that partisanship on the local level or hyper-local level, at least.

No, I’m not done with politics. And no, I’m not announcing for any candidacy and no, I haven’t even considered a run for an office next year when those guys run in 2014. I really haven’t given it a thought.

My thought has always been, up until this decision, “How can I set myself up for a future race?” The best way thing I knew to do now was focus as much time and energy on my business. …

My political story is always going to precede me. I just need to become more successful in business now and add that chapter to my life and then see where we go in the future.

Full Interview

Want to hear more from this Q&A with Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy? Go to Kinston.com and click on The Free Press Radio Show for the complete interview.

KFP: Kinston mayor to continue giving back to community

Murphy, first Republican mayor since Reconstruction, will not run for reelection

KFP0206 MurphyFiler

Mayor B. J. Murphy, right, filed for the office at the Lenoir County Board of Elections in 2009 with his wife Jessica. Murphy has announced he will not run for reelection.

File photo by Charles Buchanan / The Free Press

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 23:09 PM.

In what some consider one of the most surprising decisions of the 2013 local political season, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy formally announced Tuesday morning he will not be running for reelection.

He said he and his wife Jessica came to the decision Saturday night on a family drive back from Durham. He also said he wanted to make the decision early, so other candidates would potentially step forward.

“Jessica and I have been praying and discussing this in depth for about eight months,” said Murphy, who is employed by LegalShield, a company that installs small business plans and employee benefits. “It just came down to us growing our business and enjoying our time with our family.”

Murphy, Kinston’s first Republican mayor since Reconstruction, will keep the Committee to Elect B.J. Murphy open, although he told The Free Press he’s not targeting any particular office now or in the immediate or longtime future.

“I’m only 32 and I have plenty of political life in me,” Murphy said. “I don’t need to run for office to prove myself to the City of Kinston; I’ve enjoyed it and I’m going to continue to give back to my community.”

The mayor’s job and two city council seats — currently held by Democrats Bobby Merritt and Robbie Swinson — are on the November ballot. All three races will be nonpartisan races for the first time.

Reaction across the area on Tuesday was that of surprise at Murphy’s decision.

“I was totally shocked when I found out,” Kinston Mayor Pro Tem and longtime Kinston City Councilman Joe Tyson said. “I immediately picked up the phone to call B.J., because I was concerned it might be something very serious with his family.

“But I also wanted to tell him he’s doing a good job. B.J. is an up-and-coming person who is known throughout the state for doing good things for this city when it comes to working with ElectriCities and the DOT.”

Kinston City Councilwoman Kelly Jarman was elected to her post in 2011 and said she had enjoyed working with Murphy. She, too, was surprised when contacted by The Free Press — who broke the news to her.

“I am totally shocked, because I’d heard he was going to run,” Jarman said. “I’ve only been on the council for a year, but in the short time I’ve been on the council, we’ve worked well together.”

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears assumed his position in November 2011 and said he appreciated the job performed by Murphy.

“I’ve enjoyed my time working with the mayor,” Sears said. “He’s a consummate professional. All elected officials bring something unique to the table and he was no different.”

Murphy, who grew up in Kinston and is a Kinston High School and ECU graduate, burst on the local scene early last decade when he became the director of Pride of Kinston, the downtown revitalization organization. In 2005, he made an unsuccessful — but surprisingly strong — run for mayor against Kinston legend O.A. “Buddy” Ritch, losing to the Democrat by less than 300 votes.

“It showed me that people were willing to accept the idea of change,” Murphy said of his close loss to Ritch. “They weren’t ready for me just yet; four years later, they were.”

Murphy won the mayor’s post in 2009 in a three-way race that pitted him again against two political veterans, former Lenoir County commissioner Earl Harper and former city council member Jimmy Cousins. At 29, he was the city’s youngest mayor in history and one of the youngest mayors in the state.

“I was a viable candidate, I knew the issues and I would argue that I was on the right side of the issues,” Murphy said. “I knocked on the right doors and raised $15,000, as opposed to $6,000 the first time I ran. I learned a valuable lesson from the first race when Mayor Ritch raised $12,000 and I only raised $6,000.”

The mayor listed a number of accomplishments during his term, including the legal fight that finally convinced the U.S. Department of Justice to allow Kinston to move from a partisan election system, where candidates run under party labels, to a nonpartisan system. That fight was actually waged by a group of residents without the city’s direct support, but Murphy advocated for a nonpartisan system in his campaign and in the years since.

Murphy also said as mayor he actively pursued regional partnerships for economic development, led efforts to challenge the status quo in the public power business, supported increased street resurfacing funding, vocalized support for pro-active community policing, and encouraged ongoing demolition and community re-development efforts.

Regardless of what happens in his future, Murphy said he is not going to disappear from the public view.

“I’m going to stay involved in the political realm,” Murphy said. “The question is going to be how public it’s going to be. I’m a very opinionated person and I don’t mind sharing those opinions, so don’t be surprised to see me writing letters to the editor, endorsing candidates or getting behind legislation, state or federal.”


Free Press Publisher and Editor Patrick Holmes contributed to this report. Bryan C. Hanks can be reached at 252-559-1074 or atBryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at BCHanks and check out his blog at bhanks.encblogs.com.

Kinston Free Press Radio: Interview with Mayor BJ Murphy

By Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson

Managing Editor Bryan Hanks and columnist Jon Dawson have a very Justin Beiber-ish conversation with Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who also discusses his plans for the 2013 municipal elections and other news topics of the day, including the Will Barker arrest. Additionally, Hanks and Dawson sit down with Free Press Advertising Director Matt Holbrook to talk about the business side of the newspaper.

KFP: Little shaped young lives as a coach, teacher, mentor

By Bryan C. Hanks / The Free Press


There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of youth, recreational and middle school coaches in Lenoir County over the past 50 years.

However, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who’s had more influence – or who commands more respect – than Coley Little.

Little will be inducted into the Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday at the Hall’s new permanent home at the Woodmen Community Center. Tickets for the ceremony are now available at The Free Press and at the Woodmen Center.

For nearly four decades, Little taught or coached at several schools in the county, including Adkin and Kinston High School, along with Adkin, Rochelle and Harvey Middle School. He helped shape young minds in the classroom but helped many young men and women become outstanding athletes on the basketball court, the football and baseball fields and on the track.

“As a member of the inaugural (Kinston/Lenoir County Sports) Hall of Fame class, I cannot think of any other student-athlete, coach or administrator who is more deserving of this honor,” said Lin Dawson, who played football at Kinston High School and N.C. State before a long career for the New England Patriots. “You would be hard-pressed to find another head coach in any state who has coached as many different sports at several schools with the level of success he obtained.”

Little started the uber-successful Rochelle Middle School basketball program – and his teams promptly ran off a 55-1 record in the first four years of its existence. In the two decades since he created it, the “Little” Vikings have never lost a home game.

“He started that tradition at Rochelle … and even today, young coaches still seek his counsel,” Dawson noted. “Despite all his success, he is quick to mention, ‘It’s all about the kids.’ ”

Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis has admired Little since Ellis arrived in town.

“He’s an outstanding coach and leader of young people,” Ellis said. “But what has impressed me the most about Coach Little is his concern for kids. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, Coach Little shows every kid the same amount of respect – and that’s why they love him so much.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who was a student of Little’s in middle school, said Little’s influence extends outside the sports realm.

“He wasn’t just a mentor to student-athletes, he was also very important to students, too,” Murphy said. “He has always been known to be a very fair man. He was always willing to offer a word of encouragement to anyone.”

When contacted and told he was going to be a member of the 2012 KLCSHOF class, Little exhibited his characteristic humility.

“I’m honored, but I’m thankful for the young people who played for me,” Little said. “This honor is because of them.”


Bryan C. Hanks can be reached at 252-559-1074 or atBryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.



Coley Little career highlights

n Recognized throughout Lenoir County as one of the best middle school coaches in history

n Established Rochelle Middle School basketball program and led “Little” Vikings to 55-1 record in first four years of program’s existence

n Mentored many young men and women over a four-decade career


Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame

The Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame will induct its fourth class on Saturday at the Woodmen Community Center, the new permanent home of the KLCSHOF. The Free Press is running a series of articles by Ryan Herman and Bryan C. Hanks on all 10 new inductees and the teams that will be honored at the ceremony. Here is the schedule for the stories:

Monday, Oct. 8: Doug Bruton

Tuesday, Oct. 9: Otis Clark

Wednesday, Oct. 10: Thomas Cole

Thursday, Oct. 11: Pat Crawford

Friday, Oct. 12: Wayne Floyd

Saturday, Oct. 13: Vincent Jones

Sunday, Oct. 14: North Lenoir High School girls basketball — 1964-67

Today: Coley Little

Tuesday: Hugh Pollock

Wednesday: South Lenoir High School boys basketball — 1968-69

Thursday: Carolyn Goodley Souther

Friday: Fred Williams

Saturday: Grainger High School boys basketball — 1963-65



Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame

The Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame will induct 10 new members at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Woodmen Community Center, the new permanent home for the KLCSHOF. Tickets cost $30. This year’s class includes: Douglas “Doug” Bruton, Otis Clark, Thomas George Cole, Pat Crawford, Wayne Floyd, Vincent Jones, Coley Little, Linwood Hugh Pollock, Carolyn Goodley Souther and Fred Williams. Boys basketball teams from Grainger (1963-64, 1964-65) and South Lenoir (1968-69) and girls teams from North Lenoir (1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67) will also be recognized for their past achievements.

Tickets can be purchased at the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation offices located upstairs at the Woodmen Community Center or at The Free Press.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Video: Reece Gardner Interview on July 24 2012

This week on the Reece Gardner Hour, Reece and I discuss recent headlines, Mayor’s internship program, 2013 Mayor’s race, street resurfacing funding increase, technology improvements at the City (kiosks, online applications and social media), future political office, Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act, endorsement of Pat McCrory (Gov), Dan Forest (Lt Gov), John Bell (NC House) and David Rouzer (US House), partnership with the Arts Council for a $100,000 grant, revitalization efforts, MLK corridor improvements, demolition by neglect.

You should see some significant improvements from City Hall on out over the next four or five years.

My interview begins at 29:15.