Chamber names three life members at 45th annual meeting
Life Memberships are awarded by the Board of Directors to individuals who have been a member of the Chamber for at least 20 years and are now in a retired status. Life members are afforded all privileges of membership and are relieved of further payment of dues. This year the Board would like to award three life memberships
Our first life membership will be awarded to Dr. Carolyn Grantham Ennis. Dr. Ennis is a native of Smithfield, graduated from Johnston County Training School (later named Johnston Central High School) and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Shaw University. She has masters’ degrees from New York University and Duke University. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Shaw University.
Carolyn has worked in education in Johnston County for more than 50 years, serving in various positions including high school English teacher, Secondary Supervisor of Instruction, Community Schools Coordinator, Director of Special Events, Special Assistant to the Superintendent and as a Professional Volunteer. In addition to her passion for education she has been a devoted supporter of a number of civic, service, and professional organizations in Johnston County and across the state of North Carolina serving as president of nine county organizations. She is a prolific writer of plays, tributes, poetry and essays. She acknowledges herself as being A SERVANT of God and People.
Carolyn is the recipient of many awards for her outstanding service and volunteerism, including two awards of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor. She has been honored as a Living Legend by WRAL TV, the Johnston County Heritage Center, the Johnston Community College Student Government Association and the Johnston County Schools. She is also the recipient of the Governor Terry Sanford Human Relations Award for the state of North Carolina and has been honored numerous times by her sorority, the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Raleigh. She has endowed a scholarship in her name at Shaw University and funds an award for individuals who have promoted the historical heritage of Johnston Central High School.
Carolyn has been involved in the Chamber since the 1970’s and was named the Citizen of the Year by the Chamber in 1981. She received the prestigious Athena Award in 2000.
The Johnston County Board of Education honored her by planting a tree and placing a huge granite rock with an engraved plague on the grounds of the Administration Building. The Carolyn Grantham Ennis Room at Shaw University and the Dr. Carolyn Grantham Ennis Study Room at Johnston Community College also were named in her honor. She is the widow of Reginald Von Ennis and the mother of the late Kevin Von Ennis and the grandmother of three children, Kevin, Reginald and Diamond.
We would like to congratulate Carolyn Ennis.
Our second life membership will be given to Thomas Wingate Lassiter. Wingate is also a Smithfield native, graduating from Smithfield High School in 1965. He was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University, receiving his A. B. degree in history in 1969.
Wingate was born with “ink in his blood,” being the son of Tom and Lib Lassiter, publishers of The Smithfield Herald. After a brief stint as a staff writer for the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, he returned to Smithfield as assistant editor of the Herald in 1972. Wingate spent much of his career at The Smithfield Herald, eventually becoming the editor and publisher, before his family sold the paper to The News and Observer in the early 1990s.
Wingate because the owner of Hometown Heritage Publishing, which took on a number of projects over the next 15 years. He was the creator & publisher of the Chamber’s Hometown Living magazine from 1995-2004; he published a county history book titled, “Johnston County: 1746-1996” and updated it in 2004; he was editor & publisher of the Smithfield-Selma Sun, 1997-98; and he became the publishing contractor, N.C. Department of Transportation Rail Division, 2000-2002.
Wingate’s company also maintained several local websites in the early 2000s including those for the towns of Selma and Smithfield, Downtown
Smithfield Development Corporation, Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Smithfield-Selma Chamber commercial properties, and several commercial enterprises.
In 2003, because of his knowledge of local history, the county named him the executive director of the Johnston County Heritage Center. He retired from that position last year.
Wingate has served on several professional organizations, including the president of the N.C. Association of Community Newspapers, chairman of the N.C. Editorial Writers Conference, a member of the Board of Directors of the UNC School of Journalism Foundation and president of the Capitol Press Association. He received awards for editorial writing in the N.C. Press semi-weekly division and numerous other awards that went to The Smithfield Herald (for General Excellence, News Coverage, and Editorial Page) during his years as editor & publisher. He received the Publisher’s Award for the N.C. Society of Historians in 1994.
Wingate Lassiter has also been a responsible community citizen. He is a past-president of Rotary Club of Central Johnston County, TV ministry assistant at Centenary United Methodist Church, a past member of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation, and a former member of the Johnston County Heritage Commission.
He was named a “Distinguished Citizen” by Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber in 1997 and Smithfield’s “Main Street Champion,” by the N.C. Department of Commerce in 2002.
Wingate is married to Susan B. Lassiter and they have two adult children: Eleanor Ridley, of Atlanta, GA and Frank Lassiter, a coach and history teacher at Leesville Road High School in Wake; He and Susan have five grandchildren.
Wingate, if you would please step forward.
The Chamber’s third life membership will be given to Frank Brown Holding.
Frank Holding is the former executive vice chairman of First Citizens Bank. He retired from First Citizens in September 2014 after 58 years of service.
For almost six decades, working from his office at the bank’s Smithfield main office, Holding made deep and continuing contributions to the success of First Citizens as well as the banking industry in the Southeast and nationwide.
He, along with his late brothers, helped build First Citizens into a national franchise, which today serves 18 states and the District of Columbia.
He established and developed other successful regional banks – First Citizens in South Carolina and Southern Bank headquartered in Mount Olive.
But Johnston County was always where his heart was.
Throughout his career, Holding devoted his time and talents to community and civic affairs, focusing primarily on Johnston County and Eastern North Carolina.
In 1957, Frank Holding was appointed to fill his father’s unexpired term on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. He served for 37 years, one of the longest periods of service on a county commission board in state history.
Together, he and his wife, Ella Ann, have made substantial contributions to our community — establishing foundations and programs, and supporting a host of civic, charitable and educational institutions. He has been named the Smithfield-Selma Chamber’s Citizen of the Year on two occasions, first in 1971 and again in 1994.
He has received honorary degrees from Chowan, Campbell and Wake Forest universities; and was also awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in the State of South Carolina. In October 2013, the North Carolina Bankers Association inducted him into the North Carolina Banking Hall of Fame.
It is a great privilege to award a lifetime membership in the Smithfield-Selma Chamber to Frank Holding. Accepting the award will be his daughter, Claire.