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PROGRESS: Giving back to his community

Carl U. Eggleston has a rich legacy in the community where he has spent most of his life.

He encountered real struggles early on, but he persevered and put himself in a position to give back to his community, which he has done — and continues to do — in many ways.

Eggleston was born in Amelia County, but then his parents moved to Farmville in 1952 when he was 2 years old.

Several years later, he was affected when the public schools in Prince Edward closed in opposition to the order to integrate by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Brown v. Board of Education.

“When the school closed in 1959, I was in the second grade, promoted to the third,” he said. “For two years, I didn’t go to school at all, just kind of played around in the street. The second two years, my parents were in a home over in Cumberland County, so I went to school in Cumberland County for two years.”

He returned to Prince Edward when the closed schools reopened.

Eggleston said the Brown Scholarship Fund was formed by the state and media philanthropist John Kluge to help give those affected by the school closing a chance at a public education. Eggleston joined the ranks of the Brown Scholars, who he said were the first students that went back to college and gained a college degree after having been shut out of the schools in Prince Edward.

In 1983 in Farmville, Eggleston founded the Carl U. Eggleston Funeral Establishment, of which he is owner and president, but building the business was far from easy.

He said it had no funerals during its first year of operation. It performed one in its second year, and that was his grandfather. Then in year three, he did seven funerals, and in year four, he did 17 or 18.

“Now we do probably in the 80s, so we’ve come a long way from zero,” he said. “So as a businessman, obviously I’ve done something right to get the clients to come over to me. … It was kind of tough, but we kept our faith. Through the help of the Lord we’re here. The building’s paid for.”

His building is located at 914 S. Main St.

Now 69, Eggleston said he has lived in the Prince Edward community for 50 years.

“I love this community,” he said, later adding that he loves community work. “I don’t want to be a funeral director who takes people’s money all the time. We provide the service, but I want to, at this point, give some of it back, and I give it back through my foundation and through my service to different boards and community organizations.”

He said at one time, he was involved in 28 different organizations at the same time.

The foundation he referred to is the Carl Eggleston Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that helps young people locally and all over the state in a variety of ways.

“Every Christmas Eve, we give toys free of charge,” he said. “This year we gave over $4,000 worth of toys to needy kids. Also, the foundation has a Back to School rally. We give free school supplies.”

He said the organization also gives money to many college students who have funds left on their accounts before graduation.

He is a member of the Prince Edward Elks Lodge 269, the Randolph Masonic Lodge 30 and the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations.

He said he was president of the Robert Russa Moton Museum Board of Directors for about eight years, and he has also served on the Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“I was the first Afro American to serve on Farmville Town Council from 1984-88,” he said.

Eggleston has been heavily involved in politics, doing consulting work for state candidates, which enabled him to meet President Barack Obama.

“I founded the 5th Congressional District Black Caucus that covers 17 counties and five cities,” he said. “I founded that back, oh, I think it was 1986 and served as its president for a while.”

In his highly limited free time, Eggleston enjoys playing golf and has even played competitively. He belongs to the Richmond chapter of the National Negro Golf Association and won the chapter’s club championship in 2005 in Virginia Beach.

Eggleston has worked for the last three years on an autobiography called “Joy & Pain” that will come out later this year and will be available for purchase at Amazon.com.