Howard Allen Penton, Jr., 88, lifelong native of Wilmington and prominent business and civic leader, died Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Mr. Penton was born Aug. 5, 1931, the son of Marjorie Willard Penton and Howard Allen Penton.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Roi Malott Penton; daughter, Elizabeth Malott Penton, and her husband, David Alden Dyer; son, Howard Allen Penton III, and his wife, Elizabeth, Williams Penton; four grandchildren, Rachael Malott Mullen, Donald Collins Mullen III, Alexandra Claire Penton, and Emily Elizabeth Penton; and sister, Mary Penton Maliga. His sister, Marjorie Penton Miller, preceded him in death in 2011.
Mr. Penton was a devoted member of St. James Episcopal Church, where he met his wife, and where he and his family were nurtured over the years.
At New Hanover High School, Mr. Penton achieved a distinguished record as president of his Senior Class of 1949, as company commander in the ROTC, as a member of the football team under Coach Leon Brogden and as a member of the National Honor Society.
After attending Davidson College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mr. Penton served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954, followed by 28 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring as full colonel in 1991. During his military career, he earned his Ranger tabs and graduated from the U.S. Army Infantry School, The Intelligence School and the Command and General Staff College. His last assignment as a Mobilization Designee was as deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence School, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Mr. Penton returned from active military duty to assume management of the family business, Springer Coal and Oil Company. He served as president of the North Carolina Fuel Merchants Association in 1961. While actively managing Springer Coal and Oil during changing times, he also served as a trustee of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina from 1973 to 2001 and was chairman from 1995 to 1997.
Mr. Penton was a director of the Wilmington office of Wachovia Bank for 25 years and was also a director, and later chairman, of Peoples Federal Savings Bank of Wilmington, continuing on as a director after its merger with First Citizens Bank. In addition, Mr. Penton, throughout his career, organized and managed several small business ventures ranging from boat building to bowling alleys to beer distribution.
Mr. Penton was a leader in local civic affairs. In the 1960s, he was proud to serve on the Wilmington Development Corporation (later the committee of 100) in revitalizing the Wilmington business community in the face of loss of major businesses. He was campaign chair of the New Hanover United Fund in 1964 and member of the Board of the Carolinas United Fund Group for North and South Carolina. He served as president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1965, when Wilmington was designated an All-American City.
He was one of a group to spearhead efforts to build the Blockade Runner Hotel at Wrightsville Beach and to construct a downtown parking deck in Wilmington, and he was one of 12 incorporators of the Historic Wilmington Foundation. For his service to the community, he was named “Man of the Year” by the Wilmington Jaycee’s and Star News Citizen of the Year.
In the political arena, Mr. Penton served two terms in the North Carolina General Assembly. While in Raleigh, he proudly endorsed the proposal to bring Wilmington College into the North Carolina University System. He also presented the bill that made the red drum the official North Carolina Saltwater Fish. In 2014, Mr. Penton received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in recognition of service to his community, his state and his country.
Mr. Penton enjoyed the fellowship of the Cape Fear Club, serving as its president in 1987, and he was an active member of the Cape Fear Country Club, where he played golf for many years. He was also a member of the L’Arioso German Club, the Inter Se Cotillion Club, the Surf Club at Wrightsville Beach, the Carolina Yacht Club, and a charter member of the Figure Eight Island Club.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 28, at St. James Church. The family will receive guests following the memorial service at 2329 Ocean Point Drive, Wilmington.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to Cape Fear Hospice or any charity of choice.
Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.