Fayetteville City Councilman Johnny Dawkins remembers Bill Hurley as only he could. Council voted last week to name the downtown baseball stadium’s plaza in honor of the former mayor, who died in November. Hurley served as mayor from 1981 to 1987. Johnny’s father, the late J.L. Dawkins, succeeded Hurley when Hurley decided to run for election to the North Carolina House of Representatives. J.L. won re-election seven times and served as mayor for life, dying in office in 2000.
J.L. served alongside Mayor Hurley as a council member. During last week’s tribute to Hurley, Johnny recalled that Hurley picked Johnny’s father up at their home on Ellington Street in Haymount for Monday night council meetings. Both J.L. and Hurley were first elected to City Council in the mid-1970s. They were inseparable, politically and personally.
When City Council decided to name the plaza at the entrance to the stadium for Hurley, Johnny noted the irony that the corner plaza at police headquarters across the street from the ballpark had been named for his father. Hurley and Dawkins are both remembered for their efforts to revitalize downtown Fayetteville. Hurley even manned the wrecking ball used to demolish buildings long the 500 block of Hay Street.
Hurley was a sports fan and was especially fond of baseball. Mark Hurley, the oldest of the mayor’s three sons, noted his dad had envisioned a downtown baseball stadium 30 years ago. He said his father loved sports, so when talk surfaced about naming the baseball stadium plaza after him, the Hurley family was extremely excited and humbled about the possibility of that becoming a reality.
“We want to thank the entire city of Fayetteville for the support we have received during our father’s passing,” Mark said. “It has truly been amazing to us. We are a part of a wonderful city.” Observers recall that in 1984, Fayetteville was named an All-America City, the first of three times it would win the honor.
“Many of us had the vision and knew Fayetteville could be a better place,” realtor John Malzone said, “but Bill Hurley led the way.”
Jordan Jones, Prince Charles LLC project manager, spoke of Mayor Hurley’s influence years ago shaping the $100 million in Hay Street economic development getting underway. Jones’ parents were contemporaries of Hurley.
“We fully recognize the vision and legacy he created and know that we would not be here today with that particular development without the vision he had a long time ago,” Jones said.
Jones’ firm is renovating the former hotel and is planning a 13-story structure adjacent to the stadium. Following the public hearing last week, City Councilman Jim Arp made a motion that the city formally dedicate the stadium plaza in Bill Hurley’s honor. The vote to do so was unanimous.
Photo: Bill Hurley, former Fayettville Mayor