Sonny Carpenter, champion for Salisbury public housing, dies at 83

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2015

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — In 2009, Julian W. “Sonny” Carpenter Jr. complained a bit when the Salisbury Housing Authority named 11 new duplexes at Old Concord Road and South Shaver Street “Carpenter’s Corner,” in his honor.

But it was a no-brainer. Over the years, no one became more identified with the housing authority and its predecessor, the Salisbury Redevelopment Commission, than Sonny Carpenter.

Carpenter, 83, died Wednesday. For the past 11 years, he had been chairman of the Salisbury Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, and he served longer on the board — 31 years — than any other person.

Sam Faust, executive director of the housing authority, said it was an honor to work for and with Carpenter over the past eight years.

“He started out as my boss but quickly became a friend,” Faust said. “When I became executive director, he said I could do anything I wanted to do as long as it was for the good of our residents, our apartments, and our employees — great advice and directive from a boss, I think.”

Carpenter’s Corner, a $2.5 million project, took the place of the old Lincoln Park Apartments, 44 units of public housing that were torn down in 2002. A new street in Carpenter’s Corner — Sonny Acres Drive — also was named for Carpenter.

Faust said Carpenter’s leadership on the board was critical in two new properties for low-income seniors — Carpenter’s Corner and, in 2004, Fleming Heights.

Those properties are now home for 56 seniors, Faust said.

 “Mr. Carpenter’s leadership style was simple,” Faust said. “Take care of our residents, take care of our apartments, and take care of our employees.”

It also was under Carpenter’s recent years as chairman that the Salisbury Housing Authority started to replace its oldest housing community, Civic Park.

Along Brenner Avenue, a new development of 170 mixed-income, energy-efficient apartments is being built, representing a $21 million investment in the West End.

Faust said Carpenter deserves credit, too, for his strong support of the housing authority’s family self-sufficiency program, designed to help residents in improving their education and job skills and learning more about home ownership. More than 50 families are now in that new program, Faust said.

Carpenter’s work with public housing in Salisbury actually began in 1967, when he left his real estate-insurance business to become assistant to Director Tony Lampron of the Salisbury Redevelopment Commission.

Carpenter replaced Lampron in 1971 as director, and in 1974, when the agency came under city control, it changed its name to the Urban Development Department. Carpenter resigned from the department in 1975 and went back to real estate appraising, first working for John Robinson.

In 1980, Carpenter opened Carpenter Appraisal and Realty Co. at 530 E. Innes St., and specialized in residential, commercial and industrial appraising.

Beyond his accomplishments in real estate, insurance, appraising and public housing, Carpenter was heavily involved in the community.

He accumulated more than five decades of perfect attendance in the Salisbury Rotary Club. And for years, beginning in 1947, he was considered one of the top blood donors in the county for the American Red Cross.

At one time or another, Carpenter headed the Heart Fund Drive, the Salisbury Board of Realtors and the Rotary Club. He captained a United Fund division and once belonged to the Salisbury-Rowan Merchants Association.

A four-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Carpenter also belonged to the American Legion.

Carpenter was a graduate of Boyden High School and Catawba College. He first operated Carpenter Insurance Agency, which his father had founded. He transitioned out of insurance and into real estate, and in the early 1960s had a real estate office in the Wallace Building (today’s Plaza).

Carpenter later merged with Rudy Gregory, and the business became Gregory Insurance and Realty Co. At one time, he also was a principal in a local securities firm with Charles Rouzer and Ken Mattox.

Carpenter is survived by his wife, Dinah, and two children.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or