Christian Action League
After a long and prestigious career of service to his community and four consecutive terms in the State Senate, veteran Senator Vernon Malone (D-Wake) unexpectedly passed away of natural causes Saturday, April 18. Malone was 77.
The Raleigh News and Observer reports that on Saturday morning Malone “mowed the front lawn of his Southeast Raleigh home before taking a break, sitting down on a chair in the backyard to read a newspaper that he never finished.”
During his 35 years of public service, Malone is probably best known for his commitment to the advancement of education. He had served as chairman of the Wake County school board and was instrumental during the 1970s in merging Raleigh city schools with those in the county. Malone had also served as chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. He was elected in 2002 to represent District 14 as a State Senator and had held that post until his death on Saturday.
Having lived through Jim Crow days in the south, Malone was well acquainted with how life used to be for blacks in North Carolina and how much they’ve changed. Reporting on Malone’s passing, the Associated Press noted that he once recounted a story about a time when his mother had to relieve herself on the side of the road during a family trip because restrooms were not available for African-Americans. “I don’t look back on that,” he said, “but you can’t forget it.” “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,” he added.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Senator Malone,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “He always kept an open door to me and any concerns I had about a legislative measure. Our conversations were always positive and cordial – even when we disagreed. Whenever we met in the halls of the General Assembly, he made it a point to greet me graciously and many times asked if I had some concern about a matter. I remember a very interesting conversation we once had when we ran into to each other at a Red Lobster restaurant in Raleigh. That conversation demonstrated some of the stark philosophical differences about public-policy between us. But I was most impressed with a remark he made: ‘Reverend,’ he said, ‘you would be surprised with how much you and I really agree if we had more time together.’ That experience affirmed for me the necessity of working diligently with those I strongly disagree to see if there’s common ground.”
Creech also noted that a couple of reminders about the fragility of life had taken place only days apart for people serving at the Legislative Building in Raleigh. On April 2 Representative Becky Carney suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed while talking on the phone. Fortunately Carney, whose life was certainly in the balance, is now recovering. Now Senator Malone suddenly and most unexpectedly passes. “It just reminds me of how in one minute a person can be in this world and the next stepped into eternity,” said Creech. “Lawmakers, more importantly each of us, desperately need to understand that in the final analysis there comes judgment. Unless we have been renewed and redeemed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we’ll be lost forever.”
Senator Malone’s wife passed away after a battle with cancer two years ago. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.
Malone’s body was in repose at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh on Wednesday, where the family received friends and visitors. Rev. Creech was one of the more than a thousand people who paid their respects.
A memorial service was held on Thursday at noon at the church. The Raleigh News and Observer reported: “State legislators filled nearly a third of the church, having been Malone’s colleagues since he joined the state Senate in 2003… After the service, Malone’s flag-draped casket was carried down East Martin Street on a caisson pulled by four state troopers on horseback.”
Governor Bev Perdue had ordered all state flags at half mask.