Carlyle Rutledge dies
By Joanie Morris
KANNAPOLIS ó When Carlyle Rutledge was 34, he joined the Kannapolis Rotary Club ó three months after the club was formed.
Three weeks ago, in order to keep his attendance record unblemished, Rutledge attended a make-up meeting aboard a cruise ship.
Now, he’ll be making his meetings up in Heaven.
Rutledge, 98, died on Thursday morning at 11:45 a.m. at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast after battling illness for about a week. He was a member of the Rotary Club for almost 65 years.
His daughters, Martha Rutledge Macon and Polly Rutledge Trott, both agreed that Rotary was one very important aspect of a long life.
“The first tune I ever remember singing was (off a) wind-up music box and the little chimes sang, ‘R-O-T-A-R-Y, That spells Rotary,’ over and over,” said Macon. “I remember him going to these meetings out of town because he would come back with neat stuff.”
As a Rotarian, Rutledge served as club president and District Governor. He endowed the club with the J. Carlyle Rutledge Lifetime Service to Rotary Award, which gives the honoree (a Rotarian) is given $1,000 to donate to a local charity, and served in various other capacities in the club.
Rotary played a big part in his political career, too, Macon added.
“Oh, the Four Way Test,” Macon said, referring to a litmus test offered by Rotary to challenge if things Rotarians think, say and do is good for everyone. “When he started to run for office, he would go through and put out all those fours.”
“A big part of his life was Rotary,” Trott agreed.
Kannapolis Rotary President Lorna Felts said Thursday afternoon that the day was “a very sad day for the Kannapolis Rotary Club.”
“Carlyle lived his life by the Rotary motto, ‘Service above self’ and he will be missed by everyone who knew him,” she said. “Our club was very fortunate to have him as a member for (almost) 65 years, and I feel very fortunate to have known him and called him a friend.”
Rutledge was a citizen of Kannapolis beginning with his law practice in 1935. He had come to the town first, asking A.L. Brown if he could open a practice here. Brown told him that he would starve to death if he tried to open a practice in Kannapolis.
“Later he changed his mind,” said Rutledge in an interview in 2006, just short of his 97th birthday.
That was because Brown’s sister was Rutledge’s aunt, the late Mrs. John Rutledge.
Macon and Trott also recalled Rutledge’s devotion to his wife. He married Judith Kuykendal in 1938 and was married for 56 years, prior to her death in 1993. Together, they had three children ó Martha, Jim and Polly ó 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“The devotion to our mother was renowned,” said Trott. After she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to be moved to the Methodist Home in Charlotte, “he made sure she was never sedentary in the nursing home. He took her out to movies. … Put her in the wheelchair and rolled her everywhere.”
Rutledge used to drive to Charlotte every weekend and pick up his wife on Fridays, bring her home and drive her back on Sunday afternoons.
Throughout his life, he served on many boards and contributed greatly to the town he called home. In 1941, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He served in the N.C. Senate from 1957 to 1961, three terms.
During that time, Macon said, two of the things he was most proud of were public television funding and the N.C. Institute of Governments, which was in its infancy.
“It was a model,” Macon said.
During his tenure on the legislature, he was also on the committee that worked to plan and build the new Legislative Building in Raleigh.
Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer, a former school principal and teacher in Kannapolis, said he and Rutledge “go way back.”
Misenheimer recalled a trip he took with his social studies class to Raleigh when Rutledge was serving.
“In that group was his son, Jim,” Misenheimer recalled. “When we got there, he was in the Senate and he rose and asked the lieutenant governor to extend to this class of eighth-graders from J.W. Cannon Junior High School all the rights and privileges of visitors, and they recognized us.
“We, of course, appreciated that very much,” Misenheimer said. “I hadn’t had that good of treatment before or since.”
In the community, Rutledge was a recipient of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine; endowed the Village Park children’s train; endowed five $2,500 annual scholarships to seniors at A.L. Brown High School; endowed a conference room and Memorial Healing Garden at Hospice of Cabarrus County; donated countless dollars to charities and churches in the area, including his church, Trinity United Methodist Church; served on the YMCA board of directors and in other capacities at the YMCA; was past president of the Cabarrus County Bar Association, practicing law for more than 50 years; and was admitted to the Supreme Court Bar in 2002. He also served on the board of trustees at Brevard College for 27 years and was recipient of the first Brevard College Medallion of Honor for lifelong dedication and service to Brevard College.
He was president and founder of Kannapolis Real Estate Agency for more than 50 years; president of the GEM Theatre; president for 32 years of Terry Products Inc.; and a member of the board of directors for China Grove Cotton Mills for many years. He was a founding partner of Rutledge, Friday, Safrit and Smith.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Whitley’s Funeral Home is serving the family of Rutledge.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or email@example.com.