Congratulations to the Latest Inductees of the Twin County Hall of Fame



How do you honor those who have made a difference in the community? How can you preserve the legacy of those who have transformed the lives of others? For Rocky Mount and the surrounding areas, this recognition is best personified in the Twin County Hall of Fame. This museum is dedicated to the heroes of our area, honoring those of the present and past who have made their corner of the world a better place.

According to the Twin County Hall of Fame’s website, its mission is “to celebrate the history, culture, people, and accomplishments of Edgecombe and Nash counties in eastern North Carolina.”

The 2018 inductees included seven men and five women who were honored at a ceremony on November 8 at the new Rocky Mount Event Center. Half of these inductees were honored posthumously.

Those honored were:

Dr. Robert Barbe

Before joining a Tarboro clinic, Dr. Barbe served his country as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. He practiced medicine in Tarboro until his retirement.

Rev. Carolyn Barbe

Rev. Carolyn Barbe was both a nurse and teacher. She taught at Edgecombe Technical College and N.C. Wesleyan College. In addition, she served as a chaplain at Tarboro Vidant Hospital. She and her husband, Dr. Robert Barbe, frequently went on mission trips to Africa. 

Dr. Newsom Pittman Battle

Dr. Battle made his mark on the community by dedicating himself to serving the people of the Twin Counties for more than 50 years. He worked at Park View Hospital and was instrumental in organizing the drive for the creation of Nash General Hospital.

Dr. Margaret White Battle

Dr. Margaret White Battle married Dr. Battle in 1937 and joined his mission to care for the community. She was the first female doctor in Rocky Mount and was very active with the Nash County Historical Association and the Stonewall Foundation.

James Erastus Batts

After serving in World War II, Batts returned to North Carolina to teach and coach in Edgecombe County Schools. He later served as the principal at Conetoe High School for more than 10 years. He was a graduate of Booker T. Washington School and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from N.C. Central University. He also studied at Howard University and Tuskegee College.

Dr. Charles Marshall Coats, DVM

Dr. Coats had a Rocky Mount veterinary practice for 20 years and was well-known for rescuing animals from shelters and setting up birdhouses for nursing home residents. He was a graduate of Rocky Mount High School, Atlantic Christian College (now known as Barton College) and the N.C. State University veterinary program. He dedicated his career to working with health and Christian organizations on both state and national levels.

Janice Beavon Gravely

A native of Spokane, Washington, Gravely served in the Navy during World War II and afterward moved to Rocky Mount with her husband, Ed. She was a celebrated author and artist, and her work has been showcased at the Dunn Center. She volunteered for several organizations, including the Junior Guild of Rocky Mount, the Rocky Mount Christian Women’s Club and the former Rocky Mount City School Board.

Janice Bryant Howroyd

This Tarboro native was the first black woman in the country to own a billion dollar company. A graduate of Pattillo High School, she received her undergraduate degree from North Carolina A&T State University and then earned her master’s degree from the University of Maryland. She received her doctorate from N.C. State University. She has been recognized by several national organizations and was the University of Southern California’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year. President Barack Obama appointed her to the board of advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges.

Lt. Col. James Mercer, US Army (Ret.),

Mercer served our country with 30 years of military service in the Army National Guard. He joined the military after graduating from North Edgecombe High School. In addition to his military career, he served as director of emergency management for Fayetteville State University and later for the city of Raleigh. He was also a firefighter for the Rocky Mount Fire Department and a deputy fire marshal for Nash County Emergency Services. Currently, he serves as the director of military studies at N.C. Wesleyan College.

Robert “Bob” Melton

Melton was proclaimed the undisputed “King of Barbecue” by Life magazine in 1958, and this title reflects his passion for business and good food. Born in 1872, he grew up on a Nash County farm and tried various business interests, but it wasn’t until he was 50 years old that he turned his love for barbecue into a profession. He opened his first restaurant on the banks of the Tar River, specializing in pit-cooked barbecue and shad. He did more than establish the first real barbecue restaurant in North Carolina: He put Rocky Mount on the culinary map and drew customers from every state. His restaurant remained at its original location until 1999, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Floyd.

Betsy B. Strandberg

Strandberg was born in Rocky Mount and graduated from Rocky Mount High School. She originally went to Women’s College to study music, but changed her major to biology. After graduation, she taught biology in both Wilson and Durham county schools. Throughout her life, she’s been involved in numerous activities and community programs, such as the Children’s Museum, the Arts Center, Braswell Memorial Library and the Coastal Plain Heart Association. She also served as the first female president of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce.

Samuel A. Toler

Toler was born and raised in Edgecombe County and graduated from West Edgecombe School. For seven years, he played semi-pro baseball, and while he worked for the Carolina Telephone Company, his true passion was coaching and supporting the area’s youth baseball programs. For more than 40 years he served as a Little League coach, leading his teams to 12 championships. He was an active member in the Rocky Mount Christmas Chorus for nearly 30 years.

Portraits on Display at the Event Center

The new Rocky Mount Event Center serves as more than a headquarters of activity—it’s also home to portraits of the Hall of Fame members. These pictures are on display in the main hallway for the Edgecombe Meeting Rooms, located parallel to Goldleaf Street. 

Interested in Nominating Someone for the Twin County Hall of Fame?

Nominees must have made extensive contributions to the betterment of the community or brought positive recognition to the area through accomplishments. The nomination deadline this year is April 30. For information on how to nominate someone, you can visit the organization’s website to download a form.

We would like to extend a special thank you to these inductees past and present who have done so much for all of us.

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