Happy Birthday times three

Cooper named Citizen of the Year

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By Miles Layton

Thursday, October 18, 2018

COLUMBIA – Happy Birthday Columbia!

A trio of birthday celebrations took place Friday night at the Columbia Theatre Museum.

Town celebrated its 225th anniversary while it was also the 25th anniversary of Partnership for the Sounds and the 20th anniversary for the Columbia Theatre Museum.

And Durwood Cooper was named the Distinguished Citizen of the Tyrrell County for 2018. A native son, Cooper has served 12 years as a member of the county's Board of Education, 12 years as a county commissioner and he runs a large and innovative farmer in Gum Neck.

County Manager/Attorney David Clegg had kind words for Cooper, a man he described as a “revered” member of the community.

“He has been the employer and mentor to hundreds of Tyrrell County residents and has been a successful businessman and public servant while reflecting sincere concern for those around him,” he said.

As to Columbia's origins, it was established on the banks of the Scuppernong in 1793 and became the Tyrrell County seat in 1799.

Worth noting, Tyrrell County was named for Sir John Tyrrell, one of the Lords Proprietors of the Carolina colony. Tyrrell County's original boundaries originally stretched westward from Roanoke Island to near present-day Tarboro. In 1870 the territory was divided and resulted in what is now known as Tyrrell, Martin, Washington, and Dare counties.

NC Representative Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, was among the local notable who attended the gala celebration.

“We live and die as a region,” he said. “We must be supportive of one another. Any success for one is a success for another.”

No one can't help but marvel at the Columbia Theater Cultural Resources Center, which is an environmental and cultural history museum focusing on fishing, farming, forestry and everyday life in Tyrrell County. Renovated and managed by the Partnership for the Sounds, the Center is the first stop for education groups visiting the area.

The center is housed in a brick downtown building which was once the home to the most elite movie palace in the region. The original Columbia Theater, built by German immigrant Fred Schlez in 1938, was a decadent movie palace that attracted patrons from all over the coastal region. Unfortunately, as development spread in neighboring areas, the theater was closed in the late 1960s, and the building remained vacant with no new tenants for nearly 30 years.

In 1995, the Partnership for The Sounds, an organization dedicated to education about the unique Inner Banks ecosystems that are a hallmark of Columbia, took an interest in the property, and began extensive renovations inside and out, cumulating with the grand opening of the Columbia Theater Cultural Resources Center in 1998.