Jasper Bazemore deserves honor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I didn’t vote for J. Jasper Bazemore when he originally ran for Bertie County Commissioner.

At the risk of reopening old wounds, I was one of those citizens in favor of the county hosting the regional landfill and therefore was opposed to those who ran against the sitting board members because of their acceptance of it.

I had assumed Mr. Bazemore was a one-issue candidate like some who ran for office on the anti-landfill platform. As such, there was no way I could support his bid. I have never been and hope I never am a one-issue voter in any election.

It didn’t take long after he took office to find out that Jasper Bazemore was all about Bertie County. He was a man who held the best interests of the county and its citizens above any personal belief he may hold.

He was a man of conviction and a man of integrity; someone I admired and that I called friend. He and the late C.H. Edwards hold the distinction, I believe, of being the two best commissioners ever seated in Bertie County.

But, back to my story.

Early into his first term, I told him that I was mistaken when I didn’t support him in his bid for commissioner. I promised him he would never fail to get my support again and I delivered on that promise. He laughed when I admitted I didn’t vote for him and never held it against me in the least.

To this day I miss Mr. Bazemore. As I sit in the county commissioners’ room, it doesn’t seem right that he isn’t walking in the door, shaking hands and smiling.

During the election of 2006, I was talking to someone who didn’t live in Bertie County. The person was telling me that it was time for Mr. Bazemore to stand aside because his hearing and health no longer allowed him to be the towering man he once was.

I agreed that it was possible that time had come, but I made one thing clear. I said then, and I hold to it now, that Jasper Bazemore carried Bertie County for many, many years and if it was necessary for us to carry him in his waning years, then so be it.

“As long as Jasper Bazemore’s name is on a ballot, I’ll vote for him. I don’t care if he’s lying in a hospital bed or running a marathon,” was my firm declaration.

Mr. Bazemore’s memory flooded into my mind during Monday’s dedication of Jasper Bazemore Avenue. It was a time of reflection when all gathered thought about the love, hard work and dedication he gave Bertie County. There have been few public servants who have given more.

The Bertie County Department of Social Services building that was dedicated moments later was something Mr. Bazemore always wanted to see come to fruition. While it is a shame he wasn’t there to see it happen, at least his legacy of fighting for those less fortunate will be remembered by the street that bears his name.

Jasper Bazemore deserved whatever honor is bestowed upon his memory. He was a giant of a man who held Bertie County together by the sheer force of his will during some hard times.

I respect his memory and I hope all those who travel down Jasper Bazemore Avenue will too. I hope it will in some way honor the dedication and service he gave to Bertie County.

Thadd White is a Staff Writer and Sports Editor for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. He can be reached by telephone at 252.332.7211 or via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com.