State News

Lawmaker, educator Vernon Malone dies at 77

Posted April 18, 2009 1:33 p.m. EDT
Updated April 24, 2009 6:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina Sen. Vernon Malone, who was known for his passionate work in education, died Saturday. He was 77.

His son, Rod, said he died of natural causes at his Raleigh home. The Democrat had represented District 14 in the General Assembly for four terms.

A graduate of Shaw University, Malone held public offices in Wake County over three decades. As school board chairman, he presided over the merger of Raleigh city schools and Wake County public schools in 1976.

He served as a Wake County commissioner from 1984 until his election to the Senate in 2002.

In the Senate, Malone continued to work in education, co-chairing the Senate's higher education committee and education budget subcommittee.

In a statement, fellow Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue praised Malone's dedication to the state's students.

"Vernon Malone was one of my closest personal friends and was a powerful voice for North Carolina's future," said Perdue, who ordered state flags lowered to half-staff. "He fundamentally believed that every kid should have a shot at success, regardless of their background and dedicated his life to making that belief a reality."

As he watched President Barack Obama's inauguration earlier this year, Malone recalled indignities of the Jim Crow era in his childhood - his mother had to go to the bathroom on the side of the road during a family car trip because there were no restrooms for blacks.

"I don't look back on that, but you can't forget it," Malone, who had three television sets on his southeast Raleigh home so he wouldn't miss anything, told The Associated Press. "If you spend too much time on that, it creates a kind of resentment that will psychologically destroy you.

"Our best days are still in front of us."

Details for a memorial service had not been set Saturday.