Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bill Thorpe

My Town Council colleague Bill Thorpe died on Saturday. We will miss him very much. I came to know him first in early 2004, when he was involved with the NAACP in asking the Council to change the name of Airport Road to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Seeing Chapel Hill's long history through his eyes helped me to understand why this gesture--which some dismissed as merely symbolic--was so important. More than that, after his election to the Council in 2005 he continued to remind all of us of the need to go beyond symbolism to action in addressing issues of social justice in our community.

He also taught me a lot about collegiality in public service--that is, about working together as colleagues. And he never ceased to remind all of us us--usefully, no doubt--that we are public servants, that our actions and decisions must always be for the good of the whole community. As anybody who knew him can tell you, he had a powerful deadpan--he could shock you momentarily into thinking you'd committed some mighty offense! only to let you know it was all right, everything was going to be all right. He really had one of the sweetest dispositions of any man I've ever known (and surely it is OK, in the 21st century, to call a man sweet). When I think of him, I will always see him smiling.

A public viewing will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at University Baptist Church, and services will be held at 1 p.m.

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