Goldsboro, N.C. — Goldsboro Mayor Al King has a way with people and life experiences that make him the consummate ambassador for his beloved city and the military base that helps it thrive.
He has a gleam in his eye when he talks about the Air Force. His city is home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and, like many personnel there, he gave a large part of his life to the military.
“I wouldn’t want to go back to Vietnam, where they’re trying to kill me. I don’t want to do that again, but it was a tremendous experience. It makes you a man,” he said.
King says one of his most memorable moments was as a young lieutenant in the Air Force, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Soviet missiles were perched on Cuban soil, and the U.S. was on the brink of World War III.
“I was right in the middle of that,” he said.
King's fighter wing and several others were moved to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, within striking distance of the missiles.
“At the last minute, Kruschev called our president and said, ‘We’re going to remove them,’” King recalled. “Had it been a little bit later, they would have been airborne.”
King's job in the Air Force was in planning and logistics, handling things that kept the planes in the air, or, as he put it, everything that people complained about. He says it has helped him develop a sense of acceptance for all people, and that's how he governs the city of Goldsboro.
“My career in the Air Force helped me with life. I’ve learned more about different cultures, how other people live,” he said. “That even though we are worlds apart, we’re really the same.”
King, who grew up in Mount Olive, says his two greatest achievements are the two children he and his wife Juanita have raised.
“I wouldn’t trade those two for any two kids anywhere on the planet,” he said.
His son, Kevin, is in the Air Force Reserves and is a commercial airline pilot. His daughter, Alison, is a broadcast technician at WRAL and helps families find emergency housing on the side.
“My kid cares, and that’s awesome. People don’t care anymore. People don’t care anymore about people. It’s scary,” he said.
As mayor of Goldsboro, King says he is trying to change that.
“I just feel that I have a responsibility to give back. I do, and that’s what drives me,” he said.
Editor's note: February is Black History Month, and each week, our Living the Legacy series profiles an African American in our community who embodies the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.