Slaughter remembered for leadership in Kannapolis

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2013

KANNAPOLIS — Dr. Freeman Slaughter, the first mayor pro tem of Kannapolis and one of the local businesspeople who worked toward the city’s incorporation, passed away Monday after a short illness.
Those who knew him say Slaughter will be remembered for his dedication and his leadership in the city he called home for almost all of his life.
“He was well-known, well-respected,” said Bachman Brown, who was Kannapolis’ first mayor and who was also involved in the incorporation effort in the early 1980s.
Slaughter was a dentist in Kannapolis, practicing for 38 years until his retirement in 1989.
He served in numerous leadership roles in professional organizations in the field of dentistry, including nine years on the N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners, and served for a time as acting health director of the Cabarrus County Health Department.
Slaughter was also a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.
In a phone interview, Brown said he knew Slaughter by reputation. Both had offices in the Kannapolis Professional Building.
“Of course, we passed from time to time, and I got to know him that way,” Brown said.
Kannapolis, which had been a company-run town operated by Cannon Mills since 1906, began to look toward incorporation.
Prior to officially becoming a city in December 1984, Kannapolis was the largest unincorporated community in the United States.
The move toward incorporation included a committee of the Kannapolis Chamber of Commerce set up to study the matter.
Tom Dayvault was the head of the Kannapolis Chamber of Commerce at that time. Speaking by phone from his office in High Point, Dayvault said he was sad to hear of Slaughter’s passing.
Dayvault said the charter commission had been made up of “people who were respected and trusted throughout the entire Kannapolis community,” and who all worked diligently to accomplish their goal.
Dayvault praised Slaughter as a “remarkable” person, comparing those who lent their time and talents to working for Kannapolis to the founding fathers of the United States.
“I think a microcosm of that is Kannapolis,” Dayvault said. “There were just great minds together at that point in history, with a wonderful spirit.”
Brown said that, as co-chair of the larger group chosen by the Chamber of Commerce to study the question of incorporation, Slaughter was very active.
He went on to serve on the charter commission established by the N.C. General Assembly to draft a charter for Kannapolis.
As such, Brown said, Slaughter was one of those who worked with Dwight Quinn, then Kannapolis’ representative in the General Assembly, to draft that bill.
Melvin Rape was one of those who worked alongside Slaughter on the charter commission.
“He was one of the most outstanding people I was ever around, both professionally and in his community activities, including the charter commission,” Rape said of Slaughter.
Rape was also a client of Slaughter’s dental practice.
“Freeman was definitely an outstanding member,” Rape said. “He was an outstanding gentleman and he had a lot of input in lots of discussions as to what the city would look like.”
The charter commission tackled questions such as how the city’s government should be structured, how many City Council members there should be and what services the fledgling city would provide.
When Kannapolis was incorporated in December 1984, Brown said, the leadership of the charter commission served as the interim City Council until a special election could be held in the spring of 1985 to choose new leaders.
Although he served as the city’s first mayor pro tem, Slaughter did not run for office then, or afterward.
Brown said he doesn’t recall why Slaughter chose not to continue in politics.
“But I don’t think any of us thought of it as politics at that time,” Brown said. “We were doing a community service, and I guess he felt that he had rendered his service.”
Dayvault said he remembers Slaughter fondly as one who served his city, being “the right man for the right time in the city’s history.”
Slaughter’s funeral is scheduled for today, followed by burial at Carolina Memorial Park. Whitley’s Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.