When Harold Bowen '48 of Lexington looks back on his life of 88 years, he has accomplished much and he credits Catawba College for setting him on his successful life's path. Now, Bowen is doing something to pay Catawba back; he has established a scholarship at the College in memory of his wife, Jean Reid Bowen '49, and twin brother, Carroll W. Bowen '46.
Natives of Salisbury, Bowen and twin brother, Carroll, came to Catawba on scholarships to play football and baseball in 1941. Although World War II interrupted their college careers to varying degrees, both eventually graduated from the institution.
H. "Bub" and C "Bub," as the twins were called by their older sister, Clara Lee Lowder '35, were both members of Coach Gordon Kirkland's legendary Catawba Indians football team. Carroll was an offensive end and a defensive linebacker, while Harold played offensive tailback and defensive halfback "in the single-wing formation." They had only played on Kirkland's team for a season when, Harold recalls, "Coach Kirkland found out that if we joined the Marine Corps that they would let you finish college upon returning from active duty, so he took a large number of the football team members to the Marine Corps recruiting station in Raleigh, and that's where a good number of us were sworn in.
"That about wiped out the football team at Catawba during the war years, but Coach Kirkland put a team together during those years and continued to play very successfully."
The Bowen twins, now Marine Corps recruits, ended up at Duke University for V-12 units. Carroll received a medical discharge while at Duke in 1942 and returned to Catawba where he completed his degree in 1946. Thereafter, he went to work as a coach and teacher at High Point Central. Harold was shipped out from Duke to serve in the South Pacific. He was discharged in December of 1945. He returned to Catawba to complete his degree in 1947 and graduated in 1948.
"We were very mature when we came back to Catawba," Harold explains. "In an earlier newspaper interview, I described us as 'a rough, tough bunch.' There were a lot of my athletic friends coming back because they were in service too, so it was easy to make friends.
"I played on the Tangerine Bowl teams in '47 and '48 and was Little All-American my senior year."
Although football in those years was something to cheer about, Harold found academics and life on campus just as energizing as he pursued a degree in physical education. He recalls with fondness M.M. "Chub" Richards '41, Dr. Donald Dearborn, and his accounting teacher, Dr. Charles Douglas. He enjoyed music appreciation class with Dr. Christopher Thomas, Dr. John Hadley, his Education professor, and also enjoyed his French teacher, Dr. Nita Andrews. He valued his time on the field and in the classroom with Coach Kirkland.
He remembers dietician and staff member, the late Mary Emma Knox, whom he calls "Eggs Knox," explaining, "Carroll called her that and I picked it up." He remembers mixing his coffee with ice cream in the dining hall.
Although Harold's wife, Jean, was a junior while he was a senior on campus, he did not know her then. He was introduced to Jean in 1949 by the Rev. Dr. Billy Joe Leonard '50 of Lexington who persuaded Jean to apply for a teaching position at Lexington High School. "I told her to come on over to Lexington, that we had a ball over here." Jean joined the teaching staff at Lexington High School in 1949. She and Harold were married in 1951. After working in the educational field for 31 years, she retired in 1980.
Ironically, Harold recalls that Billy Joe Leonard's brother, Lindsey Paul Leonard, who was killed during World War II, had been his roommate at Catawba in '41-'42. Today, Harold notes, a church in Lexington, Paul's Chapel (UCC) is named in memory of Lindsey Paul Leonard.
Harold taught and coached football and basketball at Lexington High for several years until he was named assistant principal there in 1953. He earned his master's degree and principal's certificate from UNC Greensboro and became principal of Pickette Elementary School in 1956.
He was the first male principal in elementary education in Lexington.
He notes he "found a home in elementary education" and remained at Pickette until his retirement in 1981.
Even with a career in education, athletics continued to play a large role in Harold's life, so much so that wife Jean often joked that she was a football widow from August to December each year.
After graduating from Catawba, Harold and brother Carroll reconnected with Bill Curry whom they had met at Catawba in 1941. The two worked with Curry as spotters in his Carolinas Sports Network. Harold later spotted for Woody Durham's Carolina Tarheels coverage. Both Bowens are members of the Catawba Hall of Fame, and Harold is a member of the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame and the American Legion Department of N.C. Baseball Hall of Fame.
Today, it seems only appropriate that Harold keeps his hand in broadcasting. He has his own radio show, "Harold's Folks," which airs five days a week at 9 a.m. on WLXN 1440 AM in Lexington.
After retiring from Pickette Elementary, Harold was elected to serve on the Lexington City Board of Education in the 1980s and also served two terms as the Mayor of Lexington (1986-1990). He says he chose not to run again "so he could pursue other interests."
Thanks to Catawba, Harold says, "I was able to get a degree to do teaching and help kids reach their full potential. Teaching is the greatest profession in the world – it's what Christ did, and for giving me that opportunity, I owe Catawba a debt of gratitude."
Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress jokes that Harold is busier in retirement than most people working fulltime, but notes that the College is indebted to him for creating the Bowen Family Endowed Scholarship Fund that will benefit future Catawba students. "Harold knows that our treasure lies in our next generation," Childress says. "If this scholarship creates an opportunity for a student who had none, it has done what Harold intended it to do."
PHOTOS: Harold Bowen '48