Former N.C. State Senator Robert C. Carpenter passed away Saturday in his Franklin home at the age of 87.
Lovingly known to many as Senator Bob, an entire community mourns the loss of a legend, but finds comfort in remembering his tireless efforts and dedication to the people of Macon County.
The Macon County Board of Commissioners took time to honor Carpenter before beginning their August meeting. Before Macon County Commissioner Kevin Corbin led the invocation, he offered attendees the opportunity to join in a moment of silent reflection or prayer for Senator Bob. Corbin said, “Senator Bob was probably a friend to everybody in this room, regardless of political affiliation.” Corbin continued, “He was a true gentleman, a servant to Macon County and a servant to this state; we all loved him.”
Corbin, who grew up with Carpenter’s sons, said that Carpenter was instrumental in getting little league baseball started in Franklin, and was also a coach for seven years. Corbin describes Carpenter as having a servant’s heart and boasts about Carpenter’s diligence in community involvement.
Corbin also commended Carpenter for having a strong faith, but also never imposing his faith on anyone even though he lived it out and showed how important it was to him.
“It always struck me that he had such a gentle personality,” said Corbin. “I never knew him to be argumentative or difficult, but he stood up for what he believed, even people that disagreed with him just had to agree to disagree,” noted Corbin.
Senator John Snow also admired Carpenter’s dedication to his faith.
“Bob Carpenter was one of the finest Christian gentlemen I have ever known,” said Snow. “He gave outstanding representation to the people of the Senate District 50 for 16 years and in spite of our political differences, I am proud and honored to have shared his friendship.” According to Snow, Carpenter took time to send Snow a hand written letter after the last election in which he shared some thoughts that Snow said, “I will always treasure.”
Corbin admired Carpenter and said that it was because of him that he ran for county commissioner. “Bob was the one that came to my office and talked to me and encouraged me to try for the county commissioner seat,” said Corbin. “I have always had a great admiration for him. He was an advocate for the county and state, and he had the best interest of the people at heart; he will be missed.”
In a statement from Chris Murray, Chairman of the Macon County Republican Party, Murray remembers Carpenter’s accomplishments. “Some men spend their whole lives complaining about how things are and how they should be. Senator Bob stood up to the plate many years ago and made a positive difference, changing lives for the better in his community and state ... Senator Bob was a man full of life and political experience and a man who was always willing to give good advice and patient counsel to those of us with less experience.” Murray sends his condolences and prayers to Carpenter’s entire family. Murray wrote, “We hope they know we will never forget ‘our Senator Bob.’ May he rest in peace in the arms of the Lord.”
County Commissioner Ronnie Beale believes that records alone can stand as testament to Carpenter’s works in Macon County.
“The records will show that his work as senator enhanced the quality of life for Maconians, and the entire district, through whatever avenue,” commented Beale. “We are very appreciative of his work and his years of service in Raleigh. Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with Mrs. Carpenter and his whole family.”
“Not many of us are irreplacable, said Senator Jim Davis, “but I would say that Carpenter was one of the few who was irreplaceable.” In addition to working hard at representing the people of Macon County, Davis said that Carpenter was also good at working with democrats to get bipartisan bills passed, especially in healthcare and mental health, which were very important to Carpenter.
Carpenter was born and raised in Macon County and spent the majority of his life serving his community. A 1942 graduate of Franklin High School, Carpenter briefly attended Western Carolina University before leaving college to join the war efforts of World War II. He received flight training from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before flying with the United States Navy from 1943 to 1945. After the war, Carpenter graduated from the University of Virginia School of Consumer Banking then served as a bank executive with Bank of Franklin, the Bank of Asheville and was vice president for First Union, managing five branches in the local area.
After retirement, Carpenter began his political career in 1988 when he became a Republican Senator for the 50th Senate district in the North Carolina General Assembly serving a total of eight terms, narrowly losing re-election for a ninth term by a mere 300 votes. Carpenter was a proud member of St. Francis Catholic Church, K.O.C., American Legion, S.A.R.S., and was a member of Franklin’s Rotary Club for more than 50 years.
Carpenter was the son of the late Edgar Jackson Carpenter and Eula Dean Carpenter. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife of 39 years, Ruth Cope Carpenter who died in 1985; three daughters, Elizabeth Poppe, Jane Gullett and Deborah Marshall; three brothers, Jack, Dean and Edgar and stepson, Clyde Bryant, Jr.
Carpenter is survived by his wife of 25 years, T. Helen Edwards Bryant Carpenter; five children, Robert D. Carpenter of Sylva, Dale R. Carpenter of Hurricane, W.Va., Thomas Carpenter of Conyers, Ga., Edgar G. Carpenter of Charlotte, N.C. and Christine M. Carpenter of Waynesville, N.C.; brother, Kenneth Carpenter of Warner Robbins, Ga.; sister, Louise Darnell of Franklin; three step daughters, Deborah Bryant of Franklin, Susan Zolo of Fairfield, Iowa and Rebecca Prince of Franklin;34 grandchildren and great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral mass was held Wednesday, August 10, at St. Francis Catholic Church. Carpenter was laid to rest the Woodlawn Cemetery with military graveside rites by VFW Post 7339 and the American Legion Post 108.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society.