Time to mourn

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2007

AHOSKIE – The state of North Carolina’s loss is personal in Hertford County.

State Senator Robert L. Holloman (D-4th) and State Representative Howard J. Hunter Jr. (D-5th) both passed away within 24 hours of each other this weekend.

The two men, both of whom had served as Hertford County Commissioners, are being remembered today as people who dedicated their lives to fighting for the people of Hertford County and eastern North Carolina.

Howard J. Hunter III, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is now Vice Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, said his father would be remembered as someone who gave to the community.

“My dad gave his life to North Carolina and Hertford County,” he said. “He’s probably helped more citizens than anyone I’ve ever known.

“He started here and went from one county to four and from serving people here to serving the people of North Carolina,” Hunter added. “He never lost his love for the people of this district.”

Hertford County Commission Chairman Curtis A. Freeman echoed those same sentiments.

“Representative Hunter was a former commissioner and was the first commissioner I knew personally,” Freeman said. “He always fought for this county. Even in days of sickness, he continued to fight on.

“As with Senator Holloman, there are a lot of things we have been able to do here in Hertford County because of Representative Hunter’s tireless fighting for us,” he added. “He will be greatly missed.”

Freeman believed the loss of both men would have a lasting affect on Hertford County.

“I was pleased to work with Senator Holloman as a commissioner before he was elected to the State Senate,” Freeman said. “He did a lot of things to bring Hertford County into the 21st century while he was on this board.

“There are a lot of things we accomplished that we were only able to get done because of Senator Holloman’s hard work in Raleigh. Definitely, both men will be missed,” Freeman added. “It’s a great loss not only for Raleigh, but for all of Hertford County.”

For his part, Hunter III said he would greatly miss Holloman as well, calling him “a good representative of the people.”

“He helped a lot of people as well,” Hunter said. “Senator Holloman was not just a heck of a senator, he was a heck of a preacher too.

“My prayers go out to his family as well,” Hunter added.

Hertford County Commissioner John E. Pierce, who was a close neighbor of Hunter Jr., said he lost “a good neighbor.”

State House Representative Michael H. Wray (D-27th) of Gaston said Monday morning he was deeply saddened by the passing of his two colleagues.

“Howard Hunter has been involved in politics for a long time,” he said. “He made a big difference for our community and for our people.

“Howard was a true gentleman and statesman for North Carolina,” he added. “He will be greatly missed.”

For the past two years, Rep. Wray has worked alongside Senator Holloman for the people of the region. The two had become friends as well as associates.

“Senator Holloman was a personal friend of mine besides being my state senator,” Wray said. “I had two great years of working with him in the General Assembly and I feel like we were a great team.

“Senator Holloman was a great statesman for job creation in our district and eastern North Carolina,” he added. “He’ll be truly missed.”

A moment of silence was observed in honor of the two men during Monday morning’s meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners.

“These were two very strong men in our area,” Commission Chairman Rick Harrell said. “Their passing is a tremendous loss for our area. The void they leave will be hard to fill.”

Chairperson Virginia Spruill of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners said she was saddened by the news of the deaths.

“We have lost a good friend in Mr. Hunter,” said Spruill, remarking that Hunter’s House District formerly included Northampton County. “He did many great things for Northampton.”

Spruill also expressed that Holloman’s death as a loss for the county.

“Mr. Holloman was a great representative and we have lost a friend,” she said.

Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins conveyed his condolences for the families of Holloman and Hunter.

“I feel so sorry for the families,” said Jenkins. “Personally, I’ve lost two fine friends.”

Jenkins also went on to describe the deaths of the senator and state representative as a loss for Northampton County.

While the loss was more personal to the people of Hertford County and the Roanoke-Chowan area, the death of Holloman and Hunter also touched the state capital.

“Northeast North Carolina has lost two of its strongest and most effective advocates,” Governor Mike Easley said. “We are thankful for the long and distinguished record of public service contributed by State Rep. Howard Hunter and State Sen. Robert Holloman.

“Robert Holloman’s steady nature and strong work ethic helped during a difficult transition when he joined the state senate,” Easley continued. “His experience as a county commissioner made him one of the Senate’s most effective voices on behalf of local government.”

The governor was equal in his praise for Hunter’s work in the state house.

“Howard Hunter established himself as a leader of the legislature’s black caucus,” Governor Easley said. “Even as his health was failing he was an untiring and devoted advocate for young people and families as chair of the House Children, Youth and Families Committee, a post he held for several years.”

In addition to the governor, both men were being mourned by the leaders of their respective bodies in the General Assembly.

“Robert Holloman was a man of deep faith and compassion whose dedication to serving his community and to making life better for others was so admirable,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight (D-1st). “The Senate’s thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

On the House side of the Assembly, Representative Larry M. Bell (D-21st) is the Democratic Whip and said he was saddened to hear of Hunter’s death.

“We were certainly sorry to hear about Representative Hunter passing,” Bell said. “We knew he had been ill for a long time, but he always tried to get to the House for votes of importance. We all admired him for that because he made it his business to be there.”

Rep. Bell said he had spoken with Hunter last week about the upcoming legislative session and indicated Hunter was pleased about the Democratic majority in the House and was looking forward to being back in Raleigh.

“He was a team player,” Bell said. “He was always willing to do what he could to help his district and the state of North Carolina.

“We have all suffered a great loss in his passing,” Bell closed. “His family should be proud of the service he’s rendered for the state and for his community.”

Hunter was a 10-term incumbent in the North Carolina House of Representatives who served the people of Hertford, Bertie, Perquimans and Gates counties.

His committee assignments included chairing the Children, Youth and Families committee as well as a spot on the body overseeing Appropriations, Commerce, Federal Relations and Health.

Funeral services for Hunter, who was 60, will be held at 12 noon Thursday, January 11 at Soul Saving Station of Ahoskie with the Rev. Robert Richardson officiating. Private burial will be held for immediate family only.

The Representative is survived by one son, Howard Hunter III of Ahoskie, one daughter, Chyla T. Hunter of Tucson, Arizona, a brother, Julius Andrew Hunter of Ahoskie and four grandchildren.

Holloman, 53, would have been sworn in for his third term in the North Carolina Senate on January 24. He represented Hertford, Bertie, Gates, Northampton, Chowan, Halifax, Hertford and Perquimans counties.

He co-chaired the State and Local Government Committee and served on appropriations, Agriculture/Environment and Natural Resources, Education, Judiciary II and Opportunities and Needs for Economic Growth in North Carolina.

Holloman is survived by his wife, Velma, and a stepdaughter. A memorial/tribute service will be held for Holloman from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Nebo Family Life Center, Murfreesboro. Those wishing to make remarks at the service are urged to contact Irma Avent Hurst at 919-715-3032 no later than 2 p.m. today (Tuesday).

Holloman’s funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 12 at Nebo Baptist Church near Murfreesboro where he served as pastor for a number of years. Burial will follow in Highland Memorial Gardens.

(Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant and Staff Writer Amanda VanDerBroek contributed to this article.)