Veteran Durham journalist and retired Air force pilot Louis Edward Hodges, Jr., died Wednesday, December 2, 2009, at Hillcrest Convalescent Center. He was suffering from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Hodges was born in Tarboro February 25, 1919, the son of L.E. Hodges and Lydia Sophronia Clark Hodges. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Betty Arnold Hodges; a son, Louis E. Hodges, III and wife Sheila Whitmire Hodges of Raleigh; a daughter, Melisandre Lee Hilliker and husband Lee R. Hilliker of St. Petersburg, FL; and two step-grandchildren, Kelly and Eric Whitmire. He was predeceased by his parents; a brother, William R. Hodges; a sister, Mary Louise Hodges; and a daughter, Elizabeth Ann.
Hodges worked at the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel before enrolling in Guilford College, but transferred after a year to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was drafted into the U.S. Army before Pearl Harbor but his basic training was interrupted when he was selected as an aviation cadet and trained as a pilot. Once he won his wings and his commission he became a test pilot, flying 31 different aircraft before he was sent to the China-Burma-India area, serving initially under the command of Gen. Claire Chenault of Flying Tiger fame. As combat grew more intense he flew supplies and troops to American and Chinese forces over the Himalayas, the treacherous “Hump” where many downed planes remain in inaccessible terrain. He flew 50 missions, surviving a midair crash and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.
At war’s end he served briefly in Japan before returning home and re-entering UNC, graduating with a degree in English. He worked at the Stanly News and Press in Albemarle before going to the Durham Morning Herald, first as a copy desk editor, then as feature and special sections editor and columnist. His column, “Folks Around Here”, was a popular feature for decades, received numerous N.C Press Association awards for his work as well as a number of civic awards.
He perhaps considered his selection as a White House correspondent the highlight of his journalism career and he traveled on the Summit Trips with presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush.
After retirement he continued as a columnist until his health interfered but he never quit thinking of himself as an active newspaperman. He also completed two unpublished novels and a number of published short stories.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Hall-Wynne Funeral Home, Durham, NC.
Funeral Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 5, 2009 at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, followed by a reception in the parish hall. The family will hold a private interment, the same day in his native Tarboro, N.C.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorials to the NC Alzheimer’s Association Incorporated, 400 Oberlin Road, Suite 220, Raleigh, NC 27605.
Arrangements under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Service. Online condolences www.hallwynne.com