Gates Ruritans

Published 10:15 am Monday, December 21, 2015

GATES – It’s ironic that the rallying cry of a 75-year-old organization is set to the tune of a rock-and-roll song.

At a special event held last week to mark three-quarters of a century of service, the Gates Ruritan Club looked to its future with the message of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”

“I’m reminded of that song written by Randy Bachman and performed by BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive) in 1984 – that’s the future of this club,” stated former Gates Ruritan President J.B. Freeman as he addressed his Ruritan colleagues and invited guests at a Dec. 8 anniversary event held in the Fellowship Hall of Reynoldson Baptist Church.

“All is well with the Gates Ruritan Club,” Freeman stressed. “We have able and competent leadership. Our treasury is at the soundest level in several decades. The membership light is flickering with hope. Gates Ruritans are more committed than ever before in their community service responsibilities. Our community has a greater understanding and awareness of who we are, and what we stand for and what we do.”

For 2016, Freeman promised that the Gates Ruritan Club will take a more active role in the district. He said that Don Gregory has agreed to step up and become the Zone Governor while Cody Brinkley has committed to become the Zone Lt. Governor. Brinkley is now the president of the Gates Ruritans while Gregory serves as treasurer.

Freeman wasn’t alone in praising the legacy, past and present, of the Gates Ruritans.

David Thompson, National Representative for the Ruritan’s Albemarle District, offered a glimpse into what America was like in January of 1940 when the Gates Ruritan Club received its charter.

“I thank you for your service and your dedication to your community over these 75 years,” Thompson stated. “Please continue to do the things you do.

“It’s also pleasing to see a younger member as your president,” Thompson continued, referencing Brinkley, pastor of Reynoldson Baptist Church. “Cody, I wish you much luck and success.”

Danny Privott, candidate for the post of 2016 National President-Elect, praised the Gates Ruritans for their longevity.

“What a testament to this club for staying strong for Ruritans’ cause, which is to make our individual communities better than we found them,” Privott said.

He added that even though the Ruritan movement was founded in Virginia in 1928, the leaders of that era decided to branch out into North Carolina. The Sunbury Ruritan Club was chartered in 1935, making it the oldest in the state. Four years later, the second North Carolina Ruritan Club was chartered in Gatesville. On Jan. 5, 1940, the Gates Ruritan Club received its charter, boasting of 22 members.

“The three oldest Ruritan Clubs in North Carolina are all right here in Gates County,” Privott remarked.

He read the names of the original officers of the Gates Ruritan Club back in 1940: President Raleigh Miller; Vice President Charles B. Taylor; Secretary Charles B. Cross Jr.; Treasurer William J. Sawyer; First-Year Director Thomas E. Pittman; Second-Year Director Charlie Cross; and Third-Year Director Gattis L. Gatling.

“I feel it’s very important to recognize those men who started this club,” Privott stressed.

He praised the volunteer efforts of the Gates Ruritan Club to help those in their community, to include donating food to the needy, providing college scholarships to local students, hosting pancake and sausage dinners, volunteering hours and food to the Wounded Warriors turkey hunting event staged in Gates County each April, and sponsoring blood drives conducted by the American Red Cross.

“Thank-you for what you do for your community,” Privott concluded.

National Ruritan Club President Bobby Burden delivered the keynote address.

“Congratulations for your 75 years of service to the Gates community and surrounding communities,” Burden said. “We, at the national office, see great things going on here in your community by this club. It makes me feel good when I see that; you’ve done a lot of great things over the years.

“Seventy-five years seems like a long time, but it’s just a drop in the bucket when you look at the big picture,” Burden continued. “Ruritan is 87 years old and this club has contributed 75 years of that growth. You have put forth 75 years of fellowship, goodwill, and community service.”

Burden urged Gates Ruritan members to share their stories about the club.

Club Vice President Jimmy Smith recalled an event several years ago at the Gates County Rodeo where the Gates Ruritans sponsored “cow patty” Bingo.

“The funds we raised were donated to a local student attending a community college,” Smith said.

Gregory said joining the Gates Ruritans in 1971 helped him to meet new people after relocating from Camden County to Gates County that year.

“That membership allowed me to become a part of the community,” Gregory said. “We’ve done a lot of good things for our community and our county since I’ve been a member. We may be small in number, but we do big things.”

“Ruritans do great things in their own backyard,” Burden stressed. “What would those communities be like without Ruritan? People rely on your for support and help. We don’t mind getting our hands dirty for a community project. You may not think these projects are big in scope, but they are big in the hearts and minds of those benefitting from what you are doing here in the Gates community.”

Burden also pointed out that the funds raised by Ruritan Clubs across the nation remain in the communities they serve.

“Those resources stay here to benefit those here in need,” he noted. “And what you do for the Wounded Warriors is very commendable. So many of our military veterans have to go without just the simple basic needs. We have veterans that are homeless. I commend you for looking out for our veterans.

“Congratulations on your 75 years and here’s wishing you the best for another 75,” Burden concluded.

Burden, joined by Thompson, presented a 75-year certificate to Brinkley.

“What an honor and a privilege it is to walk in the footsteps of the great heroes of this community,” Brinkley remarked. “What an honor it is to see so many good things happening here in our community, working together to help our fellow man.”

Freeman, in his closing remarks, said the words of praise heard at the anniversary celebration offered the Gates Ruritans an opportunity for pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment.

“Who were those 22 men in 1940 who entered into that charter with Ruritan Charter,” Freeman asked. “Who were those men who dared to go out during those turbulent times when war clouds were gathering over Europe? They went out and secured land and built a clubhouse, thus beginning a noble quest for community service.

“They were, like us, a band of brothers and sisters of diverse occupations and skill sets, but united in the common cause of community service. They, like us, were respected members of the community…those who were sought out to get the job done. They, like us, are Ruritans,” Freeman remarked.

Freeman said one of the founding members was John Robert Langston. He acknowledged Langston’s widow, Frances Ann Langston, the only surviving spouse of a charter member.

“She, alongside John Robert, are people who got this club to this stage,” Freeman said, “and that legacy lives on today.”

Also taking part in the event were District Ruritan Chaplin J.C. Harris who offered the invocation; District Ruritan Governor Doug Bailey, who introduced the guest speakers; District Lt. Governor Barbara Courtney, who led the Pledge of Allegiance; and the Rev. Jimmy Smith, who offered the closing prayer. The Reynoldson Baptist Church Youth Group was recognized for hosting the meal.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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