Broadnax succumbs

Published 8:47 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

SEABOARD — The man known for his big, warm smile and his love for Seaboard and Northampton County has passed away.

On Sunday, Dr. Melvin F. Broadnax, 82, died at Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids. Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 12 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Seaboard. Burial will follow in the Phillip’s Cemetery.

Dr. Melvin Broadnax served the Town of Seaboard for 38 years. He died Sunday at the age of 82.

During his life, Broadnax was a champion not only for the Seaboard community and its government, but a large healthcare proponent for the county’s citizens as well. He received his bachelor’s degree from Shaw University and his master’s degree from North Carolina A&T University. Broadnax also received an honorary doctorate from Shaw University

With a distinct and recognizable personality, he served the town government for 38 years. In 1971, he was elected to the town board as commissioner, a role he stayed in until 1988 when he became mayor. He retired from the mayoral role in 2009.

“I still call him Mayor Broadnax,” said Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins. “He was a very special, special person.”

Jenkins said he had a special relationship with Broadnax, who he would oftentimes seek advice from. Jenkins added Broadnax’s death is a tremendous loss for the town and the county.

“Seaboard has lost its greatest marketing tool,” Jenkins said recalling Broadnax’s signature introduction.

Broadnax was well-known for introducing himself by full name followed by the fact that he was from “Seaboard, North Carolina.”

Seaboard Mayor Bobie Moss said his community is reeling from the passing of Broadnax.

“It’s a devastating blow,” he said.

Moss said Broadnax accomplished many things in the 21 years he was mayor, including a new water system that was completed with a grant and he was also instrumental in getting a housing subdivision constructed in town.

Moss said his predecessor was still passionate about Seaboard despite his retirement from the mayor’s chair. Soon after the construction of the new town hall, Moss said Broadnax called dibs on a chair in the mayor’s office.

“He said, ‘this is my chair’,” Moss recalled. “He definitely kept tabs on the town.”

In addition to his public service, Broadnax was also chair of the Rural Health Group’s (RHG) Board of Directors for nearly four decades. In 2009, the Melvin F. Broadnax Health Center in Jackson was dedicated in his honor.

“Melvin has been the soul of this organization since 1974 when Melvin and other community leaders decided that Northampton County needed health care,” RHG released in a statement on their website. “He worked tirelessly with the NC Office of Rural Health (Jim Bernstein, Burnie Patterson, etc.), politicians and local leaders (Jack Faison, Doc Brown) to make his dream of medical care in Jackson a reality.”
The statement continued, “Melvin was not just our first and only board chairman for close to 40 years, he was the impetus behind the Group’s dedication to the underserved. His compassion for others and his passion for equal access to superior quality health care have been the underpinnings of RHG and will continue to drive RHG.”
“It is a great loss to our organization, the community, and each of us who knew him.  Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” the release concluded.
In honor of Broadnax, all Rural Health Group offices observed a one minute of silent reflection on Tuesday morning.

Jenkins also praised Broadnax for his advocacy for healthcare in the county.

“Because of his vision and compassion for people, our healthcare in the county is much more advanced than it would have been,” Jenkins said.