Brown hailed as ‘father of Kannapolis’
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó If J.W. Cannon is the founder of Kannapolis, Bachman Brown must be the city’s the father.
Many legendary figures in the history of Kannapolis gathered Monday to celebrate the city’s 25th birthday.
But they all deferred to one person.
In the early 1980s, Brown guided the former mill town through a long and arduous incorporation process that culminated on Dec. 11, 1984, when Kannapolis officially became a city. He also served as the first mayor.
“He exudes leadership,” city attorney Wally Safrit said. “He’s the kind of man people want to follow.”
A group of visionaries contributed to the creation of Kannapolis, said Tom Dayvault, who led the Kannapolis Chamber of Commerce during incorporation.
“But one star shone brighter,” he said.
During the remarkable days when people worked tirelessly toward the official charter, it was “Bachman’s steady hand” that provided guidance and leadership, Dayvault said.
Dayvault called Brown his personal role model and the perfect example of a servant-leader.
Brown’s integrity and background as an attorney made him a superb leader, said Clarence Horton, a judge and Kannapolis historian.
“He was trained as a lawyer to listen to opposing viewpoints,” Horton said. “He rarely got upset or lost control of a situation. His calming influence tended to bring people together.”
The people’s vote to incorporate passed by a wide margin.
During Monday’s ceremony, Mayor Bob Misenheimer accepted a bust of Brown commissioned by a group of citizens, including Steve Morris, Wally and Lynne Scott Safrit, Troy Day and Keith Wayne.
Kannapolis artist Chase Andrew Winfield created the sculpture. It will stand in the train station, where city council meets.
Brown, now 83 and still practicing law, spoke briefly and praised the energy in the city. He urged people to work together.
“Use that energy to make this one of the premiere cities in the state of North Carolina,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people who can do it.”
Brown’s wife Mabel and daughter Sarah Fishback, along with her family, attended the event.
“It’s wonderful to look back on 25 years and hear him provide words of encouragement,” Fishback said.
As a child, she didn’t realize until the 1984 incorporation ceremony how big a role her father had played in the city’s formation, she said.
“Dad just wasn’t home a lot when I was in high school,” she said. “He was always working on issues to do with the city.”
J.W. Cannon founded Kannapolis in 1906 as a textile town. Cannon Mills became the biggest textile manufacturer in the world.
The Cannon family sold the mill in 1982 to California real estate magnate David Murdock, prompting the effort to incorporate.
Eighteen years after Murdock sold the mill, which eventually went bankrupt in the largest layoff in state history, he bought back the abandoned complex and demolished it.
In its place, he has created the $1.5 billion N.C. Carolina Research Campus. The biotechnology hub studies health, nutrition and agriculture.
Murdock’s vision for the city today is much like Cannon’s vision in the early 1900s, said Dr. Ed Tyson, former superintendent of Kannapolis City Schools.
The city is well-positioned for success, Tyson said, and has a “strong, loyal partner in the North Carolina Research Campus and Castle & Cooke,” Murdock’s real estate firm that is developing the campus.
Many people have contributed to the success of Kannapolis, Misenheimer said.
The city will establish a committee to see that others who deserve recognition are appropriatelyhonored, he said.