One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about friends of my friends. The post below is the story on a friend of a friend for January 29, 2015.
Dr. Charles Jenkins has been a friend of mine since I arrived at UNCP in 1977. Charles Jenkins started working at Pembroke in 1971 and has served in many capacities during his 40 plus year career. He has worked in senior administrative posts for twenty-seven of his forty-four years.
At UNC Pembroke he has gone from faculty member to provost and vice chancellor, Dr. Jenkins also worked in the positions of academic dean, director of admissions and director of student teaching. He was named Professor Emeritus in 2007 and continues to teach in the School of Education’s graduate program in school administration. In 2009 he was named Interim Chancellor at UNC Pembroke when Allen Meadors left to go to University of Central Arkansas.
We both share a lot in common. We both graduated from East Carolina University, we both married dancers, and both of our wives maiden names are Gibson. His wife Karen still teaches dance in Laurinburg, NC.
When I was in school I had one of his good friends as a professor. Over the years this friend of Charles has treated me with lots of respect. Charles would always tell me when he spoke to his friend my name would come up. Charles Jenkins friend name was Dr. Jimmy Grimsley.
Today at lunch I ran into an emotional Charles Jenkins who told me his friend had died early of the morning of January 28th from an apparent heart attack. Jimmy Grimsley was 70 years old.
The Friend-CHARLES JENKINS
The Friend of the Friend-JIMMY GRIMSLEY
Charles Jenkins and his life long friend Jimmy Grimsley and my trip to Cuba
If you know Charles Jenkins you know in the late 1960’s he and two other men would attend East Carolina University together and become lifetime friends. What was so neat was that all three pursued a common professional career in higher education. All three earned their doctorate degrees and played leadership roles at their current universities.
The three friends are Charles Jenkins, Jerry McGee, and Jimmy Grimsley. Charles Jenkins became the Interim Chancellor at UNC Pembroke, Jimmy Grimsley was a leader in the Exercise Science Department at East Carolina, and Jerry McGee is the current President at Wingate University (NC).
I became connected with each of these men in different ways but want to focus on Jimmy Grimsley. I first got to know Jimmy as a ECU student. I had him for a couple of classes but we bonded because of his love for ECU Pirate Athletics and me being involved with ECU basketball. Jimmy’s entire family was very connected in the Greenville, NC community and I had a unique experience with Jimmy’s brother “Dokey” Grimsley in 1976. Jimmy had another brother Joe Grimsley who served as North Carolina Secretary of Administration under Governor Jim Hunt in the 1970’s.
In the summer of 1976 Jimmy’s brother “Dokey” who owned a trophy shop in Greenville, NC and was an booking supervisor for high school officials came to the ECU basketball offices with Dick Jones a TV Sports Anchor who worked for WITN-Channel 7 in Washington, NC from 1964-1989. Dick is depicted in photo below on right in paisley shirt.
These two wanted to use their influence with local congressman Walter B. Jones from Farmville, NC to get the ECU Basketball Staff (me included) to take a US State Department Goodwill trip to some foreign country. As a FYI Walter B. Jones Sr. served as a NC Congressman from 1966-1992. His son Walter B. Jones Jr. has been a congressman from 1995-present. Well our Head Coach Dave Patton didn’t think anything would come of it so he signed a couple letters pledging what we as coaches would offer if selected.
Well much to our surprise we got notification in late August that a 6 person American Basketball Delegation from East Carolina University was selected to go to CUBA early in October 1976 to perform a series of basketball clinics for military and US Citizens housed at Guantanamo Bay Military Base. The 4 day trip was to include all airfare, lodging, meals, and some recreational activities. Our travel party would include Dick Jones-publicity-Dokey Grimsley-officiating-Head Coach Dave Patton-Assistant Coach Butch Estes-Assistant Coach Billy Lee-and Assistant Coach Dan Kenney.
The trip was nothing like we perceived. We had visions of leaving the Norfolk Naval base in a private jet. We got to Norfolk and saw a jet with a red carpet we thought it was ours. This was pre-9-11 and we just parked our car and walked to the plane. Even pre-9-11 there was security and they quickly drew their weapons told us to halt. We explained what we were looking for and the guard told us that plane belonged to an Admiral. We needed to go over to where the C-130 were located. He told us those are the only planes going to Gitmo today. We were naïve and had no idea what a C-130 was. We knew it was big.
Flying in a C-130 was sitting on a wooden bench inside a small area in front of a cavernous storage area in rear of the plane.
Dokey and Dick were in charge of the itinerary and they didn’t tell us that one of the commitments we made was to play the sailors of the USS Compass in a game of basketball inside the ship. Talk about home court advantage. The court was about 45 feet long with seating that actually adjacent to the court. The spectators (sailors) could literally block our shots from the end zone seating. The court was at the bottom of the ship. I can only imagine what it was like when they were at sea. We played with the USS Compass Island docked in Guantanamo not with it rolling on the ocean. It felt like we climbed down 25 flights of stairs to get to that gym.
The USS Compass Island was commissioned in 1956 and decommissioned in 1980.
For the record we won the game 76-58 and Dokey being in the trophy business took the gift the USS Compass Captain gave us and made it into a trophy. When Dokey died Jimmy attempted to give it to ECU Athletics. They didn’t have a place for it so Jimmy asked Charles Jenkins to pass it on to me. It hangs proudly in my office.