Rowan native inducted into the Air Force Enlisted Wall of Achievers
MONTGOMERY, ALA. What does former Rowan County resident and Georgia businessman Harold Bost have in common with Johnny Cash, Clark Gable and President George W. Bush?
Like James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Chuck Norris and Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, they are all inductees to the prestigious and honorable Air Force Enlisted Wall of Achievers.
Bost, who was born and bred in Rowan County, was honored during a special ceremony as the most recent selection to the Wall of Achievers.
The event took place at the Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. Aug. 10.
Honorable military service is required for those who do not make the Air Force a life long career.
“Inductees are then considered under a high criteria and standard for remarkable life achievements and contribution to society,” said museum curator Bill Chivalette.
Chivallette said they did a thorough review of Bost’s military service and noted his tremendous accomplishments in business, as well as his active role in the community.
“It was hard to get Harold to talk about his philanthropic donations,” he said. “He is man who gives so much, but does not want to draw attention to it.”
Friends, neighbors, business partners, employees and several former schoolmates from elementary and high schools near Salisbury were on hand to show their support for Bost.
The school friends became reconnected with Bost about 20 years ago and now include him in their class reunions.
Bost grew up 10 miles west of Salisbury on his parent’s dairy farm.
He worked from an early age milking cows and tending to the crops despite being the youngest of Vernon and Ada’s ten children.
Yet coming in at 12-pounds at birth, Bost was hardly the baby of the family in that respect.
He used his size to his advantage from an early age, earning money from working long hours on the farm and then saved or invested in war bonds.
“The day I turned 16, I got my North Carolina driver’s license and then paid cash in full for my first car, a 1938 4-door Hudson,” Bost said.
Bost drives a Lexus today and flies his own 6-seater twin engine Beechcraft Baron private plane.
The latter might sound like a luxury hobby for a leading Hollywood actor, but for Bost, these are just parts of his life and things he attributes to strategy, savings and plenty of hard work.
Many friends who are close to Bost know him not only for his business savvy, but also for his activism in local Georgia politics. Bost is co-founder of the Fayette County Issues Tea Party.
Before that, he was elected in 1996 to the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, serving two years as chairman.
Greg Dunn, a former county commissioner who served with Bost, and who himself was a colonel in the Army, was part of the more than 100 in attendance for the Air Force Enlisted Wall of Achievers ceremony.
“I know Harold to be a true patriot,” he said. “He loves his country and he loves his community.
“As a former military man myself I am proud to see someone like Harold receive such an honor.”
Bost joined the Air Force in 1954 at 19 years old, after three years spent managing the family farm.
He served in the Air Force for four years beginning at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan.
Bost eventually earned the rank as Airman First Class while in Osan, Korea managing air operations and flight status reports.
After his honorable service, Bost decided to bypass college and jump directly into the civilian work force.
He sold hospital insurance before landing a coveted position handling sales for Revlon.
Putting in long hours and keeping focused, Bost climbed the ranks quickly relying on what he calls was a keen sense of business strategy and charm.
This earned Bost Revlon’s National Salesman of the Year award in 1961 and ultimately the position of national sales manager.
But instead of taking the top job of managing overseas international sales, Bost opted to stay close to his two young sons in Georgia and switched careers.
A small textile company was for sale near Atlanta.
“I did research on their products, their buyers, their potential for growth, and decided I could make it work,” Bost said.
That small Estex plant in 1982 with just seven employees now provides work to 150-full time workers in Fairburn, Ga.
The dollar volume has also jumped 60-times greater than where it was when Bost first bought the company.
Estex now services clients worldwide as well as closer to home at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport.
Bost’s business partner, Brent Wilkes, says working with Harold throughout the past 27 years can be compared to a good marriage.
Wilkes says he and Bost focused on their interests and strengths from the beginning, one handling manufacturing and the other sales and marketing.
“Harold is a great guy to work with.” said Wilkes.
He says they were both determined to have their company and their workers thrive and they each set out with that mission in mind.
Bost turned over the day-to-day operations of Estex in 1999 to Wilkes and credits his partner with making it even stronger.
“If I had known you’d increase sales 20 percent after I left, I would have gone a whole lot sooner,” Bost said.
This brought chuckles and smiles to the crowd at the Air Force Heritage Hall who enjoyed the easy humor Bost generously made at his own expense.
Bost also discussed personal challenges, admitting that he suffered from a serious lack of confidence for most of his young life as a North Carolina farm boy.
He credits the immense opportunities he received in the Air Force in bringing him out of his shell and giving him that inner strength to tackle anything in life head on.
Still, Bost added a quip, as he turned to the group of former grammar school classmates who came all the way from his hometown, saying that due to that confidence issue and his fear of approaching a girl for a date back when, he was sorry “they never got a chance to go out with him.”
The museum crowd burst out in laughter again along with the women who have known Harold all his life.
Patterson Elementary School classmate Mildred Wise smiled.
“We all knew Harold when all he ever wore was overalls and Brogan shoes,” she said. “We’re all just really proud of our class drop out.”
This was clearly a gentle crack at the irony of the man from the country fields of Rowan County who grew up to achieve such remarkable success and share so much in return.
Bost left Salisbury High School midway through his sophomore year to help his ailing father by managing the family dairy farm.
But Bost holds no grudges for what life dealt him.
Despite being a good student who excelled at math and school parliamentary procedure competitions, Bost says his job focus became the care of the animals and getting the crops in.
From the farm Bost went into the Air Force, and from the Air Force the work force.
Bost, who is now 77 years old, still talks about his younger days and the high yields he was able to cultivate on the family farm.
He’s especially proud of his decision, at age 16, to personally build two silos to hold the grain.
The silos remain standing today just 10 miles west of Salisbury and serve as a reminder to Bost of a young boy’s energy and determination and the benefits of what hard work and careful planning can yield.
Estex business partner, Brent Wilkes, says determination is exactly the word to describe the newest inductee to the AF Enlisted Wall of Achievers.
“When Harold accepts a project, he attacks it like a heat seeking missile,” Wilkes said. He’s a determined soul…with a very big heart.”
During the ceremony at the Heritage Hall museum, the Air Force also honored Bost not just for the mark he has made for himself in life, but what he has left behind for others to enjoy and admire.
This was in reference to the Beechcraft Bonanza-Baron museum in Tennessee that Bost was instrumental in funding and creating in the late 90s.
Walter Beech, the man who founded the Beechcraft airplane-manufacturing corporation, is notably the first man to be inducted into the Air Force Enlisted Wall of Achievers.
As inductee No. 145, Harold’s portrait was placed next to Beech’s.
Bost ended his speech by saying repeatedly how much he appreciated all those who had come to celebrate his honor with him.
He thanked the Air Force for allowing him his opportunity to serve our nation and the military men present for their gracious award in choosing him for the Wall of Achievers.
Bost also took special time to thank his wife Evelyn, his friends from Georgia and North Carolina and his business workers.
He choked up slightly in getting the words out.
“I love you,” he said to the crowded group of supporters standing in the lobby.
Then he said it again, bold and confident as only Bost can do.