Big turnout in Faith to honor McCombs highway dedication

Published 12:10 am Friday, April 3, 2015

FAITH — The memory of one of Rowan County’s most well-known public servants will forever reside on Faith Road.

Friends, family, former co-workers and acquaintances packed into the Faith American Legion Building for a formal dedication of Faith Road for Eugene McCombs, who served as a public servant on nearly every level.

From the Army to the North Carolina state legislature, McCombs was well-respected on all levels. Former state legislators along with Charlie Walters, a friend and county commissioner alongside McCombs for ten years, spoke highly of McCombs during the dedication ceremony — the final step in a lengthy process to declare a portion of Faith Road, from Jake Alexander Boulevard to Crescent Road, as Representative W. Eugene McCombs Highway.

The signs commemorating the portion of Faith Road are green with white lettering and will be placed in multiple locations along the road. The signs were erected alongside Faith Road, following the ceremony.

McCombs died in 2004 after spending much of his life in elected positions representing Rowan County. Born in 1925, one of McCombs’ first jobs was at his father’s grocery store in Faith. At 18, he entered the Army and returned to Rowan County in 1946. Two years later, in 1948, McCombs was elected to the Faith Board of Aldermen, which would be the start of a career in public service that included 12 years on the Rowan County Commission, mayor of Faith and state legislator for multiple terms.

Before signs were unveiled, speakers shared stories of experiences with McCombs and talked about the universal respect he garnered. The first speaker on Thursday was former N.C. House Speaker Harold Brubaker, who described the unique silence that fell over the state legislature whenever McCombs spoke.

“We used to say in west Asheboro that every Tom, Dick and Harry had an idea and they’d go up and talk about it,” Brubaker said. “Eugene didn’t do that.”

More opinionated members of the house, Brubaker said, often elicited chatter among other representatives, who had grown tired of hearing the same legislator speak.

“When Eugene stood up, it automatically got quiet because he was a man that had a reason to speak, and he spoke in subjects that everyone knew he knew something about,” Brubaker said. “That’s the mark of a real legislator. When you’re colleagues get quiet when he or she stands up to speak. That’s the mark of Eugene McCombs.”

Charlie Walters, who served as a commissioner with McCombs and was the primary organizer behind the dedication, described one of his first encounters with McCombs. It occurred in a bank line during an election year.

Walters recalled McCombs commenting that there weren’t any interesting candidates running for commissioner.

“You’re well-known. You do it,” Walters recalled saying to McCombs.

McCombs cut a deal with Walters. McCombs would run if Walters would too. When they left the bank, Walters said both he and McCombs had agreed to run together. As they left, McCombs remarked that it’d be wise if the pair consulted with their wives before formally announcing.

“I knew right there, that I was with a wise man,” Walters joked.

Department of Transportation Board Member Jake Alexander listed many of the commonly known facts about McCombs — military and political experience — but also several lesser-known accomplishments. McCombs established the building inspections office and selected the current county seal, Alexander said.

“We all knew where he stood on an issue and he didn’t let anyone pressure him into a vote,” Alexander said. “The greatest measure of a man is his integrity and in that regard, Eugene had no peer.”

McCombs’ son Keith, one of the final speakers, said his father simply performed the job Rowan County voters elected him to do.

“If he were here today, he would be extremely humbled,” Keith said. “He’d be humbled that so many people are here today and he’d wonder — why him? Why this honor? He would tell you that he was only doing the job he was elected to do and why make a fuss over someone who was doing their job to the best of their ability?”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246