Long before the Dean Dome, our town was home to great Carolina Basketball. One of the greats was a young man from Rocky Mount, Taylor Theophilus Thorne. Taylor Thorne passed away this past week at the age of 93. He was born on February 26th, 1924, and was the son of the late Spencer T. Thorne and Anne Cox Thorne. Taylor Thorne was not a tall fellow, nor was he huge in size, but he was fast, accurate, and driven. He was also a North Carolina Veteran who made Orange County his home.
During World War II, he served in the 8th Air Force with a B-24 Bomber Group at Seething Air Force Base in England from November 1943 until June 1945. The 8th Air Force was commanded by Major General Jimmy Doolittle. Their mission was to bomb and bomb again the defenses of Germany. This included “Big Week,” in February 1944 when the 8th Air Force joined the Royal Air Force to bomb Germany. They put into the air over 1,000 B-17’s and B-24’s, plus more than 800 fighters to destroy 12 aircraft factories producing German fighter aircraft.
A week later, the 8th Air Force made its first bombing run over Berlin on 6 March. More than 700 bombers and 800 fighter aircraft attacked Berlin for the first time. They returned two days later for a second attack that destroyed the VKF ball-bearing plant in Berlin, and, on the third day they returned for a third attack. It was reported that nearly 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped during the Berlin offensive. Taylor Thorne was there and he was undoubtedly serving with hundreds of other men from North Carolina.
Like all who served, they returned home to their families and started a family of their own. Taylor returned to Rocky Mount and then enrolled at Carolina in Chapel Hill. Like thousands of other men and women, he attended college using the GI Bill.
While in college, he played for the Carolina Tar Heels Basketball Team from 1946-48. The team went on to play in the 1946 NCAA Finals in New York under coach Bob Carnevale. Taylor was the recipient of the 1948 Foy Roberson Award (awarded in memory of Dr. Foy Roberson, MD, who was killed while piloting a military aircraft in 1941), The Foy Roberson Award is presented to the most inspirational player that was voted upon by his teammates and coaches. In addition, he played college softball and was on the All State North Carolina 1949 Softball Team. After graduating from college, he was a controller for an Orange County dairy co-op. He worked until he was 85.
Taylor Thorne seldom spoke of the war, his contributions, or his sacrifices. He did not speak about the carnage of war, but when he was with his fellow American Legionnaire’s at the Chapel Hill Post 6 it was a different story and topic. Taylor Thorne talked about his favorite subject–Tar Heel Basketball. So, we share today a little bit about his service and a teaser footage from a movie on the Mighty Eighth Air Force. War is terrifying and for those who served, it is full of memories. We hope this clip helps you understand why is is so important to have a Veterans Memorial in Orange County. We, no you, are honoring those who served.