Raiford Fulghum worked for the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation department for 30 years. Born in Wilson, he has lived most of his adult life in Zebulon. He has yet to find a sport he doesn’t like.
Q: You spent many years with the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department. Did that grow from a love of sports?
A: “I was born and raised in the Rock Ridge area of Wilson County. In high school, I played basketball, football, and baseball. When I graduated, I attended Atlantic Christian (former Barton College) because I planned on teaching and coaching. When I got out of college, I began teaching and coaching at Corinth-Holders, which was grades 1-12 at the time. That was 1958. I always enjoyed playing and being around sports.”
Q: What grades did you teach? What sports did you coach?
A: “I taught mostly at the freshman level. I taught social studies, health and physical education, and some basic math. I coached the girls and boys basketball teams, and I also coached baseball. I was a principal there the last two years. I had a good faculty and I enjoyed being a teacher more than I did the administrator side of it. When I left, I taught for a couple of years at Southwood Community College, now the Salemburg SBI training school. I decided it was time to make a change so I left there and worked for the City of Raleigh, where I worked for 30 years.”
Q: How did you end up in Zebulon?
A: “I did live in Raleigh for about five years, but I decided I wanted to live outside of town, so I started looking outside of town and chose Zebulon.”
Q: What were your duties with Raleigh’s park and recreation department?
A: “I would oversee the budget, the community center, the youth council, the senior citizens’ program, other areas. The way I explained it, I would tell people that it was my job to clear the stones out of the road so people could do their job.”
Q: Did you interact with the staff from eastern Wake’s parks and recreation department?
A: “While I was in Raleigh, I helped start an athletic director’s workshop for the state, so I was active in dealing with the staffs from Zebulon, Wendell, and Knightdale. I got to know them and I would help them out and give them advice.”
Q: With a career so involved in sports and recreation, were your personal hobbies sports-related?
A: “I used to play a little golf. I just got back from a trip to the coast with my daughter where we got a chance to fish – we enjoy doing that together. I am also active with my church, Wakefield Central. I have been a member there since the 1970s. I have taught Sunday School and served on the deacons, so that has been enjoyable.”
Q: So you also spend time with your kids. Anyone follow in your footsteps? Do you have any grandkids?
A: “My oldest son, I live with him. My daughter is a teacher at Carver Elementary, and my youngest son works with the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department. He helps to oversee the downtown area, and the town’s parks. I have one grandchild – he is a sophomore at East Wake High. Every so often, we get a chance to play golf together.”
Q: Who was the most influential person in your life?
A: “I would have to say my high school coach, Onnie Cockrell. He was really good at preparing you for the experience of playing sports. He also was willing to listen. He was a great person to talk to and he was a person you respected. He made you feel that he put his full trust and support on you.”
Q: Presented with the opportunity to also give a young person advice, what would you tell them?
A: “First of all, be yourself. Get an education in something that you are interested in. When a door opens, step in and give whatever it is that you are doing 110 percent. Have a relationship with the Lord – it has helped me. And treat people the way you would want to be treated.”
Correspondent Dena Coward