A lot has been said about the many accomplishments of former County Commissioner John Blanton since his passing last Sunday. The media has focused on his successful and patriotic military career, his contributions as an educator and his esteem service as a Sampson County Commissioner. But in reality, none of the above made Blanton special.
As I sat in the living room of his gracious home with his daughters, Duchess, Kim and Toni, I shared some to the many deeds of their father that were done some 40 years ago before Blanton ended his military career and became an educator and commissioner.
I shared with them the impact their father had on so many young kids like my self in the late mid-60’s and 70’s. I remember how Blanton started a basketball league for the young black boys in the community. I remember how impressed we were that he had arranged for us to play our games at the Roseboro-Salemburg gym. Playing our games at that gym made us feel special because this was done before the schools were integrated.
I remember how Blanton helped to establish a baseball team for us young black boys and we felt special when we put on baseball uniforms for the first time. He made us feel special as he took the time to practice with us and took us to play baseball games against other little league teams throughout the state. During our three years of existence we lost only one game.
I especially remember how Blanton loved to dance and how he loved to see young people dance. There were many Sunday afternoons when he would load up cars with young kids and take us to Ft. Bragg. He took us there because he had rented out the NCO Club so that we could go in there and have fun just dancing.
Our dancing at the NCO Club propelled Blanton to use his own time and money to build what many of us in the black community call a historical landsite better known as the “Psychedelic Shack.” This was a place where Blanton had turned a small cinderblock building into a dance club for kids.
It was there where we could pretend to be adults, where we could pretend to be on Soul Train and where we learned we were indeed special.
I remember numerous times when Blanton would help many kids who needed some money, who needed a job, who needed a ride, who needed some clothes or just needed someone to talk to.
John Blanton was not special because he had an illustrious career in the military. John Blanton was not special because he was a great educator. John Blanton was not special because he was vote in by the people to be a County Commissioner. John Blanton was special because he made everybody else feel special.
Pastor Gilbert Owens
(one of Blanton’s kids)