William Dallas Herring ’38 of Rose Hill, N.C., died January 5, 2007, at Memorial HospitalBurgaw He lived his entire life in the house in which he was born, which, with his mother’s inspiration and his own diligent work, became the Duplin County Historical Foundation library’s home. He was a manufacturer, mayor, artist, Lion, Mason, Presbyterian elder, Sunday School teacher and author, but most of all champion of education. For his public service, he was awarded three honorary degrees; L.L.D., Pfeiffer College, 1959; L.L.D. Davidson College, 1961; and Hum. D., State University, 1964. For most of his adult life, he served as the president of Atlantic Coffin and Casket Company and Heritage Design Service.
His life of public service began at the age of 23 when he was elected mayor of Rose Hill in 1939, the youngest mayor in the nation. He served until 1951, during which time the town’s streets were paved, a new town hall was built, and a fire department and water sewer system was established. In 1951, Dr. Herring joined the Duplin County Board of Education and was immediately elected chairman. It was the inauguration of a career devoted to expanding educational opportunities for North Carolinians of all ages and to raising teaching standards at all levels. That commitment led in 1953-54 to his selection as Phi Delta Kappa’s “North Carolina’s Man of the Year in Education,” to the Veterans of Foreign Wars “Wallace-Rose Hill Man of the Year,” and the News and Observer’s “Tar Heel of the Week.” In 1955, he was appointed to the State Board of Education, and in 1957 he began his remarkable twenty-year record as the chairman of that important state board. He led campaigns to initiate the North Carolina Curriculum Study and to establish both the community college system and public kindergartens. He chaired the Southern Council for Better Schools and he served nine years on the State Board of Higher Education, providing liaison between the public graded schools and the university system. Dr. Herring was a life member of the North Carolina and National Education Associations and has scholarships, professorships and fellowships named for him at several institutions, including Davidson College and North Carolina State University. In 1979, he was saluted by 750 North Carolinians at an appreciation dinner at North Carolina State University attended by three governors and the state’s educational, cultural and political leaders. Former Governor Terry Sanford called Dr. Herring “North Carolina’s greatest spokesman for education in the 20th century” and former Congressman Martin Lancaster, at his inauguration as the president of the Community College System, referred to Dr. Herring as “the father and intellectual spirit of this system” and “North Carolina’s renaissance man, the closest thing we have ever had to Thomas Jefferson.” A classical scholar, Dallas Herring has devoted his home to the preservation of historical and cultural resources of Duplin County and the surrounding region. His many honors include the North Carolina Award for Public Service, North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities Hugh McEntry Award, the University of North Carolina University Award, the North Carolina Community Colleges’ I.E. Ready Award, and the American Association for State and Local History’s Award of Merit for establishing a local history program in the community colleges, and North Carolina Society Award for a lifetime of service to his fellow North Carolinians. Dr. Herring was preceded in death by two sisters, Susan H. Saunders and Rachel H. Hood. Survivors include a sister, Annie Louise H. Ward; two brothers, L. Clayton Herring, Sr. and Robert B. Herring, P.O. Box 160, Rose Hill, N.C. 28458; and many nieces and nephews