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BAILEY — After six years as the Bailey Chamber of Commerce’s president, Cecil Hawley is hoping someone else will take the reins.
Hawley stepped down July 1. He said he’ll continue to donate his time and money to help the town, but the chamber needs a new business booster to lead the organization.
Under Hawley’s leadership, the chamber placed welcome signs and planted flower beds around town. He helped stretch the once hour-long town Christmas parade into a daylong event with vendors, food trucks and music.
Hawley was part of a group of upstarts who rewrote the chamber bylaws, unchanged since the 1950s. They had big plans that mostly fell apart.
The group held a flea market fundraiser among other projects, but few folks participated.
“Nobody wants to do anything,” Hawley said. “They want a membership. That’s it.”
Hawley said he will maintain his two business memberships in the chamber, one for his rental houses and the other for his used car lot.
Although Hawley is tired and ready to step back, he said the town has a lot going for it right now.
“We have the best police chief we’ve ever had in Chief (Steve) Boraski,” Hawley said. “He’s very community-orientated. He started National Night Out here and blood drives. I’ll help him any way I can.”
Born and raised in Bailey as the oldest of three children, Hawley has traveled the globe and held important positions in the nuclear field.
“Not bad for a $10 redneck from Bailey,” Hawley said.
Hawley graduated from Bailey High School in 1965 and was ranked second to last in his class of 44. He said a long, winding road led him away from Bailey as a young man and back again when he grew older.
Hawley studied electrical drafting at Wilson Technical Institute and went to work in the shipyards at Newport News, Virginia. He was drafted into the Vietnam War and served in the 111st Airborne Division.
After the war, Hawley returned to the shipyards. He helped design the submarine featured in the blockbuster film “The Hunt for Red October.”
Hawley met his wife Janet in the late 1960s. She worked at Roses in Wilson and he hung out at Bill’s Barbecue.
“What woman would want a Bailey redneck living on a tenant farm, 43 ½ down the line?” Hawley asked, answering that he’s extremely lucky his future wife even spoke to him when they met.
The couple soon moved to Charlotte and he began taking jobs as a contractor in the nuclear field for companies like Duke Energy and Carolina Power and Light.
“I was doing great,” Hawley said. “Triple-time isn’t a big deal for CP&L.”
Hawley found time to get his pilot’s license in 1974.
But eventually, Hawley grew tired of working long hours six and seven days a week.
“I left it all behind and returned to Bailey in 1984,” Hawley said.
Hawley said he’s most proud of the time he got to spend with his daughter, now a veterinarian in Little Rock, Arkansas, who specializes in operating on fish and turtles.
“For people in this town that hope I don’t live long, I have MGUS from Agent Orange,” Hawley said, referring to a blood disease that medical research describes as a cancer precursor. “The doctors test my blood. If it comes back, I don’t have long to live.”