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Knox knows what ‘first’ feels like

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
George Knox may know a little something about how Barack Obama feels.
In 1986, the Kannapolis resident and retired educator became the first black to be elected to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
More than 20 years later, Knox remains the only black to serve on the board.
Knox also holds another first. In 1968, he became the first black to be appointed principal of an integrated school in the county.
The 86-year-old Knox has his seat picked out to watch the historic inauguration on Tuesday. Knox will be watching from the comfort of this living room.
He worries a bit that people’s expectations for Obama may be too high. “They are looking for him to be Moses.
“Obama has to give us good strong leadership. He has to try and get the economy on the right road,” Knox said.
In his view, what Obama faces is very similar to what Franklin Delano Roosevelt confronted in 1930s with the nation in a depression.
“It’s a tremendous task. FDR walked in when the country was flat on its back. This boy has got a chance to pick up the country by being strong and making good decisions.”
And he has seen the world change a lot since the time of FDR. “The world has gotten a lot smaller. There are people all over the world looking to America for leadership.”
Knox had several offers to go to Washington but his age and health problems made it impossible.
Billed as progressive Democrat when he was in county politics, Knox didn’t jump on the Obama bandwagon immediately.
“I kind of sat back and listened to see what they had to say,” Knox said recently. “I felt the country needed a good solid leader who stood for real things … the improvement of the country.”
He didn’t have any problems with Hillary Clinton until she turned negative.
Knox voted for Obama in the primary and again in November.
He’s concerned that more blacks have not run for county posts in the past couple of decades.
When he won in 1986, he had several things going for him. He was well known for his 29 years as principal at West Rowan Junior High, now West Middle.
Knox’s historic victory was buried by a Salisbury Post headline writer who opted for “Republicans to control commission.” Details for Knox’s victory were carried on the Page 2, under a subhead “First Black.”
While on the board, he supported a countywide water system with no luck. He pushed successfully for teachers to get a local supplement.
After losing his bid for re-election in 1990 as the county turned more Republican, Knox tried a couple of more times.
He then turned his energies to serving on local boards including president of the Rowan County YMCA.
You may contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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