Salem Mayors' Biographies
Winston Mayors' Biographies
Mayor Robert W. Gorrell
1917 - 1921
Gorrell was mayor for two terms. His father had been mayor of Winston. Gorrell had been an Alderman for the town of Winston from 1907-1909. While he was mayor, city services were greatly expanded. The Board adopted an ordinance establishing three main city departments: Public Accounts and Finance, Public Works, and Public Safety. Construction of new hospitals for both blacks and whites were begun. The Salem Lake reservoir was constructed as was one of the finest water treatment plants in the South at that time and the site for a new city hall was purchased.
Mayor James G. Hanes
1921 - 1925
Hanes was already a two-term Alderman when he was elected Mayor. He was mayor during one of the city’s periods of rapid growth. The city built five high schools and several fire stations. Construction began on a new city hall. The City Market was built at 6th and Cherry, major additions were made to City Hospital and a Department of Health was created. Successful bond referendums allowed for the paving of numerous streets and the extension of water and sewer lines during his tenure. An annexation program made Winston-Salem for a time the largest city in the state. In his two terms, the city spent $150,000 for parks and playgrounds. Hanes went on to spend two decades as chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. He retired in 1954 as chairman of the board of Hanes Hosiery Mills Co.
The community center bearing his name was built in 1957.
Mayor Thomas Barber
1925 - 1929
During Thomas Barber's first term, the former site of City Hall, where the Reynolds Building now stands, was sold to R.J.R. Tobacco Company, and the present City Hall was completed in 1926. Mayor Barber presided over the first meeting held there on November 19. His administration also brought a 2.5 million dollar bond issue for schools, expansion of the water plant, increased fire protection, the planning of more recreation facilities and the opening of Miller Municipal Airport, the forerunner of Smith Reynolds Airport. West Fourth Street from Marshall to Glade streets and Courthouse Square were widened, and a new City Yard was built on Stadium Drive. He was manager of the insurance department of Wachovia Bank and Trust. Barber was the nephew of Winston mayor Eugene Gray.
Mayor George W. Coan
1929 - 1935
1943 - 1945
George W. Coan was reelected mayor after being out of office for several years. His first six years as mayor spanned the early depression period during which he instituted a detailed outside audit of city accounts. He also affected economies and refunded the bond indebtedness. The police and fire departments were reorganized and the city’s first supplemental school tax was adopted. Between his administrations he served as state director for the WPA (Work Progress Administration), a federal anti-depression program.
Mayor W.T. Wilson
1935 - 1939
A former alderman and former judge of municipal court, William T. Wilson was mayor in 1936 when buses replaced streetcars in Winston-Salem. While his grandfather Thomas J. Wilson was mayor of Winston in 1887, the town drew plans to install the first streetcars. During William Wilson's administration, a slum-clearance program through WPA (Work Progress Administration) was thwarted when the board of aldermen declared that the city had no slums. Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital opened for black citizens, Bowman Gray Stadium was built, and the city adopted the city seal.
Mayor James R. Fain
1939 - 1941
A dynamo of energy and action, James R. Fain, a banker and native of Tennessee, was prominent for a quarter century in the political, civic and business life of the community that he adopted. He led the building of the Cloverdale street network, an addition to Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital, consolidation of city and county welfare, the opening of Reynolds Park and plans for building Miller Park and a park for black citizens.
Mayor R. J. Reynolds
1941 to 1942
When Dick Reynolds, son of the founder of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., announced for mayor, six candidates withdrew in his favor, including the incumbent. He led the board of aldermen to reverse its declaration that no slums existed in Winston-Salem and won authorization of the city's public-housing and slum-clearance program. He also helped remove the ban against Sunday movies. The public-housing program was postponed by the war, and Reynolds, himself, took a leave of absence to enter the Navy.
Mayor J. Wilbur Crews
1942 - 1943
An alderman and mayor pro tempore for 12 years, J. Wilbur Crews became acting mayor when Mayor R. J. Reynolds went off to war. Crews ran for election to a full term but was defeated in the primary by former Mayor George W. Coan. Neilson's city history says Crews "served the people diligently and well in his quiet and unassuming but efficient manner." Municipal activity was greatly curtailed during the war years.
Mayor George D. Lentz
1944 - 1949
With the lifting of war restrictions, Winston-Salem experienced a burst of energy during the two terms of George D. Lentz. For the first time in 22 years, the city limits expanded. Street paving accelerated, city-county planning began, Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital built a nurses' annex and citizens adopted the council-manager form of government.
Mayor Marshall Kurfees
1949 - 1961
A flamboyant, can-do populist, Marshall Kurfees, scorned by the power structure and belittled by the press, won the third time he ran for mayor. In a dozen years, he turned the city upside down, changing its heart and soul as well as its face and body. He opened jobs and seats on the boards to black citizens, secured highly advanced water and wastewater facilities, a hospital authority, and approval for Interstate 40.
Mayor John R. Surratt
1961 - 1963
New to public office and only 33 years old, John Surratt became an innovator: the city flag, key to the city, and Sister Cities program were among his contributions. Reserved in demeanor but acting with resolution, he brought his legal knowledge to bear by creating a traffic court, keeping swimming pools open through racial unrest, starting a downtown development program and encouraging cooperation among cities of the Piedmont Triad.
Mayor M.C. Benton
1963 - 1970
A pillar of strength in a decade of turbulent social change, M.C. (Red) Benton sensitively and compassionately led the city not merely to endure the birth pangs of integrated society but also to advance. He guided the city's building of swimming pools and recreation centers as many cities closed theirs. The convention center that today bears his name, new roads, streets, and parks were among his many accomplishments.
Mayor Franklin Shirley
1970 - 1977
Resonant-voiced, pipe-smoking professor of speech at Wake Forest University, Dr. Franklin Shirley championed low-income housing, public transportation, street paving, and construction of the convention center. His rural Kentucky upbringing engendered a neighborly care that showed in his amiable and outgoing personality, his open-door policy, and his reading letters to Santa on the radio.
Mayor Wayne Corpening
1977 - 1989
A down-home mover of people and projects, Wayne A Corpening found no job too big, no request too small, no hours too long. His ability to foster cooperation among groups, to forge public and private partnerships, to spur economic development and to obtain state and federal funding were at the heart of his tireless efforts and dedicated service to the City of Winston-Salem.
Mayor Martha Wood
1989 - 1997
Steadfastly committed to open government and citizen participation, Martha Swain Wood opened the doors of City Hall to all citizens, created new avenues of civic cooperation, and united diverse interests into a progressive coalition that moved Winston-Salem into a new era of consensus-building and economic vitality. Violent crime decreased, the economy surged, and regional, national, and international partnerships flourished.
Mayor Jack Cavanagh
1997 - 2001
During his term of office, Mayor Jack A. Cavanagh Jr. worked to give Winston-Salem a strong national and international identity. He was a particularly tireless promoter of downtown Winston-Salem, which he considered to be the heart and soul of the city. During his tenure he initiated a downtown revitalization effort that culminated with a new downtown master plan and the redevelopment of Fourth Street.
Mayor Allen Joines
2001 - to present
Allen Joines became mayor after retiring from the city with 29 years of service. As mayor, he has concentrated on rebuilding the economy and unifying the community. During his first term, over 4,000 jobs were created through recruitment of new companies. He continues to work to create additional jobs through recruitment, expansion of existing companies and new business start-ups. The growth of the city's tax base has increased from about 1% in 2001 to over 3% in each of the past two years.
Joines is known for his work to bring about racial healing and fostering a unified community. He was presented the 2002 Legacy Award from the Winston-Salem Foundation in recognition of his "visionary leadership and for committing his life to the betterment of Winston-Salem." He was named the "Man of the Year" in 2003 by the Winston-Salem Chronicle.