Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod penned the following farewell letter to Sybil Champion.
Dear Ms. Champion:
On behalf of the Town Council and all citizens of Clayton, we’d like to express our heartfelt appreciation for your nearly seven decades of service to the town of Clayton. You have been a devoted and tireless friend to this community since you first arrived from England. You were most generous with your time, your energy and your vision. You have been a constant, guiding force in helping Clayton become the “Premier Community for Active Families.”
You helped citizens become involved in their government and bring change by serving as an election judge. You helped ensure medical help was available in the area by serving on Clayton’s Medical Committee, Johnston County’s Mental Health Board and by being appointed by the governor to serve on the N.C. Health Service Board. You became an advocate for education by doing everything from leading the Clayton High School PTA as president to recording reading tapes for the primary school so students could improve their reading and language skills by following along.
You helped write Clayton’s history, literally, by serving as the historical chair for our 1969 Centennial Celebration and researching, then editing Clayton’s history book. You inspired and challenged the community through your active service to the Woman’s Club of Clayton for decades.
While you have been making a difference in all of these ways for so many years in Clayton, by far your legacy will live largest at Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library. We know when you first saw Clayton’s “library” in 1946, your heart sank.
But you realized you could do something. Your organized committees, you raised money, you appeared before councils, boards and county commissions. You were instrumental in securing books, equipment, librarian salaries, even the donation for the building and then, later, the funding for the expansion; all were due to your hard work and passion. You saw the value and importance a library brings to a community, and you dedicated yourself to ensuring it grew and improved. You were instrumental in forming the Friends of the Library and served more than 50 years on the Clayton Library Advisory Board.
It is with the utmost confidence that we can truly say that without your efforts and leadership, the Clayton library of today would not have been possible.
You are a model for me and our elected officials. Someone who has contributed in countless ways to the town of Clayton’s social, financial and political well-being. You have been promoting Clayton before anyone even knew it’s essential to market and promote a town.
In 1975, you were recognized as Clayton’s Distinguished Citizen, and you remain our distinguished citizen more than 30 years later. You have graced our town with so many blessings. This letter cannot express the magnitude or our gratitude. You are an inexhaustible servant. A willing and enthusiastic volunteer. A true treasure to the town of Clayton that no one will ever forget.
Jody L. McLeod