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The Daily Planet's Opinion: April 2017
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:31

Gladys Knight, husband give Canton terrific lift

We thank Gladys Knight (an Asheville-area resident and Motown Records legend) and her husband William McDowell (an entrepreneur and Canton native married to Knight since 2001) for their willingness to give back to —   and restore history for — Western North Carolina. 

Specifically, Knight and McDowell — in 2013 — purchased a dilapidated 20,000-square-foot segregation-era high school (listed in Haywood County property records as in “very poor” condition and adjoining 6.5 acres — located in the Gibsontown community southeast of downtown Canton — at auction for $80,000. 

The couple plans to turn it into a $5 million community center by 2019, if the Reynold High School Community Foundation meets its fundraising goals. To that end, the RHSCF announced in mid-February that the proposed Reynolds Community Center would provide childcare, exercise and performing arts facilities, a food pantry, substance abuse counseling and musical instruction. 

Of course, the musical offering is no surprise, given Knight’s multiple Grammy Awards and long-standing reign as “The Empress of Soul.” The peak of her singing career was in the mid- to late 1960s with Gladys Knight and the Pips, her iconic Motown soul group.

The foundation said it will be seeking grants and federal funding, sell pavers with the donor’s name inscribed on them, even (possibly) sell naming rights to parts of the facility and hold some charity concerts at which Knight would perform — most likely in the Asheville area, but her fundraising concerts for the center could possibly be national in scope.

We heartily agree with Canton Mayor Mike Ray’s recent assertion that “this would mean so much in bringing our communities together... and promoting it for all people.”



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