Two sporadic defeats didn’t keep commissioner off board for long
Alamance County will bid farewell to a lion of local politics this week when it lays to rest county commissioner William H. Lashley after his death from a cerebral hemorrhage on Saturday after he suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving. William H. “Bill” Lashley was 75 when he passed away.
A native of Burlington, Lashley graduated from Williams High School before he left North Carolina to attend the University of Tennessee. He returned home after college to embark on a career as an engineer, which culminated in a 26-year stint at Lorillard Tobacco. Lashley also did a brief stint as an auxiliary police officer in Burlington during 1969. But it’s as an elected official that he would ultimately make his mark on the community.
Lashley’s political career began in the 1980s when he was elected to a position on Burlington’s city council. Lashley’s term on the council came to a premature end after he distributed an anonymous campaign flyer that criticized the allegedly left-leaning views of two other council members. Although the Supreme Court has since upheld the right to circulate such unsigned campaign materials, pressure from the rest of the council eventually compelled Lashley to give up his post.
Lashley resumed his career in electoral politics in 1996 when he waged a successful campaign for Alamance County’s board of commissioners. The stalwart Republican went on to spend more than 20 years on the county’s governing board, where he distinguished himself as a conservative firebrand with an inveterate aversion to property taxes. Lashley’s straight-talking style didn’t always prove popular with the local electorate; he fell short in 2008 and 2014, but made comebacks, later being appointed back to the board after his first defeat. His forced sabbaticals were reversed in 2010 and 2016 when he won election back to the board. In each case, Lashley returned to the campaign trail stronger than ever until he announced his retirement ahead of candidate registration for this year’s election.
Lashley’s decision not to seek reelection this year prompted his son and namesake to make his own bid for the county’s governing board. The elder Bill Lashley ultimately lived long enough to see his son win a seat on the board, although his subsequent death means he’ll be present only in spirit when his son is formally sworn in to office next Monday.
The younger Bill Lashley spoke to The Alamance News about his father’s political legacy shortly before the outgoing county commissioner passed away on Saturday. During his interview with the newspaper, the incoming commissioner recalled his fascination with the work that his father did on the county’s governing board.
“It’s fascinating to see five people come together to get things done,” he added. “My father made it look easy. But now that I’m seeing the sausage being made, I know this job is really hard.”
The younger Lashley also reflected on some of his father’s extracurricular accomplishments, including a black belt in martial arts that earned him some modest success as an amateur kick boxer decades ago. Lashley remembered his father as a tenacious competitor, who generally bulldogged his way to the quarter finals of any tournament he entered. The younger Bill Lashley could recall just one time when his father conceded a fight before the final bell – and only because he had fractured his hand in the course of the bout.
Aside from being a formidable force in the ring, Lashley was an avid hunter and outdoorsman as well as a faithful parishioner at Burlington’s Harvest Baptist Church. The late county commissioner is also remembered for the devotion he showed to his family.
In addition to his son, the elder Bill Lashley is survived by his wife Peggy Lashley, his daughter Melissa Hadley, and her husband Ben as well as two grandchildren – Ella and Bryce Hadley. Lashley’s surviving relations also include his sisters Julia Talbert and Cely Hughes and his brothers George and Danny Lashley, along with a stepson, Jon Lambert; two stepdaughters, Kim Black and Susan Lambert; and his step grandchildren Melinda Lambert, Will and Jacob Ingle, and Walker Black.
Lashley was preceded in death by his parents Robert and Eleanor Lashley, his first wife Sandra B. Lashley, his son Robert “Robbie” Lashley, his brothers Robert Lee Lashley, David Lashley, and Ben Martin as well as his stepson Jimmy Lambert.