Former commissioner leaves behind lifetime of service
Last week, all across Macon County residents mourned the loss of life-long public servant Harold Corbin.
Corbin, who was born on April 7, 1932, passed away last Wednesday. Corbin, who lived and served in Macon County his entire life, passed away in the very bedroom in which he was born 82 years before.
Corbin began his stint in public service by serving in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Corbin served in the military for four years before returning home to Macon County.
Corbin made a living as a business owner in Macon County. In the 1950s, he and his wife Joann owned and operated H&J Restaurant, which later became the Downtowner on Main Street in Franklin.
Corbin is also credited with being one of the first voices residents heard across the airwaves as a radio DJ when WFSC first signed on in 1957.
After Corbin’s first wife passed away, he later remarried and he and his wife Dean owned and operated Corbin’s Catering until retirement.
He was passionately involved in politics all of his adult life and was able to work with both political parties for the betterment of the fellow man, the county, the district and the state of N.C. “One of the things that has always stood out to me the most is how proudly my dad served as a member of the Republican Party,” said Kevin Corbin. “He was a member of the Republican Party for over 50 years and he voted and supported Republicans for all of his life. But although he was a staunch conservative, he believed in a two-party system and it was his motto to work with members of both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, in order to best serve the voters.”
From 1980-1989, Corbin served as the chairman of the 11th Congressional District Republican Party, and in 1981, under his tenure, Bill Hendon became the first Republican from the 11th District to be elected to Congress in more than 100 years.
From 1998-2002, Corbin served the residents of Macon County as a member of the Macon County Board of Commissioners. Corbin was elected as chairman of the board his first year in office, and remained chairman for all four years that he served.
“I was privileged to serve with Harold on the Macon County Commission and as a freshman member, he was chosen as chairman, and I think that speaks volumes about him,” said North Carolina Senator Jim Davis. “The thing I remember most about Harold was how willing he was to work across party lines. He didn't care if you were Republican or Democrat, all he wanted to do was what was best for the citizens of Macon County.”
While on the commission, Corbin and his fellow board members began the school improvement plan that was just completed with the construction of Iotla Valley. Corbin worked to see the construction of Cartoogechaye and South Macon elementary schools as well as the English wing of Franklin High School. During his tenure, Corbin helped push for the renovations to the middle school, Highlands, and Nantahala as well and develop the longterm vision of public education in Macon County.
Also while on the board, Corbin aided in the development of the airport terminal in hopes of bringing economic development and advancement to Macon County. Corbin and his fellow commissioners also showed citizens their commitment to public safety with the construction of the Macon County Detention Center as well as the Human Services Building.
“I have never met anyone that loved their community as much as he did,” said Davis. “He was a great man and an absolutely terrific public servant.”
In addition to the commission, Corbin served citizens in his district as chairman of the Southwestern Planning Commission, Dept. on Aging Board, and chaired a committee that raised $19.5 million to purchase and preserve 4,600 acres of the Needmore property. The property is now owned and managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. He served on the Smoky Mountain Host board of directors. He served his county with four years as chairman of the Macon County Board of Commissioners; served on the Macon County Health Board, Macon County Recreation Park Commission Economic Development Board, Tourist Development Board, Macon Program for Progress Board, Macon Board of Elections, Macon County Airport Authority, and Little Tennessee Watershed Association.
An endeavor near and dear to his heart was the Macon County Folk Heritage Commission and Folk Festival Commission. Corbin was instrumental in bringing the annual Folk Festival to Franklin. Since the festival’s inception, Corbin could be found year after year in his overalls displaying a moonshining still. “Dad really enjoyed mountain heritage. He was proud of where he came from and proud of how he was raised,” said Corbin. “It has always been important to him to preserve his heritage and do what he can to pass it on to future generations. Moonshining is a large part of mountain culture and dad wanted to teach others the history and relevance of it in the Appalachian Mountains."
“Harold will be fondly remembered for his dedication and commitment to preserving heritage in Macon County,” said Anne Hyder, chair of the Board of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County. “He was a Charter Board member of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County and a vital part of the Franklin Folk Festival especially known and loved for his moonshine still exhibit.”
Corbin served on the state level as a member of the Council of Government, a member of the Parks & Parkway Commission and a member of the State Health Coordinating Council. The governor of North Carolina awarded him with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine; the highest honor that can be bestowed on a North Carolina citizen.
To recognize Corbin’s dedication to not just Macon County, but North Carolina as a whole, in May 2014, Congressman Mark Meadows read a proclamation on the floor of the United States House of Representatives honoring Harold for his lifetime of achievements. The proclamation read by Congressman Meadows, is now part of the permanent Congressional Record stored in the Library of Congress.
“Harold Corbin was a dedicated public servant of the 11th District of North Carolina,” said Congressman Meadows. “I’m grateful for his work in the community and know that his contributions to the District will long live on as his legacy. Mr. Corbin was an example to all of us of what service and leadership in the community should look like. I was privileged to know him and worked closely with him. My heartfelt prayers and sympathy are with his family.”