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Ceremonies Dedicating the Portrait of George W. Blount

by Carroll W. Weathers

At Wilson, N.C.


      YOUR HONOR, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

      In manifesting today our respect and admiration for the late George W. Blount, distinguished lawyer and citizen of this community of a past era, we honor not him alone; rather we honor ourselves in honoring him. To admire greatness, to revere exemplary character, and to venerate a life nobly lived are commendable impulses. This service, therefore, reflects distinction on those who have made it possible and on all here assembled to pay tribute to a great and good man.

      I have the honor of presenting to your county a portrait of George W. Blount, donated by his family. And, in this connection I am accorded the privilege of speaking briefly concerning the life of this worthy citizen who contributed much to the upbuilding of your splendid city in the early days of its existence, and whose influence has lived for more than half a century after he departed this life.

      George Washington Blount was born near Nashville, North Carolina on October 7, 1837. He was the son of Benjamin Harrison Blount and Sarah Wood Blount.

      He was educated at Wake Forest College and at the University of North Carolina. He studied law under Judge Pearson, and at Columbian College at Washington, D.C. He was admitted to the Bar of North Carolina in January 1859, and immediately came to Wilson to enter the practice. Licensed with him at the same time was another young man destined to become a distinguished North Carolinian, Thomas S. Kenan, who likewise moved to Wilson to practice law and made an outstanding record as lawyer, public servant and gentleman.

      In 1860 George W. Blount married Miss Sallie Egerton of Franklin County. This was a particularly happy and appropriate marriage, for Mrs. Blount in many respects was as outstanding an individual as her distinguished husband. Many here today recall her strong character and exceptional traits, her philosophical attitude toward life, her engaging humor, her intense loyalties, and her staunch Christian fortitude.

      Shortly after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Blount built their home on Nash Street in Wilson where they lived throughout their married life, where Mrs. Blount continued to live until her death in 1931, and where their descendants have continually resided until this day, the home now being the residence of Mr. Blount's grandson, Charles Blount McLean, an honored and able member of the bar of this city. Thus, George W. Blount's descendants have lived in the same house for 91 years. There is something symbolic about this fact, for this house and the continuity of this family in it bespeaks the lasting influence of its original owner in this community.

      George W. Blount cast his lot with the town of Wilson in its infancy. He lived to see the community grow to become one of the choice localities in the eastern section of our State, a community where education and culture first were nurtured and then flourished, and where Christian citizenship was highly prized. Undoubtedly, the character of his chosen community had substantial effect upon the life of Mr. Blount, but it is no less likely that he had as great, or even greater, influence upon the life and character of the Town of Wilson during these years when it was being transformed from a small rural community of a few hundred residents to a thriving, progressive and cultured town.

      May I digress at this point to make one observation? Lawyers have exceptional influence on the quality and character of our towns and smaller cities. Theirs is an influence entirely disproportionate to their number. While there are, of course, many other influences which elevate or lower the standards and ideals of communities, yet it is often true that the regard of a community for debt payment, for discharge of obligation, for moral standards and law observance, in fact, that the very tone and quality of our towns and small cities, are largely determined by the ideals and standards of the local Bar. Manifestly, this fact places on lawyer, and on the Bar, a sobering responsibility to attain and live by those ideals and principles which are worthy of emulation.

      An appropriate illustration of the influence of the local Bar on community life is portrayed in the Town of Wilson during that era from Appomattox until the turn of the century. In those days, as in more recent years, this city possessed a Bar of exalted reputation and ability. George W. Blount was a member of a Bar that included, in addition to himself, George Howard, Jr., later a member of the Superior Court bench; Colonel Thomas S. Kenan, who became Attorney General of North Carolina; Henry Groves Connor, the elder, one of the great jurists of our State who served as Superior Court Judge, Supreme Court Justice, and United States District Judge; Colonel John F. Bruton, outstanding lawyer, banker, community builder; Frederick A. Woodard and J. W. Lancaster, able lawyers; and others. It is not unnatural in the light of the influence of these worthy men on this community in its early days, that Wilson emerged above many other localities as a center of enlightened progress and culture.

      Mr. Blount had only been engaged in the practice of law for a short time when our nation was torn by the tragic conflict of civil war. He was opposed to secession, but when North Carolina joined the Confederacy his loyalties remained with his State, and early in 1862 he entered the Confederate Army. He served as Quartermaster of the 55th North Carolina Regiment and rose to the rank of Captain. Subsequently he was recalled from military service to accept the position as Mayor of Wilson (a position which his grandson, Charles Blount McLean, held for fourteen years three-quarters of a century later.) It is frequently said that as Mayor he was instrumental in preventing the Union forces from burning Wilson at the time other sections of our State suffered this penalty of war.

      Except for his service in the Confederate Army, George W. Blount continued in the active practice of law in this city from 1859 until his death in November 1895. By virtue of his ability and superb character he early established a substantial practice and excellent reputation which increased throughout the years until he became recognized as one of the outstanding lawyers of the eastern section of our State...

      Mr. Blount's career as a lawyer was characterized by his firm adherence to the finest principles and traditions of his profession. He applied in his practice the precepts and principles of his deeply religious nature. It was a common saying among many of his clients that they wanted him as their lawyer because he was "a praying man."

      The life of George W. Blount was characterized by three principal interests: his church, the law, and Masonry.

      Early Mr. Blount associated himself with the Masonic Order. In October 1860 he became a member of the Morning Star lodge at Nashville, and later transferred to the Mount Lebanon Lodge in Wilson. He served several terms as Master, as Secretary and as Treasurer of the Mount Lebanon Lodge. He became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order of North Carolina in 1874 and served during the years of 1874 and 1875. It is said that he was elected from the floor as Grand Master of the Masonic Order...

      Mr. Blount's interests and activities beyond the scope of his profession were by no means limited to the Masonic Order, although it claimed a large place in his heart. He was greatly interested in the cause of education and was an early advocate of the public school system. He was one of the founders of the first private school established in Wilson which was located at the site now occupied by Wilson County Library. This school later became the first public school in Wilson. For a long number of years Mr. Blount served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Wilson Public School System.

      Mr. Blount's devotion to education did not stop with his own community. He was intensely interested in Wake Forest College, and the great work being accomplished by that institution in behalf of Christian education. At the early age of 33 he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest College and continued without interruption on that board for a period of twenty-five years until his death in 1895. His devotion to the College, and to the cause of Christian education, caused him to contribute much of his time and talent to the progress and development of that institution.

      Mr. George W. Paschal in his "History of Wake Forest College", speaking of the Trustees of the College during the last half of the Nineteenth Century, and their contribution to the progress of the College, has this to say concerning Mr. Blount:

            "In this same period several who were not ministers
           of the Gospel began their services as Trustees......
            Another was George W. Blount of Wilson, 1870-1895, a
            lawyer who for a quarter of a century lent the support
            of his wise counsel and moral and social qualities to
            the Board and the College."

      As outstanding as were George W. Blount's status and achievements in the field of law, in the field of education, and in Masonry, he achieved even greater status and reputation as a man of lofty principles, noble impulses and Christian fortitude. As has been mentioned he had great concern for the welfare of people. His religion taught him to love his fellow man. He had great sympathy for those in distress. These qualities, embodied within him, were expressed in a life devoted to serving God and mankind, and to the pursuit of worthwhile objectives.

      Mr. Blount loved his church, the First Baptist Church of Wilson, which was established in 1860. He became a member in 1863. From that time until his death he was a devoted and active supporter of his church and all its undertakings. He delighted in its services and rarely was absent when the church doors opened. For many years he served as a member of its board of Deacons. His children said that his love for the Masonic Order was subordinate only to his love for family and church. The example of his loyalty to his church is observed in the support given by many descendants to their respective churches, one of whom, the Reverend George W. Blount of Carthage, named for his distinguished grandfather, is a minister of the Gospel and is pastor of the Carthage Methodist Church.

      Mr. Blount was a devoted father and husband. This devotion was reciprocated by his family. His home was an example of a home where Christian precept and Christian love abounded.

      The influence of Mr. Blount and his home have been manifested in the lives of his children and grandchildren. At his death he was survived by four daughters and one son:
Mrs. Mamie Blount Martin, of Hickory,
Mrs Pauline Blount Simms,
Mrs. Gertrude Blount McLean
Mrs. Sue Blount Pettus and Charles E. Blount, of Wilson,
all of whom lived by Christian ideals and convictions, and made worthy contribution to their communities. Only one of his children survives today, Mrs. Sue Blount Pettus of this city, who for many years has been identified intimately not only with the religious life of this community, but with other worthwhile civic and community affairs.

      I would be remiss in the opportunity afforded by this occasion if I did not refer to the outstanding contribution made to this community and to many of its residents by one of Mr. Blount's daughters who survived until the year 1949. Mrs. Gertrude Blount McLean embodied many of her distinguished father's splendid qualities. She, too, loved people and took every available occasion to minister to their needs within the scope of of her resources. She lived a rich and useful life, dedicated not only to rearing a splendid son and lovely daughter, but also to the service of everyone she found in need. I have never known a more unselfish or generous person.

      Mr. Blount's life is a notable example of the influence of strong character, fortified by noble impulses, high principles and firm convictions, and the effect of such a life upon the community in which it lived. Today, fifty-six years after his death, his influence yet survives in positive fashion, not alone in the constructive lives of his descendants, but throughout this community which he helped to build. Today, this city is a better place because of the life and character and influence of this distinguished citizen.

      The real worth of George W. Blount, the magnificence of his character, the greatness of his soul, I cannot undertake to portray. There was about him a nobleness of purpose, a simplicity of character, as well as a gentle and lovable nature that human expression cannot well describe. These are attributes recorded in the Great and Final Record of noble deeds and unselfish lives. These are things written indelibly on the memories and in the hearts of all who knew him, and the influence of such a life is passed on from generation to generation, creating a better world by reason of its existence.

      The epitaph on his tombstone, written by Mr. James Davis, the father of his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Charles E. Blount, expresses as nearly as is possible the true character of this great and good man. It is as follows:

            "To him there was no better religion than to
           minister to God's needy ones, therefore, his
           Another was ear was ever open to the cry of distress and
           lawyer who for his hand ever ready to extend relief."

      YOUR HONOR, it is my happy privilege, on behalf of the family of George W. Blount, to present to the Commissioners of Wilson County this magnificent portrait of this distinguished son of this County.

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