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Committee announces 2019 Walk of Fame inductees

A joint city-county committee announced seven inductees into the Henderson County Walk of Fame on Thursday, including pioneers in the fields of education, transportation, agriculture and the law.

Ronnie Pepper, of the Walk of Fame Committee, told the Hendersonville City Council that the “visionaries of the past” serve as a model that the community could follow today.
• Daniel Gibson, a banker, was active in the Flat Rock Playhouse, the Lions Club, the American Legion, Blue Ridge Community College Foundation, the Boy Scouts and Daniel Boone Council and the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra. He served as president of both the Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina Apple Festival. His lasting contribution was the role he played in the founding of Carolina Village, which today is home to more than 250 residents.
• High Randall, who served as schools superintendent, served in the Navy in World War II and was a farmer in addition to his work in education. His lasting contributions included overseeing the construction of Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, Hendersonville Middle School, the Jim Pardue gym and vocational-ed building at Hendersonville High School. He instituted fulltime librarians and assistant principals in the schools and started summertime migrant summer schools.
• W.A. Smith, known as the founder of Laurel Park, started his law practice in Hendersonville in 1876. He constructed Fifth Avenue at his own expense and opened the Laurel Park Railroad Co., which operated the Dummy Line, carrying residents and tourists from downtown Hendersonville to Rhododendron Lake, a swimming resort and dance pavilion in Laurel Park. He was a key figure, too, in the founding of the Toxaway Railway.
• Architect Erle Stillwell lived in Hendersonville and designed projects all over North Carolina and the South, including more than 70 movie theaters. His many designs include Hendersonville High School, several historic homes in the city as well as churches, manufacturing plants, college buildings and a military hospital.
• George Wilkins Sr., a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, led the desegregation of city schools during the civil rights movement and worked for laws to accommodate handicapped children in schools. A lasting contributions was his work to established public kindergarten in all the elementary schools.
• Harley Blackwell, a leader and innovator in agriculture, was superintendent of the Mountain Research Station in Mills River. He helped bring Van Wingerden International, Bolton Greenhouses and Carolina Roses to Henderson County. His lasting contribution was to marshal the expertise of N.C. State University agriculture researchers to modernize farming in Henderson and surrounding counties.
• Col. Sidney Vance Pickens, an officer in the Confederate Army, became an attorney after the Civil War and pioneer of transportation. He started the Hendersonville Street Car Company and the French Broad Steamboat Company, which operated the Mountain Lily, carrying up to 100 passengers on the river from Brevard to Asheville. He organized the first Bar Association in North Carolina, in 1883, from which the state bar arose.