Sampson County History Museum officials on Saturday thanked those who have been so instrumental in the success and growth of a proud county landmark and offered special recognition to a couple who has led those efforts — David and Jeannie King.
The Kings were honored at the Sampson County History Museum Member Appreciation Event held on the museum grounds Saturday. The Kings, now retired after 17 years of volunteering their time to make the museum what it is today, were praised for their “years of dedication and hard work to the Sampson County History Museum.”
As a special recognition, Museum board members unveiled a plaque showing that the Law Enforcement Building will now bear the name of David and Jeannie King. The couple fought back emotion as the plaque was read.
“We wanted to do something special for David and Jeannie,” said History Museum president Ronnie Jackson. “This museum is a labor of love for a lot of people, as it has been for them.”
A humble David King said he shared the dream of the museum with many, and they were due just as much credit for its success.
“This is a dream of many people, not just myself — Fes Turlington, Claude Moore, Oscar Bizzell, a lot of folks,” King remarked. “This was just a dream that was continued by Jeannie and I. Visitors from across the country come and see us and they’re just astounded when they walk out that back door. So many people in Clinton and Sampson County ride by this every day and they see that two-story house and don’t even realize what is behind it.”
When they get their chance, they realize there is another town that takes them to another time.
“The credit goes to a lot of people,” King said, again noting Moore and his family for the many artifacts, George Upton, Dan Bailey and many others who volunteered their efforts through the years. “We’ve just been luck with so many people who have volunteered their time. It wasn’t just Jeannie and I.”
During Saturday’s event, many praised the growth of the museum, which stands as a living, breathing piece of rich Sampson history.
“This is truly a remarkable museum,” said Tim Howard, member of the History Museum board. “As we know, good things don’t simply happen. There must first be a vision, and we have the late Fes Turlington and David King to thank for that. Then it takes hard work, and Fes, David and Jeannie and countless other volunteers we have to thank for that.”
It also takes artifacts and those who love them and are willing to share them with the public, to which Howard said Moore and hundreds of others were due thanks. And it takes time and money, which hundreds of volunteers and donors have given.
“On behalf of everyone in Sampson County who has ever had the joy of walking into this marvelous place, (we have) to thank Jeannie and David King for what they have done for Sampson County and, in particular, for this magnificent museum.”
Howard said words cannot do justice to what David and Jeannie have been able to accomplish since their efforts, along with Turlington, began in earnest in 1997.
“Words are not only inadequate, they are unnecessary,” Howard attested. “All we need to do is look around and see this magnificent accomplishment born from his hard labor. The Museum Board of Directors has determined that one way to express to David and Jeannie its appreciation for their efforts over the years is to name the Law Enforcement (Building) in their honor.”
Howard called it a “fitting tribute” as David King began his law enforcement career with the Clinton Police Department in 1966 before going on to serve a long, distinguished career in the N.C. Highway Patrol from 1969 until his retirement in 1997. Even then, he continued to serve as a reserve officer with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and then the Clinton Police Department.
“For 40 years, David served with honor and distinction the people of North Carolina, supported along the way by the love and support of Jeannie,” said Howard, who called the museum’s law enforcement exhibit “a visual reminder of the courage and dedication of those who have served us as law enforcement officers.” He and others know that has a special place in the couple’s hearts.
“For the vision, for the countless hours of selfless effort for nearly 20 years, the Museum board hereby presents the David and Jeannie King Law Enforcement Building and this plaque, which will be affixed,” Howard said.
“Law enforcement is in my blood,” King proudly attested.
Webb Brown, former Highway Patrolman and longtime friend of King’s, also made a special presentation.
“I don’t know of anyone else that is more deserving of this (honor) than David and Jeannie King. They worked long, hard hours,” Brown said.
In 2002, King recruited Brown to assist in moving the Bunting House to the museum grounds, a five-year endeavor of which Brown said he was proud to be a part.
“David brought me in and I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of the growth of this great museum. This museum is probably second to none in the United States. There are people who come from all across the country to see it … and I’ve met a lot of those people who have commented on how fine it is run. There are artifacts in some of these buildings that Washington, D.C. wished they had.”
The Bunting House is just one of the beautiful additions to the grounds over the years, and just one of the “little projects” he worked alongside King to complete.
“If you know anything about David, little projects are not little projects,” Brown asserted. “They’re gigantic and they involve a lot of time.”
Tony Rackley became involved in some of those little projects over the years, donating materials from his business, Tony’s Custom Cabinets, as well as time and resources, to install certain cabinetry into some of the buildings.
On Saturday, Brown and Rackley presented a beautifully-crafted wooden gun box which had etched into it the well-known History Museum logo that Jeannie designed.
The History Museum has been supported through the years by the volunteers and friends of the museum, as well as by City of Clinton and Sampson County, a truly joint venture among a large group. Along with the Kings, those friends and donors were honored. Without them, the museum would not have survived, Jackson noted.
From June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014, Friends of the Museum donated nearly $14,000, Raynor attested.
“It’s just amazing what all has been done in the 17 or 18 years this museum has been here,” Jackson remarked. “The volunteers really are instrumental to the operation of this museum. We thank each and every one of you, and we always have room for some more (volunteers and) friends.”
On behalf of the museum volunteers, Museum vice-president Kay Raynor and Museum curator Ruthie Pope presented Jeannie King with a hydrangea. “Jeannie put her heart and her soul into the museum,” Raynor said.
Sampson Board of Commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland shared his “heartfelt appreciation” on behalf of the citizens of the county to those friends of the museum whose resources made the grounds and its many structures a “successful destination for Sampson County.”
“It didn’t just happen,” Strickland stated. “It happened because of the love and spirit of a special group of people.”
He specifically lauded the Kings, as did Clinton Mayor Lew Starling.
“This is a joint effort and you can see from the list of people that give and give over and over again, and for that we say thank you,” Starling remarked. “To the Kings, I can’t say enough good things about them and the good work they do for this city and the county. We truly love them. Thank you all for what you do, to the sponsors, to the friends, but most especially to you, for giving your life to this great asset.”
While he is retired, that does not mean David King will stop volunteering. He is now assisting with a display for the N.C. Highway Patrol at the North Carolina Museum in downtown Raleigh.
“I love this kind of work,” he said, noting the Sampson museum would continue to be a success, noting Jackson and many others who would see to that. “The museum is in good hands. We have had so many contributions from all of you … we couldn’t have this without you. I want to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart.”
During 2013, the museum saw 3,500 visitors from 22 different states, including 600 at the Christmas in the City and 900 at the Craft Demonstration Day in October.
“People from all over the country who come to Sampson County find out about our museum and visit it, and go back and tell other people,” King said proudly. “There are so many things that this county has to be so proud of, and this is one of the main things.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.