Raleigh, NC – Harold Webb, a former Wake County commissioner and Tuskegee Airman, passed early Friday Dec 15th. He was 92.
Webb was a prominent member of the local African-American leadership for decades, serving on the Board of Commissioners from 2003 until 2010, after he had a stroke. He represented District 5, which includes predominantly black neighborhoods in Southeast Raleigh. He was an architect of the school system’s controversial policy of busing students to balance diversity.
In 2016 Webb was named Spectacular Magazine Man of the Year – Lifetime Achievement. Below is the reprint of article after he was interviewed for that honor:
Harold Webb still cherishes an old black-and-white photo of himself as a third-grader attending a small two-story public school in rural Guilford County, North Carolina. “Yep, that’s me,” he said, with a slight grin, as he looked at the picture of his classmates attending the segregated school.
From that point on Webb always wanted everyone to be treated fairly and have the same access to an equal education and opportunities to succeed in life. The experience would lead him to a life of public service.
Webb will celebrate his 92nd birthday April 30. He and his wife, Lucille Webb, are longtime residents of Southeast Raleigh. The couple married in 1949 and they have one daughter, Kaye Webb.
Kaye Webb said her father has always been active in the community as long as she can remember, from his career in education to his civic involvement on local, state and national government levels.
Lucille Webb said her husband used those platforms to give a voice to those who needed representation in order to improve their quality of life.
He always motivates people to reach their full potential, she added.
For example, when he became principal of Cedar Grove Elementary School in Orange County, he often encouraged the black students to further their education beyond high school. He would not only push them to earn college degrees, he would also help them through the application process in order to enter the colleges and universities. “He was always an advocate for people, seeking to encourage others,” Lucille Webb said, noting that he continually fo
Webb still enjoys reminiscing about his glorious days as a Tuskegee Airman. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He would be among the group of first African American trained units to fly and maintain US combat aircraft during World War II. The training program eventually led to the integration of the U.S. military.
Webb said he was at Tyndall Field in Panama City, Florida, when he first saw three black men flying. He asked the men how they got to fly those airplanes. They told him exactly what to do, and Webb didn’t stop until he joined the training group.
Webb said one of his most valued treasures is the Congressional Gold Medal he received in 2007, recognizing the achievements of the historic Tuskegee Airman. He keeps it in a special place near his 70 year Omega Psi Phi medal.
After the war, Webb returned to Greensboro, North Carolina to study at North Carolina A & T, where he earned a biology degree in 1948. His next endeavor would be a career in public education where he would start as a teacher and work his way up to principal of Cedar Grove Elementary School in Orange County.
Another big first in Webb’s life was leading the North Carolina Title I effort. The program was a federal initiative to offer more opportunities to even the playing field for low-income students. The appointment led him to becoming the first African American to serve as personnel director for North Carolina state government.
Kaye Webb said the position made her father the highest ranking black official in the state of North Carolina at that time. Lucille Webb said her husband always enjoyed his life in politics. “Politics was the vehicle to make a better life for people,” she said.
He was instrumental in several top democratic campaigns over the years, including directing former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt’s campaign.
His leadership in the community led him to a seat on the Wake County Board of Commissioners. He served as the board’s chairman from 2008-09. During his tenure, Webb focused on increasing voter registration, education initiatives and increased funding for community groups in Southeast Raleigh.
In 2010, Webb suffered a stroke and stepped down from the board of commissioners to take care of his health.
Through the years, Lucille Webb, also an educator, has stood by her husband’s side, assisting him in his mission to help others. The couple was inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame in 2011.
“The Lifetime Achievement Award from Spectacular Magazine shows that the community appreciates him and validates his hard work,” Lucille Webb said. She said the entire Webb family is thankful for the beautiful honor.
Webb is survived by a daughter and his wife of more than 50 years, Lucille Webb. The couple were inducted into Raleigh’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
Funeral arrangements, entrusted to Haywood Funeral Home, are incomplete at this time.
by Cynthia Dean, Contributing Writer