Down to the wire: Sheriff Allen’s 1971 birth distinction that almost wasn’t

Published 12:06 am Sunday, January 1, 2023

Most folks ring in the new year with a champagne toast or a ceremonial kiss, but Rowan County Sheriff Travis Allen’s parents celebrated in a far greater fashion — giving birth to their son.

Allen was Rowan County’s New Year’s Baby in 1971. Rowan Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Joel Goodwin delivered Allen, who weighed seven pounds and six and a quarter ounces, at 2:31 a.m. However, another baby would have had that distinction without their last-minute delivery just before midnight.

When Allen was born, there were three expecting mothers in the maternity ward at the hospital. Back then, fathers weren’t allowed in the delivery room with the mother. Hence, as the clock continued to tick, Allen’s father, James C. Greene of Rockwell and William P. Waller of Salisbury, paced back and forth in the hospital, each hoping to be the lucky parent of Rowan County’s New Year’s baby.

The Greene child would come first, being born at 10:02 p.m. However, the other child, a baby girl, took the race far closer to the finish line. She was delivered at 11:57 p.m., just three minutes before midnight, making the Wallers of Salisbury the parents of the girl who would be the last person born in Rowan County in 1970.

According to a story in the Post’s archives at the Rowan County Library, after the birth of his son, Greene hung around to wave the flag as the other two soon-to-be dads held their breaths and waited.

“Following the birth of the Waller baby, Allen still had another two and one-half hours to go before he finished the race,” read the Post’s story. “But, he had plenty of support — with Greene and Waller sticking around to congratulate him as the title winner upon the arrival of his son, the new king of Rowan County.”

Allen indicated that although they don’t have a club, official or unofficial, he pays attention to New Year’s birth.

“I enjoy following up when the Post does stories about the first baby born each year,” Allen said. “It’s always fun.”

As for the families that anxiously waited that night at the hospital in 1970, they have remained lifelong friends.

“My parents have actually kept up with those other families,” Allen said. “They all met in that waiting room and then that group of men started fishing together.”

Allen quickly dismisses receiving any credit for his role in the matter.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Allen said with a laugh. “I just showed up.”

Sharing a birthday with a holiday might not sound ideal, but Allen said he always felt it would be worse to be born on Christmas. Ironically, the sheriff’s family is no stranger to holiday births.

“My dad was born on Christmas Eve, my mom was born on Halloween, and I also have an uncle and a cousin born on Jan. 1,” Allen said.

So, who will be the Rowan County New Year’s Baby of 2023?