W. Dallas Herring, who died Jan. 5, 2007, at 90, left a lasting legacy on education in
North Carolina. He was a visionary leader for the State Board of Education from 1957
to 1977, a time of dramatic change.
Herring was born in Rose Hill in 1916. He began his public service career at 23 when the
people of Rose Hill named him the youngest mayor in the country. During his tenure as
mayor (from 1939 to 1951), streets were paved, water and sewer systems were provided
and a town hall and fire department were established. From 1951 to 1955, Herring served as
Chair of the Duplin County Board of Education. Under his leadership, an evaluation of county
schools led to the consolidation of 15 schools. During a 20-year tenure as Chairman of the
State Board of Education, Herring led innovations and improvements in curriculum
improvement, class size, pay increases, teacher aides and kindergartens.
In the 1950's, state officials recognized the need for education beyond high school. When
Herring joined the State Board of Education, Governor Luther Hodges asked him to develop
a plan for industrial education. In 1957, the General Assembly adopted Herring's plan and
initiated a statewide system of industrial education centers. That same year, the General
Assembly adopted the first Community College Act, which developed a system of junior
colleges. By 1961, there were five public junior colleges emphasizing arts and sciences
and seven industrial education centers focusing on technical and vocational education.
The need to coordinate the two systems was apparent to Herring and to Governor Terry
Sanford. Their efforts succeeded on May 17, 1963, when the General Assembly
established the North Carolina Community College System.
In the last 40 years, Herring has continued to advise community college leaders.
He served as a trustee of James Sprunt Community College from 1971 to 1986.
Community college presidents and administrators frequently visit Herring at his home in
Rose Hill to consult with him.
Herring has received numerous awards including The North Carolina Award, the highest
civilian award in North Carolina, and three honorary doctorates. James Sprunt Community
College has a building, a lecture series and a scholarship named in his honor. North Carolina
State University has the W. Dallas Herring Distinguished Professorship. In 1983, in
recognition of the System's 20th anniversary, the State Board of Community Colleges
recognized Herring as an individual who made a significant contribution to the establishment,
development and enhancement of the North Carolina Community College System. Two years
later, this award became the I.E. Ready Award, the highest honor given by the State Board of
Dr. Herring was an advocate for the education of all North Carolinians. In the 1950’s,
state officials recognized the need for education beyond high school. When Dr. Herring
joined the State Board of Education, Gov. Luther Hodges asked him to develop a plan for
industrial education. In 1957, the General Assembly adopted his plan and initiated a
statewide system of industrial education centers. That same year, the General Assembly
adopted the first Community College Act, which created a system of junior colleges.
Dr. Herring worked with Gov. Terry Sanford to bring the now thriving 58-member system to
life in 1963. Today, more than 750,000 students learn at these institutions each year.
“Dallas Herring will be remembered as one of the major forces in shaping the mission and the
initial organizational structures for the current North Carolina community college system,” Dr.
Carol Kasworm, head of the College of Education’s Department of Adult and Higher Education,
said. “As noted by Gov. Terry Sanford, W. Dallas Herring was ‘North Carolina’s greatest s
pokesman for education in the 20th century.’ His beliefs lead to the development of a
community college system with a national reputation for its innovation of programs, its
efforts to provide access to all citizens, and the commitment to quality learning and training
for workforce development.”
For his outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Herring was awarded honorary doctorates at NC
State University, Davidson College and Pfeiffer College. He was named North Carolina’s Man
of the Year in 1954 and received the North Carolina Award for Public Service in 1972.
In a moving speech for community college leaders in July 2006, one of his last public
appearances, Dr. Herring remarked that at his age he couldn’t be as active as he had been
formerly, but there was one thing he could still do – urge those working in community colleges
to stay true to the vision of education for all people and to persevere courageously in the face
of the many challenges confronting their institutions.
By this measure, Dallas Herring was indeed one of North Carolina’s greatest leaders. Inspired
by a firm belief in the power of education, he made it his life’s work to build a system that
would serve all of the state’s residents by preparing them for productive work and active
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