Local News

Sen. Malone laid to rest amid tributes

Posted April 23, 2009 6:30 a.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2009 7:48 p.m. EDT

— More than 1,000 family and friends gathered Thursday for the funeral of State Sen. Vernon Malone, who spent more than 40 years in public service to Wake County and North Carolina.

Malone died at age 77 of natural causes last Saturday after mowing his lawn and reading the newspaper at his Lyndhurst Avenue home.

At times, his noon funeral service at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St., was lively, with the congregation cheering and singing for Malone.

"Let's hear it for Vernon Malone. Stand up on your feet," family friend Willy Gary urged listeners.

After the service, a horse-drawn carriage carried Malone's casket to the state Capitol building. He was laid to rest at the Carolina Biblical Gardens,1530 Creech Road in Garner.

Gov. Bev Perdue and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker were among those who paid tribute to the public servant.

"He lived his life believing that he could make a difference for the good of others," Perdue said.

She praised Malone as a man who who fought to give the poor and undereducated a chance to succeed.

"North Carolina misses him. Vernon was a good and special man who made a difference," Perdue said. "As Vernon once again told us, that's the reason we're here: to make a difference."

Meeker credited Malone for helping break down racial barriers when, as school board chairman, he presided over the merger of Raleigh city schools and Wake County public schools in 1976.

"You all know that story. Those were hard times. He was the right man for those hard times," Meeker said.

A Democrat, Malone was a four-term state senator and was a county commissioner from 1984 to 2002. He most recently focused on lowering the state's dropout rate as co-chairman of the Senate's higher education committee and appropriations committee for higher education.

A graduate of Shaw University, Malone worked as a classroom teacher and as a school administrator before becoming superintendent of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.

Malone was a trustee for Shaw University, North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Museum of Art and Wake Education Partnership. He was also a director of Capital Bank, a community bank headquartered in Raleigh.

He was an alumnus of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first intercollegiate fraternity established by African-Americans which was founded in 1906.

Malone is survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife passed away last year.