WRAL's Charlie Gaddy gets lifetime achievement honor

Lett, Harris receive awards at Lee Small Business Banquet
May. 09, 2013 @ 09:06 PM

A few of Sanford's finest businessmen shared the stage with one of North Carolina's finest broadcasters Thursday night during the Lee County Small Business Banquet.

Charlie Gaddy, longtime WRAL-TV anchor and native of Biscoe near the Montgomery County/Moore County line, received the lifetime achievement award for the banquet, which is held by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. Richard Feindel, chairman of the award selection committee and also president and general manager of Sanford's WWGP and WFJA radio stations, said Gaddy was a natural choice for the award since he was the most trusted name in news in North Carolina for decades.

Gaddy, for his part, said he immediately liked Feindel because he could tell he was a fellow broadcaster only three words into their first phone conversation. Gaddy does have some Sanford ties himself, too. He said he has been friends with Martha Tyson since birth, and with her husband Vernon Tyson since they were teenagers. They would hitch-hike together and he said he still owes Vernon Tyson $5 from when he paid for Gaddy to go on his first airplane ride. The Tysons are well-known within the local Methodist community, and were in attendance Thursday to cheer on their childhood friend from Biscoe, which Gaddy himself made the butt of a joke.

"You folks in Sanford don't really know what a small town is unless you've been to Biscoe," Gaddy said. "We had one stoplight when I was born, and we still have one stoplight."

Gaddy, 81, said he also came to Sanford some years ago for a fundraiser for a girl with serious health problems — an event he said has since proved the spirit of the community is good.

"Last I heard, she's in college now," he said. "That's just the type of people you folks are."

After Gaddy was Tony Lett, who said he was thankful for his award but not too happy that he had to follow Gaddy. Lett, the owner of Lee Builder Mart, was named the Chamber's 2013 Small Business Advocate of the Year for his work with workforce development in the area. He has been on the boards of Central Carolina Community College and Triangle South Workforce Development for more than 20 years each, in addition to other work geared at helping locals find jobs. And that mission, he said, is far from over.

"As many of you know, we're not very happy with the employment picture in Lee County right now," Lett said. "But it's not 'cause we're not trying."

After Lett, Buck Harris accepted the Chamber's 2013 Small Business Person of the Year. Harris, the third generation in his family to operate Harris and Co. Insurance, said he was honored to earn the award but wasn't entirely surprised — even though the awards he and Lett received had been kept a secret — because of the way his wife was begging him to come back from out of town for the banquet.

"No offense to Charlie, but I couldn't figure out why my wife was so excited," he said. "I've been teaching insurance classes all day in Greenville, and she was like, 'You've got to come tonight: You remember Charlie Gaddy. Charlie Gaddy, Charlie Gaddy, Charlie Gaddy.' Frankly, I was getting a little jealous."

Gaddy himself, though, said gratitude was the only emotion running through his mind. As a gift before the banquet, he received a white flower, which he said was customary back in his day for people to wear on Mother's Day if their mom was no longer alive. And with this event just days away from that holiday, not to mention a long documentary about his work in the news and with Cerebral Palsy — he's donating his $1,000 award to the Charlie Gaddy Children's Center in Raleigh, dedicated to helping kids with the disease — he said the banquet was truly touching and memorable.

"I don't know how to thank you except to say thank you," he said. "I'll remember this night for the rest of my life. Thank you so much."