Fitzhugh McMaster Legerton ’47

Fitzhugh McMaster Legerton, Sr, a man of deep integrity and subtle wit, a retired pastor, who cared deeply especially for persons carrying the burdens of society, died Wednesday, February 7. He was 97.
A thinker who loved a good conversation, Fitz was curious about science, philosophy, history, literature, politics, and people. He kept index cards in his pocket to write names and notes on new people he encountered. He listened intently, asking thoughtful questions, providing perspective, and sending clippings and articles from the many books, journals, and newspapers he read daily. Playful with words and ideas, the three books open on the day he died, beside his reading place on his couch give a glimpse into his mind: Muller’s The Loom of History (1958), Lee’s Language Habits and Human Affairs: an introduction to semantics (1941), and Colson Whitehead’s 2020 novel, Nickel Boys.
With a sober demeanor, Fitz also had bright eyes and a winning smile. He was a delightful playmate, with candy and toys in his home, playing musical chairs at a family dinner, chasing little ones around the house, making marble-rolling games that three generations have loved, even allowing the children to play “beauty salon” with his hair. All four generations loved being together in the Montreat, North Carolina, home his grandmother built in 1916.
Fitz was born on June 20, 1926, in Charleston, South Carolina. His parents were Clarence William Legerton, Sr, and Winnie McMaster Legerton; he had two older brothers, Clarence W. Legerton, Jr and Clifford Lewis Legerton. He attended Davidson College, entered the U.S. Navy and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, with a commission in the Chaplain’s Corps. On December 20, 1946, Fitz married Emmy Lou Capps, of Washington DC, whom he knew from Montreat.
He received graduate degrees from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia (B.D.) and from Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.M.). At Union Presbyterian Seminary, he served as President of the Senior Class and, at graduation, received the Nellie Payne Drum Fellowship for further graduate study. In 1967, Presbyterian College awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA), Fitz was called to the pastorate of the Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia in 1950. He served as Pastor of Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church until his retirement in 1992, when he was named Pastor Emeritus. He completed continuing education studies every year of active ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Union Theological Seminary in New York, Furman University, and at Manchester College, Oxford University in England. He arranged pastorate exchanges in Oregon, England, and New Zealand.
During his ministry in Atlanta, Fitz served as Moderator of the Presbytery of Atlanta, on committees in the church, a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and was an engaged leader in many educational, civic, nonprofit, justice, and social service organizations throughout his life. On the boards of Pace Academy and Oglethorpe University, Fitz also taught courses at Oglethorpe University and at Columbia Theological Seminary. He co-chaired “Christmas International House” in which local churches hosted international students attending colleges and universities from other areas of the United States.
An award-winning newspaper column Fitz wrote is entitled, “True Religion is Often a Disturbing Force in Life.” That understanding of the gospel is how he lived out his ministry and his life. In the 1950s, he chaired the Race Relations committee of the ecumenical Christian Council in Atlanta, helping to craft the “Atlanta Manifesto” in November 1957 (co-signed by eighty Protestant clergy) and its 1958 version (co-signed by 300 interfaith clergy). This statement identified six principles they deemed essential for promoting racial justice. The Presbyterian Historical Society in Montreat, North Carolina, has in its archives an exhibit on the Atlanta Manifesto and its place in the South’s involvement in the civil rights movement.
In 1994, Fitz and Emmy Lou moved to Montreat, North Carolina (NC), and Fitz became Assistant to the President for Church Relations at Warren Wilson College. He served in this capacity from 1994 until 2005. In their new community, the Legertons participated in Leadership Asheville for Seniors, and Fitz served as precinct chair for the Buncombe County Democratic Party. Fitz and Emmy Lou were Patrons of the Montreat Conference Center for the PCUSA, and they were deeply involved at Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church, in the Verner Center for Early Learning, and Highland Farms Retirement Community, where they moved in 2014. Fitz loved his men’s breakfast group, book clubs (one that lasted for him and Emmy Lou for over forty years) and being closer to family in Montreat. His dear Emmy Lou died on November 23, 2015.
The Rev. Dr. Legerton is survived by his and Emmy Lou Capps Legerton’s three adult children:
Winifred Roper Legerton [Winn] of Black Mountain NC, her daughter, Hannah Legerton Young of Greensboro, NC, and her loved ones with her beloved husband, John J. Young, Sr., who died in 2016: John J. Young, Jr. of Middlebury, VT and Molly Young Maass of Alexandria, VA and their families.
Fitzhugh McMaster Legerton, Jr. [Mac] of Pembroke, NC and his spouse, Donna F. Chavis, their four children-Rhiannon Chavis-Wanson (Derek Wanson) and family, Dakotah Chavis-Legerton, Amanda Chavis-Legerton and family, Priscilla Woods and family.
John Capps Legerton of Asheville, NC and his spouse, Katharine R. Meacham, their two children-Wendy Meacham Legerton (Dave Love), Hannah Meacham Legerton (William High), all of Asheville, and their families.
Fitz Legerton is also survived by his sister-in-law, Mitzi Herrin Legerton and her children, Clarence W. Legerton, III [Chip] and Coleman, Mary Legerton de Luzuriaga and Luis, Gregg McMaster Legerton and Keisha-all of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and their families. He and Emmy Lou have generations of nieces and nephews and their families.
A memorial service for Fitz will be held on Saturday, March 9, 2024, at 2 PM, at Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church in Swannanoa, North Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, donations would be received with gratitude at any of the three following organizations Fitz supported during his life:
Montreat Conference Center: Office of Development, P.O. Box 969, Montreat, NC 28757 (in memory of Fitz and Emmy Lou Legerton)
Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church: 101 Chapel Lane, Swannanoa, NC 28778 (in memory of Fitz and Emmy Lou Legerton)
The Verner Center for Early Learning: 2586 Riceville Road; Asheville, NC 28805 (in memory of Fitz and Emmy Lou Legerton)
A lean and elegant writer, Fitz crafted not only sermons for almost half a century, but also insightful letters to editors, to friends and family, and to congregants; he wrote columns in the North DeKalb Record for six years, and he contributed to the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. He was as apt to quote Thomas Hardy or William Butler Yeats as he was to quote scripture. In one newspaper column, he reminds the readers that God’s comfort gives strength to bear burdens:
“God does not coddle us when he comforts us. Nor is God’s comfort an anaesthetic that dulls us to pain. It is no spiritual sedative, no paregoric: such would not only dull us to pain, but also to joy. The word “comfort” means “with strength.” God gives us strength to bear the burden or meet the challenge. Life loses its tyrannies-fear, worry, responsibility-and we face it with a quiet comfort.”
Fitz died with a calm expression on his face, lying with composure on his bed, robe neatly tied, socks on, phone, glasses and reading material within reach-the appearance of quiet comfort.

William Ward Lasley Sr. ’47

William Ward Lasley, Sr., 96, died February 2, 2024, in the room in which he was born on West Davis Street in Burlington, NC, on October 13, 1927.  His parents, Ralph Kerr Lasley and Jennie (Trix) Howe Ward, were also Burlington natives from 1887 and 1898.  He was valedictorian of the Burlington High School class of 1944, as his father was in 1906.  He attended Davidson College for 3 academic years before 3 days at Fort Bragg for the Army pre-induction physical convinced him the Navy could not be worse.  A member of Beta Theta Pi, he was manager of the Thompson boarding house for a year while playing football and basketball, and sprinting and long jump.  

He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1950, lettering in Track.  He commanded the minehunter USS Bunting, Division 83 of 4 minesweepers, and the USS Belle Grove, LSD-2 in ’68-9, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star for operations in the Mekong Delta.  At the Office of Naval Research, he was an early project manager of deep submersible ALVIN.  

During the Arab-Israeli Six Day War in 1967, the Navy sent his four wooden-hulled, poorly-armed minesweepers to keep a non-provocative eye on the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet in the Aegean Sea.  He reported back, “Have Soviet Fleet surrounded, when do I attack?”   

As Advisor to the CNO for Mine Warfare, he and a civilian PhD performed the initial planning for the successful mining of North Vietnamese harbors in 1972, helping to end our participation in that war.  Retiring as a Captain in 1980, he continued to live in Alexandria, VA, taking his wife’s seat on its Symphony Board, until returning to Burlington in 2013.

His wife, the former Mary Webb Graham of Oxford, NC, a descendant of Gen. Wm. Davidson’s brother, predeceased him in 1984, and his son-in-law Mark Johnson in 2011.  Survivors include daughter Rebecca Graham Lasley of HIgh Point, NC, son W.W. (Bill & Liz) Lasley Jr. and granddaughter Mary of Woodbury, Connecticut, and son Ralph Augustus Lasley ’82 of Burlington.

Frank Hutchinson Hamilton, Jr. ’47

Dr. Frank Hutchinson Hamilton, Jr. died on January 8, 2024, one month before his 100th birthday, at his home in Charlotte, N.C. with his loving wife of nearly 70 years, Edith Ritter Hamilton, by his side.

His extraordinary life started in Rock Hill, S.C. on February 8, 1924, from humble beginnings, which spanned the Great Depression and worsened after his father’s demise in 1938. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Clemson University with tuition paid from money saved while working in a newspaper delivery job and at the mill. His education was interrupted by three years of service in WWII. After bootcamp and lab training, he was stationed at Birmingham General Army Hospital in Los Angeles, CA, where he remained for his entire army career. While in the Army, he befriended several doctors who encouraged him to pursue medicine.

After an honorable discharge from the Army in 1946, he continued his higher education, now with a clear focus on a medical degree, attending Davidson College until 1947, graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1949 (a two-year medical school at the time), then graduating from the University of Virginia Medical School in 1951 as a Medical Doctor. He completed his internship/internal medicine residency at Bowman Gray School of Medicine and Vanderbilt Hospital. While Chief Resident at Charlotte Memorial Hospital, he met the love of his life and future wife, Edith M. Ritter, a nurse, and they were married in May 1954.

In August 1955, Dr. Hamilton opened a solo private practice office in Charlotte, with his wife Edith as his nurse. Through their kindness, dedication, and compassionate care, they were beloved by their patients and members of the Charlotte medical community and often received thank-you garden gifts or other treats. He closed his practice in 1988 after 33 years of diligent care to his patients.

With his intense lifelong pursuit of knowledge and long after retirement, Dr. Hamilton continued to read about, take apart, investigate, and teach his children and others about absolutely everything. Many days he could be found poring over stock market analyses and books on gardening or outside working on engines or household appliances. Other times, he and his wife could be found on their front porch watching life pass by and having many wonderful conversations with neighbors. From humble beginnings, great things can emerge.

Dr. Hamilton is survived by his wife, Edith, sons Frank H. Hamilton III and wife Berta Summerell Hamilton of Wilmington, NC and Brian H. Hamilton, M.D. and wife Kimberly McAlister Hamilton of Charlotte, NC: his five grandchildren, Anna H. Lysack and husband Chris of New York City, William R. Hamilton of Houston, TX, Lila H. Chaffin and husband Ryan of Durham, NC, Olivia M. Hamilton of Charlotte, NC, and McAlister H. Hamilton of Raleigh, NC. Great-grandchildren are Ivy Allen Lysack and Nora Edith Lysack.

He is predeceased by his parents Frank Hutchinson Hamilton, Sr., and Maude Caldwell Hamilton, as well as four siblings.

Memorials may be offered to the charity of your choice in memory of Dr. Hamilton’s life of service to others.

Russell Evans Bennett, Jr. ’47

Russell Evans Bennett Jr. was born in Cheraw, S.C., on April 7, 1926, and died Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. He was 96 years old. He was the son of the late Russell Evans and Mary Ella Gandy Bennett. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his daughter and son-in-law, Leslie and Ricky Fetner, of Rockingham; son, Russell Evans Bennett III, of Rockingham; and his brother, Robert (Bob) Bennett, of Cheraw, S.C.

Surviving are his loving wife, Joan Ramsey Bennett, of Penick Village, Southern Pines; stepchildren, Susan Wood and husband, David, of Pinehurst, Adam Hardison, of Charlotte, Bryan Hardison, of Charlotte, Julie Sullivan, of Orlando, Fla., Carol Hardison, of Taos, N.M.; and their children and grandchildren; nephews, Robby Bennett and wife, Lindsay, of Cheraw, S.C., Paul Bennett, of Cheraw, S.C., Mac Bennett and wife, Leslie, of Beaufort, S.C.; and their children and grandchildren.

Russell graduated from Cheraw High School and attended Davidson College prior to going into the U.S. Navy, during World War II. Following his naval service, he attended the University of South Carolina.

In 1947, he went into the automobile business with his father. In 1948, he was awarded a Chevrolet-Buick franchise by General Motors in Hamlet. At that time, he was the youngest person to be awarded a General Motors franchise. In 1949, Russell opened a new Chevrolet dealership in Rockingham. Russell was a franchised dealer for over 48 years, during which time he was active in the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, serving four terms as a director and served as treasurer. He served on numerous dealer factory planning committees with Chevrolet and Buick. Russell always enjoyed a close relationship with the employees of his dealership. He referred to the employees as “working with them” and not working “for him.” He sold his dealership in 1996.

Russell felt strongly that one should give something back to his community. He became involved in philanthropy both personally and through foundations. He was a benefactor of Richmond Community College, significantly the Cole Auditorium and Grimsley Health and Science building. He served multiple terms on the Richmond Community College Foundation Board.

He gave generously of his time to Richmond Memorial Hospital, later to become FirstHealth Richmond Memorial. He first joined the hospital board in 1950, and served many terms as a trustee and served as chairman for several terms. In 2005, he was honored by the North Carolina Hospital Association as their Trustee of the Year and was presented their Trustee Merit award.

Russell served on the board of Foundation for the Carolinas, in Charlotte. He served on the advisory board and was chair of the Cole Foundation. He also served on the board of the Richmond Community Foundation, where he also served as chairman. Both Foundations serve the needs of the people of Richmond County and played a major role in helping bring Discovery Place Kids to Rockingham.

After FirstHealth of the Carolinas bought Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham, Russell was elected to the FirstHealth Board of Directors and when his terms expired, he was elected to the board of trustees of the Foundation of FirstHealth. He was a member of The Scroll Society of the Foundation of FirstHealth.

Russell was active in the civic life of Rockingham. He joined the Rockingham Rotary Club in 1950, and served numerous terms as a director and served as its president in 1957-1958. At one time, he enjoyed a perfect attendance for five consecutive years of Rotary. He was honored by fellow Rotarians as a Distinguished Rotarian. He was a Paul Harris Fellow and was a Rotary benefactor.

Russell served on the Rockingham City Council from 1957-59.

Russell was involved in other businesses, and especially involved with the Richmond Savings Bank prior to its merger with First National Bank. He served as a director of that bank for 25 years. Russell served as director of Farmers Bank and Trust, later Southern National Bank. He served on The First Union Bank Advisory Board.

Russell was honored by the Richmond Community College as their Distinguished Citizen of Year award in 1997.

He was honored by the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce for their Citizen of the Year award in 1998.

Russell was awarded The Order of The Long Leaf Pine in 2013 by Governor Pat McCrory.

Russell was a lifelong Presbyterian. He served his church as an elder, deacon and men’s Bible class Sunday School teacher. He served on the Building and Planning Committee when the sanctuary of the Rockingham Presbyterian Church was built.

Russell was a member of Pinehurst Country Club and a former member of The Country Club of North Carolina, where he enjoyed many years of playing golf. He looked forward to attending the Masters for many years with wife, Joan, brothers-in-law, Claude Ramsey and his wife, Kay, of Asheville, and Jimmy Ramsey and his wife, Gretchen, of Tupelo, Miss. He enjoyed time spent at their home in Pawley’s Island and later at Litchfield by the Sea and Country Club with family and friends. He also enjoyed traveling with family and friends.

To the next generation of leaders and philanthropists, Russell always said, “Don’t stand in the wings. Come forward. Become part of your community in whatever way you think best. Say, I have something to offer and I’m willing to offer it. I’m going to participate to make things better.”

The family of Russell Bennett would like to thank Penick Village, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital and FirstHealth Hospice for their assistance in his loving care. We would like to thank Russell for always being there for us and all his love. We were all so blessed to be a part of his life. He was a true Southern Gentleman who was loved by all.

A memorial service to celebrate Russell will be held on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 2 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, Rockingham, led by Dr. Allison Farrah. The family will receive friends in the fellowship hall following the service.

Memorials may be made to Foundation of First Health and First Health Outpatient Comprehensive Cancer Center, 150 Applecross Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374; FirstHealth Hospice, 150 Applecross Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374; First Presbyterian Church, 904 Fayetteville Road, Rockingham, NC 28379; or Richmond Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 1189, Hamlet, NC 28345

Rufus Alexander Long ’47

Rufus Alexander Long was born on June 30, 1923 on the outskirts of West Jefferson (Ashe County), NC to Flora Goodman and George Long. After a full and rich life, he passed away peacefully surrounded by his children and a grandson in Black Mountain, NC on October 14, 2022.

He always proudly remembered his mountain upbringing as one of twelve children. Having spent several formative years at Barium Springs Presbyterian Home for Children (after losing his mother at the age of 5), he attended Davidson College.

He also served in the Army Air Corps for three years during WWII during his college years as well. During bootcamp, it was discovered that he couldn’t march in time, so he was sent to study communications and meteorology at Vanderbilt and Yale rather than infantry.

He met his “sweet wife” (as he continued to refer to her for the rest of his life), Margaret “Peggy” Bradford while walking up Kentucky Road in Montreat after college. After they married, he received an MBA from Wharton School of Business (UPenn) and maintained a career in banking in Charlotte, NC. He then joined the US Agency for International Development and served as a Foreign Service Office for 25 years taking his family of six children all over the world. He served in Ethiopia, Seoul, Korea, Saigon, Vietnam, Islamabad, Pakistan and Sanaa, North Yemen.

Through out his career and wherever he was in the world, he always maintained a garden and a pool membership. Upon arrival anywhere, he was quick to know where the closest church and closest pool were located and frequented both often. Several years after losing Peggy in 2009, he relocated from Falls Church, VA to Highland Farms (Black Mountain, NC). Rufus and Peggy spent summers and as much time as they could in Montreat. They always loved Montreat and enjoyed welcoming children, grandchildren and numerous friends to their home on South Carolina Terrace. He leaves a legacy of strong faith, hard work, support of education, curiosity about people, and much more.

He is survived by his six children, Zeb Bradford (LauraCole), George (Margie McFarlan), Lucy (Jack Santino), Eric (Bette Sheldon), Angela (Thomas Whippenbeck), Ruthann Eileen (Alfredo Farias) and eighteen grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He also leaves numerous recipients of his generosity.

He will be honored and celebrated on Sunday, October 16, 2022 at 2pm at Christ Community Church.