Don’t forget the working man

Published 10:34 am Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of my best friends nearly moved to New York during our high school days. (It’s been a long time, but I’m pretty it was New York.)

The plant her father was working at here in the Roanoke-Chowan region closed and all operations consolidated up north. He was one of few, if not the only person, at the plant here that was offered a slot there.

He thought about all the intricacies of moving his family and he decided to stay put. He loved his home town, his church, his rural life.

Since that time, he has worked in a number of capacities and has finished raising four children; seen them married and enjoyed grandchildren.

When Charles White of Roxobel and his wife, Charlotte, made that decision, I was extremely happy. They are good people and I would have hated for them to leave the area and especially to have lost one of my best friends, their eldest daughter Sheila.

In the 20 years that have passed since they made that decision, the Roanoke-Chowan region has changed dramatically. There have been additions, such as Nucor and prisons in Bertie and Hertford counties. There have also been many businesses that closed or moved out the area.

Also in that time, the Whites have continued working hard, trying to make ends meet and doing the best they can to maintain their home, raise children and spoil grandchildren. They have a normal and happy life.

They have, to my knowledge, never questioned their decision to remain in our region.

What’s the point of all this?

I wonder sometimes if we realize the importance of people like the Whites – people who could have made more money and lived a different lifestyle elsewhere had they chosen to do so. There are an abundance of them in our region.

A good portion of our residents are here, not because they have to be, but because they want to be. They chose Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties as their home. They chose to keep their family here, pay taxes here and earn a living here.

It often seems these are the most forgotten people in our region. In the midst of worrying about keeping corporate big wigs happy (which is certainly a good thing) and trying not to over burden those who already are on welfare or social security, it is the people who work hard every day that are sometimes forgotten.

They rarely serve on boards or committees – save their own churches or local volunteer groups. They aren’t asked for input on major decisions made in the region. They are too often taken for granted.

I don’t think it happens intentionally. Our leaders are often focused on either the poor among us or the rich among us. That seems to be the nature of government. Sometimes this can’t be helped, but other times it can.

Our leaders need to do a better job of reaching out to those who work hard every day in factories, fields and other places of employment.

There are Charles Whites all over this region and if we ever truly get concerned about them and their welfare, we’ll be a better county, region and nation.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.