Ruth Burt

Ruth Corina “Rina” Burt was born April 12, 1921, in Vance County, North Carolina. Her early education began  at the Episcopal Church School and continued at Henderson Central Graded School . She graduated from  Henderson Institute in 1936 and from Winston Salem Teacher’s College in 1942. She also did further study at  North Carolina Central University.  

Ruth retired from teaching after 30 years of service. During her teaching career, she was active in educational  professional organizations. On the local level, she became the first president of the Vance County Unit of the  North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and served as President of the Association of Classroom  Teachers and chairman of the Legislative Committee. On the District Level of the NCAE, she served as Secretary,  Vice President, and President, and on the state level, she was elected to the Board of Directors and served on the  Finance and Personnel Committee. She remained an active member of the Vance County Retired Teachers  Association until her health failed.  

Ruth Burt believed in helping others. Her beliefs were evidenced by her participation in several community  organizations. She served on the Vance County Youth Services Advisory Council for 11 years and on the Board  of Friends of Youth, and she was recognized by Gov. Hunt for her service to youth in the community. The Vance  County Commissioners selected her to serve on the Vance County Social Services Board and she was elected  Board chair for 2 years. She was a member of the Board of Area Christians together in Service (ACTS) for three  years and The United Way for six. Ruth was the first African American to serve as Chair of the United Way. She  was also a member of the Vance County Housing authority; and was a member of Shiloh Baptist Church for over  75 years.  

Of all her community activities, nothing was closer to Ruth Burt’s heart than Henderson Institute. She served as  National President of the Alumni Association, Executive Committee member, member of the Board of Directors  and Chairman of the Board Directors. However, the highlight of her years with Henderson Institute was the  eighteen years (1990-2009) she served as the Director of the Henderson Institute Historical Museum. Under her  leadership, the Henderson Institute Historical Museum was listed by the federal government on the National  Registry of Historic Places.  

Early in her tenure, Ruth realized that opening the Museum at a scheduled time was non-productive, few people  visited. As a result, the Museum Committee decided to open the Museum by appointment. When a tour request  was received, it was usually accommodated within 24 hours and sometimes that day. She was always by herself,  yet she had no fear. She believed that anyone coming to the Museum came with good intentions. One night she  stayed at the museum until 1:00 am, so that a working mother, who she did know, could complete a report about  HI for her class at North Carolina Central. Ruth also spent several days and evenings at the Museum with another  North Carolina Central student as she researched her master’s thesis, “The History of Henderson Institute.”

While visiting the Museum, a staff member from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources  recommended that Henderson Institute establish an obituary file of Vance County African Americans. Obituaries  often contain family and birth information that is sometimes difficult to establish through legal records. Ruth  solicited the membership and local funeral homes to help her create it. Several people were successful in finding  the information that they needed by searching the file.  

Ruth Burt’s service to the community and to Henderson Institute did not go unnoticed. In 2005 she was  recognized by the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce as Vance County Outstanding Citizen of the Year.  She was noted for her contributions to the well-being of Vance County’s citizens and her leadership at Henderson  Institute.  

Ruth Burt passed April 27, 2015. During her funeral, the minister shared that he had visited Ruth as she began  her earthly transition. She had three concerns, one of which was the direction of the leadership of Henderson  Institute. She wanted the Association to thrive, even as she faced death.

Testimonials in honor of Ruth C. Burt

Gerald Alston:  Hometown “Shining Star”

The Henderson Institute Graduate and Former Student Association is pleased to honor Gerald Alston, renowned lead singer of the Grammy Award Winning R & B vocal group, “The Manhattans, featuring Gerald Alston.” Gerald was born in Henderson, North Carolina November 8, 1951. He attended Eaton-Johnson Elementary School and Henderson Institute High School. Gerald has been married to his wife Edna Chew Alston for 41 years and they have four children.           

Gerald grew up in the church where he learned his craft at an early age, as a member of the choir of St. Andrews Church in Henderson. During High School, Gerald and his cousin, the late Dwight Fields, formed a group called “Gerald Alston and the New Imperials”. The group performed in school talent shows, various other musical events throughout the city and surrounding communities, and several local churches. When the group performed in churches, they would change their name to “The Gospel Jubilees.” 

After graduating from high school in 1970, Gerald attended Kittrell College in Kittrell, North Carolina. During the college’s Homecoming of Gerald’s freshman year, the Manhattans were commissioned to perform for this event. In need of recording equipment for the event, The Manhattans asked Gerald, as a local band owner, if they could borrow some of his recording equipment for the concert. When they went to retrieve the equipment, they heard Gerald singing and were so impressed with his vocals; they invited him to join the Homecoming Show and, even allowed him to open for the group. They were so 

mesmerized with his natural talent; they offered him the opportunity to continue performing with the Group. He became lead singer after the groups’ former leader, George Smith passed away.  As lead singer, he helped the group achieve their first Pop and R&B top ten singles that reached Gold and Platinum status for songs “Kiss and Say Goodbye”, “There’s No Me Without You” and the Grammy Award Winning song, “Shining Star.”

Gerald comes from a musically talented family. He is the nephew of Shirley Alston Reeves lead singer of the Shirelles, Johnny Fields of the Five Blind Brothers of Alabama and has several other musically inclined family members.

In 1988, Alston left the group to pursue a solo career and recorded five albums and ten singles for Motown and other record labels. His solo recordings include both Secular and Gospel music. Gerald has also collaborated with numerous nationally recognized artists including George Duke, Regina Bell, Brenda Russell, and Gerald Albright. To name a few of his professional accomplishments outside of his routine performances, he was the voice behind Spike Lees’ Movie “Do the Right Thing”, and several television jingles, including the likes of Miller Beer and Kentucky Fried Chicken.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Gerald was inducted into the North Caronia Music Hall of Fame and the R & B Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2016, while performing at McGregor Hall in Henderson, he was honored with the” Key to the City of Henderson” and has received numerous other musical recording certifications.

Gerald has traveled the world performing in many major cities and countries such as, Africa, Asia, Japan, Korea, Manila, London, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Jamaica, Curacao, Saint Martin, and several other Caribbean Islands.

Gerald is also very much involved in his local community. For the past 14 years, he has spearheaded the JC Hines College Bus Tour which affords Jersey Inner-City Youth the opportunity to tour various HBCUs and other colleges and universities outside of Jersey City.  Gerald has also been an active member of the Masons for the past 21 years and received his 33rd degree in 2022.

After 53 year of Performing, Gerald continues to tour the world leading the Manhattans along with group members Troy May and the newest member of the group, Lawrence Newton.

Congratulations to our Hometown Shining Star.