George R. Kornegay Jr., supporter of Eastern North Carolina development, dies at 80

George R. Kornegay Jr., a strong supporter for decades of growth and development in Eastern North Carolina, died Friday.

Kornegay, a lawyer and businessman, died unexpectedly from a blood clot after surgery for a broken hip. He was 80.

Friends and family described Kornegay as a public servant known for his deep dedication to the projects he cared about and his ability to make others care, too.

“George was a person who loved people, he loved the place he lived and he loved things that made the quality of life for the people who live here better,” said Philip Kerstetter, president of the University of Mount Olive.

Kornegay had served as chairman of the Wayne County Economic Development Commission and helped create the Wayne County Development Alliance, a cooperative organization that involved county government and the local business community.

As a businessman, he started health care organizations, participated in the creation of an industrial park in Mount Olive and developed two hotels.

“He believed that Eastern North Carolina had to grow,” said his wife, Barbara Ross Kornegay. “If there was a community project, he was involved.”

University foundation

Kornegay was also a major supporter of the University of Mount Olive, including as chairman of the university’s foundation.

“He was one of the most open, loving, kind human beings. He just embodied hospitality,” said John Blackwell, vice president for institutional advancement at the university.

Kornegay was born on a farm in Duplin County about 10 miles from Mount Olive.

He earned undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and practiced law in Mount Olive for 20 years.

Barbara Kornegay said her husband’s support of the university stemmed from his belief that it could help everyone in the area.

“He saw the importance of having an educational institution in Eastern North Carolina and in a small town,” she said.

Kornegay was also active in the Democratic Party, especially on behalf of local candidates, his wife said.

A devoted sports fan of both UNC and Mount Olive, Kornegay was inducted into the Mount Olive Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in 2013.

Kornegay had three children, a stepchild and six grandchildren.

The family will receive friends at First United Methodist Church of Mount Olive from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday. Kornegay’s life will be celebrated in a service at the University of Mount Olive’s George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena at 11 a.m. Tuesday.