BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council proclaimed February as Black History Month in Troutman on Thursday night and recognized the accomplishments and contributions of several African-American citizens to the local community.
“The Town of Troutman is proud to honor the history and contributions of African-Americans in our community and continues to work toward becoming an inclusive community in which all citizens are respected and recognized for their contributions and potential contributions to our community, state, nation, and the world,” read Mayor Teross Young.
Young encouraged “all citizens to celebrate our diverse heritage and culture, and continue in efforts to create a world that is more just, peaceful, and prosperous for all.”
Town Manager Ron Wyatt then presented plaques to honor Young, the first African-American mayor in Iredell County; Felina Harris, the first African-American woman on the Troutman Town Council and a beloved community philanthropist, and the late Johnny Cavin “J.C.” Walker, the first African-American police chief in the county.
MAYOR TEROSS YOUNG
Wyatt honored Troutman native Young “for his dedication and continuous efforts of encouraging others and working toward building a better community in which all citizens are respected and recognized for their contributions, and for being an example for future generations.”
Young is vice president of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs for Ahold Delhaize USA supermarkets brands. In this position, he monitors, analyzes, and communicates federal, state, and local public policy issues that affect Ahold Delhaize USA’s operations, business performance, competitive position, and business strategy.
Young serves on the boards of directors of the Lion’s Share Federal Credit Union, the Georgia Food Industry Council, the Maine Chamber, the N.C. Business Committee for Education, the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, the Charlotte Regional business Alliance, and the Iredell Economic Development Corporation.
The mayor also serves on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater UNC Charlotte, is an active member and past president of the Troutman Rotary Club, and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow.
A graduate of South Iredell High School, Young and his wife Renee, and their son Tyler, reside in Troutman.
Young thanked the staff and community for the honor. “This is home, and I will always remember that. That’s why I serve here,” he said.
COUNCILWOMAN FELINA HARRIS
Wyatt recognized Harris “for her continued work and contributions to our community, along with her commitment to equality and building an inclusive community where all citizens are mutually respected, recognized and appreciated.”
A Troutman native, Harris works as an IT Customer Relationship Manager/System Analyst with the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department. She was sworn in to fulfill the vacant seat left by Paul Bryant in January.
Harris was honored by the council last July for her efforts to feed children suddenly left without school nutritional support when the pandemic closed schools in March. She mobilized her “village” of friends in the community to meet this pressing need.
While the Iredell-Statesville Schools System scrambled to create and plan meal delivery to students thrust into an at-home virtual learning environment, Harris and her team filled in the food gaps for area children.
Harris shopped, collected donations, enlisted the help of the local Food Lion, recruited volunteers, and secured New Life Missionary Church as host of the food collection and distribution site.
The “village” operated the impromptu food bank for several weeks until the school system had its mobile nutrition system fully up and running and families’ needs diminished.
Harris is also an active volunteer in organizations that serve those in living in poverty, including serving on the Iredell Christian Ministries Board of Directors and being an active member of the Circle of Giving and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
“You are an example for others to follow,” said Wyatt.
Harris also has extensive experience with the UNC School of Government through her leadership in the N.C. Local Government Information System Association.
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Western Carolina University in Computer Information Systems and her Master’s in Business Administration from Gardner-Webb.
Harris thanked the town for the honor.
LATE POLICE CHIEF JOHNNY “J.C.” WALKER
Wyatt was nostalgic as he remembered his former baseball coach and role model J.C. Walker, who Wyatt credited for steering him into a career in law enforcement field and into his long association with the Fraternal Order of Police, which sponsored his youth baseball team that Walker coached.
Walker worked long hours at the then small police department, covering many shifts, and still found the time to coach and be an exemplary husband and father. “He went out of his way to see that we got coached and helped a lot of us out in those days,” Wyatt explained.
The town manager also noted the challenge of being a black police chief during that time period in a small Southern town but noted “this town had a whole lot of forethought back then, and I’m proud of what Troutman did.”
“That says a whole lot about our town and our history and where we came from. Troutman’s never been afraid to be the first to do a whole lot of things,” Wyatt said.
Walker’s daughters accepted the plaque honoring their late father “for his service to the Town of Troutman to create a safe community as Patrol Officer and Chief; for his leadership as coach and mentor to countless families and children; and his selfless sacrifice in serving his country in the United States Military.”
“His life work and service are vast and long standing, and we honor him for his impact on our community.”
Walker worked as a patrol officer in Troutman from 1978 through 1981, and then served as chief of police from 1981 to 1983. Described as “a man of astute character and moral fortitude,” Walker influenced two of his three children, Denise Walker McCoy and Johnny Jr., to follow in his footsteps.
McCoy was the first female and African-American woman to join the Statesville Police Department and was also the first African-American woman to become a detective there. Johnny served with the Tucson, Ariz., Police Department.
McCoy said in a recent town Facebook post, “On behalf of myself and my brother, in watching our father’s actions as we were growing up, he always instilled values in us and encouraged us to have goals. We watched his outreach to the community and to the citizens in Troutman.”
“We felt his passion, and we knew that these were steps that we wanted to follow — HIS footsteps — in order to keep the legacy going. This is why we both chose career paths in law enforcement, and we dedicate everything we do in helping others to my mother and father and the values that they instilled in us growing up.”
After accepting the plaque from Wyatt, McCoy said, “I know my daddy’s looking down on this right now. I just thank you for this.”
“This is home,” said McCoy. “There is no place like Troutman, North Carolina. We may not be big on the map, but we are big in our hearts.”
Her dad dreamed of having a library and park for the children in Troutman, noted McCoy. “I know he’s just smiling.”
Daughter Benita Walker Sigmon has also served her community, first as a teacher assistant for 20 years in Iredell-Statesville Schools. She then earned her medical assisting degree and now works as a referral coordinator for an endocrinologist in Statesville.
“He was a big man with a big heart,” Sigmon said of her father. “He taught us to love everybody and to treat everybody the way we wanted to be treated. He also instilled in us to do our best.”
“Whatever you are, be the very best.”
“From the bottom of our family’s heart, thank you for this opportunity. We thank you for honoring him after a long time overdue. We just thank you for all you are doing and for making Troutman a wonderful place to be.”
J.C. Walker was not only a beloved husband to Mary and father to his three children but also an esteemed professional baseball player in Europe who mentored and coached many children in the Troutman community.
Council members Sally Williams and Paul Henkel recalled times that Walker let them off with stern warnings for exceeding the speed limit.
“He kind of reminds me of the old Andy Griffith type of policing,” said Henkel. “You do what you got to do, but at the same time you work with people.”
“He was always good at that, getting along and presenting law enforcement as a kind, considerate bunch of people that could be tough sometimes when they need to be but at the same time could be kind, generous, and understanding and give warnings as opposed to tickets.”