The Opinion Shop

A longtime, prolific writer of letters to the editor has died

Here in the editorial department at The News & Observer, we get quite a few letters, about 1,000 a month, and more than you might think still come in by snail mail. Given the current size of the department, the chances that anyone has time to actually type such a letter into the system are pretty slim. But sometimes we still do it.

Especially for those letter-writers who are longtime contributors, who send letters several times a month and who have been doing it for years.

Leroy Vance Corbett was one of those writers. His letters came in on yellow notepad paper folded multiple ways, addressed in latter years in a shaky hand to The People’s Forum.

There was an obituary last weekend for Colonel Leroy Vance Corbett, USMC (Ret.) February 22, 1922 – February 16, 2014. I can only presume it was our prolific longtime letter-writer. His passing seemed worth noting because of his notable military service and because he remained an engaged citizen who repeatedly took the time to put his thoughts on paper and to send them in to his local newspaper.

Here are some of his most recent letters.

April 2012

Your April 23 “Salute to vets” editorial was appropriate and appreciated by a World War II vet. But as a veteran who made a flight, I wish to point out that a “salute to sponsors” is much in order. Never have so many citizens gotten together and voluntarily executed an operation so efficiently carried out since the British air raid wardens of WWII.

We veterans were amazed that so many organizations, including auto workers, churches and individuals could so mold into a cohesive group to carry out a complex operation. The organization should be incorporated, kept intact and held “at the ready” to respond to public disasters and mass emergency work. These citizen patriots’ response exceeds government bureaucracy in time and enthusiastic effort. Salute!

L.V. Corbett

Col., U.S. Marine Corps (ret.)


November 2011

Regarding the Oct. 29 editorial “Few and proud”: You shouldn’t “shudder” at what the African-American Marines “had to endure” at Montford Point, that is, unless you do so for the white Marines who underwent recruit training at Parris Island, where their conditions were more “primitive” than at Montford Point. The initial reception, orientation and recruit training at Montford Point was no more stringent than at Parris Island.

However, off base, on liberty in Jacksonville and surroundings, local segregation provided little for black Marines. It provided little for white Marines, too, as a number of stores and other places were “off limits.” I served in the Pacific theater with the largest group of black Marines ever, where they excelled at their work alongside we “whites,” and we, black and white, were “Marine green” all the way, with race never an issue.

L.V. Corbett, Col., USMC (ret.), Raleigh

October 2010

Regarding a recent Under the Dome headlined “Young grilled on e-mail, says ‘I don’t recall’ “: I believe you have another target to shoot at!

You quote Reuben Young, secretary of crime control and public safety, as stating “I don’t specifically recall.” Well, can we assume then that he possibly recalled in general? And if he “generally” recalled, isn’t that sufficient to indicate a recollection?

I think 30 “no recalls” by a man in his position is tantamount to “taking the Fifth.” Ever since (and even before, really) Bill Clinton’s equivocation with “is,” it seems that semantics have been used to dodge the bullet by public officials (private, too, for the matter). Please pursue the Easley case to include the absent-minded secretary.

L.V. Corbett, Raleigh

September 2010

The reason railroads ran through the heart of downtowns is that towns were built around railroads. That reason was reasonable at that time.

It no longer is reasonable to have particularly high speed railroads running through the heart of a city or town with all of the inherent dangers and inconveniences they create. If the reason that some people propose to do it is that it is prohibitively expensive to build one elsewhere, then so be it and don’t build it.

Particularly in Raleigh, where the general emphasis is on creating a “high quality of life,” in a beautiful, serene, safe setting (not a Tokyo), if we must speed up train traffic, let us build the tracks on the outer periphery of the city (as we did with RDU Airport) when funds are available. Let’s not disturb Raleigh and drag us more deeply into debt to satisfy a few (motives in doubt) who obviously are not looking to the best interests of Raleigh.

L.V. Corbett


February 2010

Regarding the location of a $205 million public safety “enclave” in the heart of downtown Raleigh: The proponents have something in the way of self-interest because the idea is ridiculous! All the Raleigh Police Department needs downtown is a small headquarters for administrative control. Its operating personnel need to be located in precincts throughout the city limits, not traffic clogged in downtown. So, too, with the fire department.

More than a “Pentagon” in downtown, what the people of Raleigh and Wake County really need is to combine the county and city sheriff/police departments for both efficiency in their functions and for cost effectiveness. Other areas in the U.S. have done this very successfully (Jacksonville/ Duval County, Fla.).

Raleigh residents have much greater needs for their limited dollars. Call a halt to this!

L.V. Corbett


April 2009

Vernon Malone, a real life treasure, was a modest man. We had selected him to be parade marshal and guest speaker at Veterans Day ceremonies at the state Capitol. He parked at Peace and Salisbury. When the ceremonies were all over, he said goodbye and started to walk back to Peace and Salisbury!

I called Sgt. Richardson of the Raleigh Police Department (on parade detail) to take Malone into “custody” and deliver him to his car. We sort of ushered him into the cruiser and slammed the door. Vernon was, for the first and only time, confined! He shouted, “What if someone sees me in here?” We laughed and told him to duck down, which he sheepishly did!

He never failed to oblige anyone.

L.V. Corbett