Janet Spaulding walked into St. Paul’s Episcopal Church one Sunday morning, and just like she always does, she stepped into the choir room and picked up a bulletin — not knowing she would be a part of that day’s service.
The church recently honored Spaulding for her unwavering dedication and commitment to not only St. Paul’s, but the entire community surrounding it. Tower chimes were installed in the church’s bell tower and named in the organist’s honor.
“She has always given to everybody, and now it’s our turn to give to her,” Candy Taylor, church member, said.
Spaulding began playing the organ for the church in 1971, after moving to the area to be a teacher at Hargrove High School. Originally from Newberry, S.C. she attended Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, graduating with honors.
“I came here at a time that things weren’t as smooth, but I persevered,” Spaulding explained. “There was a lot of turmoil during those days.”
When she began teaching at Hargrove in 1958, schools were still segregated. For a short time, she was sent to teach at Newton Grove-Westbrook School (now Hobbton Elementary), but says that didn’t work out and she was moved back to Hargrove.
“With the advent of desegregation, I became the first teacher in either the county or city school system selected to cross racial lines,” Spaulding shared. “As a pioneer, I put forth my best to be a real asset to human relations at a very difficult time.”
During her 31 years as an educator, Spaulding says she served in 11 schools in Sampson County and all five schools in Clinton City Schools as a stationary supervisor and music educator.
Sitting and flipping through books of photographs, letters of various appointments and from friends, Spaulding talked about being appointed by the superintendent at the time to serve on the Governor’s Study Commission on the Public School System of North Carolina.
“The governor at the time was Dan K. Moore. I was assigned to Committee No. 1, Human Values and Educational Goals,” Spaulding explained. “It was shortly after the convening of this commission that the extension of public education to include kindergarten classes for all eligible children took place.”
Prior to this, kindergartners were educated through private schools or federally supported institutes.
Throughout all her years teaching, Spaulding received numerous awards and recognitions, one of those being the Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year in 1979. The former educator says she went on to compete for District 13 Teacher of the Year, earning those honors and representing nine school districts, including Whiteville and Clinton City schools, Columbus, New Hanover, Pender, Bladen, Sampson, Brunswick and Duplin counties.
It was at the age of two that Spaulding says she began playing the organ. Her first performance in church was at the age of 10. Until recently, Spaulding says she continued to play regularly for the church, but now plays on Wednesday nights and during special services.
“Ms. Janet has always blessed the town and community with her musical talents,” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church rector Daniel Cenci said. “Honoring her with the naming of the chimes is just one of the ways we could pay her back.”
Spaulding was married to the late Thurston Spaulding, who was the first person ever elected to the Clinton City Board of Education. Together, they had three children, Kimberly, Thurston and Stephen.
Spaulding was a single mother for the latter part of the children’s teenage years. Her husband passed in 1978 when the children were 13, 15 and 17 years old.
Dr. Kimberly Spaulding is a dentist with Sebastian and Spaulding DDS, PA in Cary and married to Dr. Bradley Collins, a transplant surgeon through Duke University Medical Center. They have two children, Carter, a freshman at Davidson College and Kennedy, a senior at Chapel Hill East.
Thurston Spaulding is the chief operating officer of Capitol Fiduciary Advisors in Alexandria, Va. and married to Tremel Spaulding, a regulatory scientist with the Federal Agency of the United States government. They have two children, Tyler, a ninth grader and Cameron, a seventh grader.
Stephen Spaulding is an executive recruiter for IBM and is married to Donna Spaulding, a manager for the United States Public Sector-Civilian Agencies. They have three children, Sydney, a senior at UNC-Charlotte, Ryan, an advanced sophomore at UNC-Charlotte and Sophie Janet, a sophomore in high school.
“My biggest accomplishment has been staying true to God,” Spaulding attested. “I have raised my family teaching them that keeping Him as a beacon of light in all they do is important.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.