‘He worked tirelessly for those who had no voice’

‘He worked tirelessly for those who had no voice’
March 01
07:00 2018

The community came out to honor former school board member and County Commissioner Beaufort Bailey at a funeral service held Monday at Greater Church.

Bailey passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the age of 84. Many elected officials said he constantly offered them his advice, even after he no longer held office himself.

“He loved three things: he loved his family, he loved politics and he loved Winston-Salem State University,” said State Sen. Ed Hanes, who considered Bailey a father figure in his life.

Bailey was born in Walnut Cove and moved to Winston-Salem at age 14, where he graduated from Atkins High School and Winston-Salem Teachers College (which is now Winston-Salem State University or WSSU).

After teaching seventh grade for 11 years, he started working at WSSU. Bailey said he ran for school board in 1972 after Wayne Corpening, a former Wachovia Bank executive who would later became mayor, suggested it, telling him that the school board needed a black voice. Bailey failed to win a seat on his first try, but two years later, he became the first African-American school board candidate to win a countywide election. He lost the seat in 1978, but was re-elected to the board in 1982 and 1986.

“He worked tirelessly for those who had no voice,” said Mayor Allen Joines. “In fact, he became their voice. Sometimes we know it was a lone voice because he was often by himself. He was the only African-American on the school board for a long time.”

In a 2010 interview with The Chronicle, Bailey said some of his proudest accomplishments were done behind the scenes on the school board.

“One of my biggest accomplishments, working through the superintendent, was getting minorities involved in administration – principals, things of that nature,” Bailey said.

Bailey retired as WSSU’s media director in 1993. He then successfully ran for county commissioner in 2002, after several leaders in the black community suggested he run. He was a commissioner for eight years. He listed Caterpillar opening its local plant as one of his major accomplishments. The company was drawn to the area in 2010 by incentives approved by the county commissioners and training offered by Forsyth Technical Community College, whose board he sat on.

Perhaps his most dramatic vote as county commissioner was in 2010. While still recovering in the hospital from colon cancer surgery, he cast a tie-breaking vote for that year’s library bond. The bond, which was approved by voters, resulted in the newly renovated Central Library that reopened last year.

In the 2010 Democratic Primary, he was edged out by just 95 votes by current Commissioner Everett Witherspoon. When asked about it in 2010, Bailey said he should have “beaten the bushes” more and not relied so much on name recognition in that election.

Witherspoon told The Chronicle he respected Bailey as a political trailblazer and former opponent.

“He was always someone who would put a smile on your face,” said Witherspoon. “Even when we was running, he had encouraging things to say about you. He added humor to the campaign.”

County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin told funeral attendees that the smile and pleasant demeanor Bailey was known for served him well in getting things done as a commissioner. State Sen. Paul Lowe Jr., who also is a pastor, said during his sermon that Bailey was a voice for the voiceless that will be missed. There was also a proclamation by Phi Sigma Beta Fraternity Inc., of which Bailey was a member.

Bailey served on numerous boards, including the Urban League. When he was president of the Winston-Salem State University Alumni Association, the group restored the Atkins House and got a custom license plate from the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

According to his obituary, Bailey became a member of Cleveland Avenue Christian Church (now called Greater Church), and his final membership was at Saint Phillips Moravian Church in Winston Salem.

Bailey’s son Rev. Dr. Nikita Joel Bailey said he and his siblings referred to his father as “Big Daddy” and that his father was in touch with them to the very end. He said his father was also there for countless others as their mentor and father figure.

“There are people here today who shared stories of how he was father to them,” said Dr. Bailey.  “Our Big Daddy was Big Daddy to many people we don’t even know.”

Bailey was also survived by his wife of 63 years Pollye Graves Bailey and children Dr. L’Tanya Joy Bailey, Eugene Orrell Bailey, Goley Jock Bailey, Jan Perrin Bailey and Jay Perrie Bailey along with 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was interned at Baileytown Cemetery in Walnut Cove, where he was born.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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