Godwin, who is perhaps best known for his work on the National Hollerin’ Contest, passed away Friday at the age of 81.
“Ermon would have these great ideas,” said Wayne Edwards, Spivey’s Corner Fire Department assistant chief, and one of those who worked with Godwin on the Hollerin’ Contest each year. “And from those ideas, he brought nothing but positive things to Spivey’s Corner and this community.”
Godwin’s list of community service is astonishing in itself.
In addition to being an active deacon of Shady Grove Original Freewill Baptist Church, he was also a charter member of the Dunn Clowns and also a member and past president of the Dunn Kiwanis Club and a member of the Dunn Shriner’s Club. He founded the Cape Fear Amateur Radio Club, the Dunn Investment Club, was a member and former president of the Sampson County Historical Society, a board member and past president of the Sampson County Department of Social Services, a former board member of the Department of North Carolina Travel and Tourism, and, of course, co-founder and president of the National Hollerin’ Contest, Inc.
“He just loved people,” said Edwards, “and he loved this community.”
Edwards said Godwin’s efforts have made Spivey’s Corner a better place. “I have known him for a long time,” he said. “I was doing some work on the history of the fire department here and Ermon was a charter member and was one of the first treasurers. The department came about after a church burned down. The closest fire department was Newton Grove, and they wanted to do something about it and they did.”
Edwards said on Dec. 30, 1959, the group, that included Godwin, held their first meeting. “By February of 1960, they had purchased the very first (fire) truck for the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department,” he said. “To go from those beginnings to where the department is now is pretty incredible. He was one that laid the ground work for everything that would come after.”
Helping that cause was the creation of the annual National Hollerin’ Contest.
“We recently celebrated our 40th anniversary of the contest,” said Edwards. “And it has brought nothing but positive publicity to Spivey’s Corner. Ermon had a lot of ideas, and when he got behind something, he really got behind it. I have known him for a long time, and he was one of those guys who really believed in what he got behind. It wasn’t just the Hollerin’ Contest, he did it with all of his community work ... His passing is a huge loss for us, for his family and for this community.”
Longtime friend and neighbor Jimmy Surles agrees. “He was very much involved in this community,” he said. “He loved his family, he was very involved with his church and he loved this community. As many things as he volunteered for, he really made a difference here.”
Surles said that in their 40-year friendship, Godwin was always honest. “You always knew where you stood with Mr. Godwin,” he said. “He was a good man and with his passing, it is a big loss to this community.”
Edwards said that Godwin’s love of the community showed each year at the National Hollerin’ Contest.
“Back when it started, it was the event,” he said. “But over the years, Ermon wanted to keep it so that families could go out and have a great time together. He went out and promoted it everywhere, because he wanted to leave a good impression on the community, and he always did it. I mean, who else could have a commercial during the Super Bowl about the contest at Spivey’s Corner ... But he made it happen.”
Three-time National Hollerin’ Champion (2000, 2004 and 2007) Kevin Jasper said Godwin was like a second father-figure to him in the world of hollering. “I was very, very sad when I heard,” Jasper said from his home in Mocksville. “He is the reason why I got into hollerin’. He took the time with me to talk with me about the art of it; I am just grateful that he got me started in it.”
Jasper makes the over three hour trek every year to participate in the contest. “I have since 1997,” he said. “I can remember coming to participate one year and he drove me, and (other participant) Jim Gratsie to the Wilmington Library to make a presentation about hollerin’. Along the way up and back, he would tell these great stories about the art of hollerin’. He would tell stories that were really funny and some that were really meaningful. I always wanted to come back down to Spivey’s Corner and just listen to him tell me all of those stories ... I will always regret that I didn’t.”
He said that this year will be bittersweet for him. “At last year’s event, I missed seeing him at the 2 p.m. registration cutoff,” Jasper said. “He would always be there to make sure that the registrations were cut off at that time. I didn’t see him until later; it was obvious that he was frail ... I was just hoping that he would make it out of it.”
Longtime friend G.H. Wilson said Godwin’s loss is a big one for Sampson County. “I have known him for over 50 years,” he said. “He did a lot of things for this community ... he was always involved with things going on in the area. I knew that he was sick for a while, and you didn’t know it until you didn’t see him around too much, and for him not to be around that was just not like him. It is a sad day. He always wanted to bring the best he could to this community.”
“I’m going to miss him,” said Jasper. “They made a documentary called ‘Hollerin’’ back in 2000, and there is this scene in the film that has Mr. Ermon visiting the grave of legendary hollerer Leonard Emmanuel and he says, ‘I miss that old man’. That’s what I feel today. I am going to miss Mr. Ermon very much.”
“Our condolences and sympathy goes out to his family,” said Edwards. “It is hard to put into words how much of a loss it is, but it is a huge loss for all of us in this community.”
Edwards said that there will be a tribute to honor Godwin’s memory at this year’s contest. “I don’t know exactly what it will be, but we will definitely have something,” he said.
Memorials may be made to the Shady Grove Church Building Fund, 7605 Newton Grove Hwy. in Godwin’s memory and online condolences may be sent to www.westanddunn.com.
To reach Doug Clark call (910) 592-8137 ext. 139 or send email to email@example.com.