Local News

Hundreds Fill Raleigh Cathedral To Bid Farewell To Public-Service Pioneer

Posted February 20, 2004 11:38 a.m. EST

— Raleigh said goodbye Friday to a public-service pioneer.

A funeral service was held for John Winters, Raleigh's first African-American city council member. Hundreds filled Sacred Heart Cathedral to pay their respects.

Winters was in the advanced stages of Parkinson's Disease. He died Sunday in Atlanta at the age of 84.

Winters was prominent in his church, his community, across the state and around the country. He fought for racial justice and gave hope to many people he never met.

His legacy and memory will live on long after he is gone.

"Even if he wasn't my father, I admired him as a man," Winters' daughter, Fran Carter, said.

Carter has the same opinion of her father as countless others. Many of them did not know Winters, but their lives were better because of him.

"There were people who stopped by his office, and they would say if it hadn't been for him, they never would have had a house," Carter said.

Winters made his mark on several different fronts. He built quality housing for Raleigh's poor blacks when no one else would. He was the city's first black councilman and North Carolina's first black state senator of the 1900's.

He was a community leader who rubbed elbows with presidents.

During an interview in 1999, he looked back at a time when racial tension in America was at its peak -- making life, let alone personal success, much harder to manage.

But, Winters said Raleigh was different than the rest of the country. He credited the many colleges and universities with providing a forum for change.

"When you have education, and you have seminars on bringing people together, you start crossing boundaries that you didn't know how to really get beyond," Winters said.

Winters was able to get beyond his many obstacles in life with hard work, a smile and dogged optimism.

"Whenever he did anything, it was always one day at a time," Carter said. "And he said: 'If you do it that way, you can accomplish anything.

"Even when he got sick, and people would ask him how are you doing, he would say: 'One day at a time.'"

Winters never liked to talk about his accomplishments. He said a lot of it was pure luck, and a good upbringing. He said he did what he did because he loved people.

And he did it one day at a time.