First Black Brigadier General In NC National Guard Credits Sharecropper Father For Success

Jun 19, 2018

James Roy Gorham was the first black brigadier general in the National Guard and the vice president of the Kernersville branch of First Citizens Bank.
Credit Gabriella Bulgarelli / WUNC

For James Roy Gorham, growing up in the small farming community of Falkland, NC was full of tough lessons, and he learned many of them from his father.

Gorham says in the town of fewer than 100 people, there were not explicit signs designating areas for blacks or whites only, but there were unwritten rules about race. As a kid, he once violated one by sitting at a table usually occupied by white customers. His father yanked him up from the table and tried to teach him about the race dynamics in the small North Carolina town. Gorham’s father imparted tough love and tough lessons, and he didn’t leave room for self-pity or excuses. Gorham says looking back, his upbringing set up the path for his success.

He went on to become the first black brigadier general in the National Guard and the vice president of the Kernersville branch of First Citizens Bank. His book dedicated to his father is called Sharecropper’s Wisdom: Growing Today's Leaders the Old Fashioned Way” (Lael Publishing/ 2016). Gorham talks about his father and his upbringing with host Frank Stasio.