A lot has changed in the past century.
World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rise of Communism, the March on Washington, the Vietnam War, the fall of the Soviet Union, Y2K, 9/11, and the first African-American U.S. president are just some of the significant events that sent shock waves across not only the United States, but the entire world.
While many people can only relate to these events as subjects on a history exam, Mount Airy’s own William Clyde Gammons can say something that very few can — “I lived it.”
Woodrow Wilson was in his second presidential term, the Chicago White Sox were the reigning World Series Champions, and the conflict that would be known as World War I was still months from its resolve when Gammons was born.
The first of 11 children, Gammons was born on January 12, 1918 to parents Reid and Ada Gammons. 100 years and 18 U.S. Presidents later, the world welcomed its newest centenarian.
Gammons celebrated his 100th birthday with approximately 155 of his friends and family on January 13, 2018 at the Holly Springs Ruritan building. Among the attendees were Gammons’ four children, 14 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
Gammons walked through many of these events with his late wife, Ella Hiatt Gammons. Together, the two had four children: Sylvia, Cassie, Rayford, and Nelda.
The duo were married on May 21, 1938. The marriage lasted 73 years, until Ella’s death in 2011.
Longevity is in the family’s genes. Clyde’s father Reid lived to be 91 (1895-1986) while his mother lived through three different centuries and was 104 when she passed (1899-2003).
According to Gammons’ family, it has not been a century of inactivity. Gammons has worked a variety of careers, from owning a garage, to farming, to working in a granite quarry.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything out there,” Gammons said. “There aren’t many things I haven’t done.”
Even at 100 years old, Gammons still operates a bull dozer at his farm and just recently remodeled a bathroom in his home.
Gammons isn’t a hard man to find. He is a regular at PO Folks restaurant in Mount Airy. In fact, he had a second birthday party with all of his friends at PO Folks.
Sunday nights are reserved for his family. In all his years, family is the thing that Gammons is most proud of.
“That’s the most wonderful thing I’ve got is my family,” Gammons said. “That’s the one thing I cherish in this life.”
Family and friends alike can be found at Gammons’ house on Sunday evenings where he makes his famous homemade popcorn.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith