By MICAH HENRY
A 1961 graduate of Happy Plains High School in Taylorsville, Everette Dula went on to serve in the U.S. Army later that decade.
He attended Elizabeth State University in Elizabeth City, NC, for one year, studying Industrial Arts, including mechanical drawings and construction blueprints.
Dula, the son of Gaither and Eula Dula, entered service in March 1964 and served until 1967.
“I was with a group of 18 and 19 year olds, but I was 21 years old. It gave me a little advantage, with my age. Training went well with me. I’ve always been a physical type of person.”
His Basic Training was at Ft. Jackson, SC, then he went for more training at Ft. Gordon, GA. During Basic Training, a civilian establishment owner refused to serve Dula and his whole outfit because he was black. His friends stood up for him, however.
Dula was put into the 24th Army Division, 34th Infantry Division, and went in for Advanced Infantry Training. His military occupational specialty was mortar and artillery and, later, ammunition specialist.
“In Germany, the infantry was used in protecting the Berlin Wall. There, we were designated to delay the enemy (Communist forces in East Germany),” he noted.
“Germany was a tremendous experience,” Dula related. “The area I was in was mainly industrial. Augsburg, in the southern part of German, was very progressive. Of course, Munich, was about 30 miles away — a very entertaining area, with culture and arts.” He was able to visit Stuttgart, farther west, and Frankfurt, in the northwest, and many cities in between. He also experienced the high-speed motorway known as the Autobahn.
“A hundred or hundred and twenty miles an hour was the regular speed,” he recalled with a laugh. “That was some experience. Some of the guys, we would rent a vehicle on the weekends, so I got a chance to drive and tour around.”
Dula noted that the landscape is similar to that of Alexander County. Where he was stationed in Augsburg, it was about 35 miles from the mountains, similar to Taylorsville’s distance to the Blue Ridge.
Dula said he did have some close calls. In one, he had been on exercise and had been driving all night. He fell asleep and nearly drove off a cliff, waking at the last second and keeping the vehicle on the roadway.
In another, during 1966, he was a squad leader for an 81mm mortar squad of about 16 men. The mechanized unit had been on manuvers for two weeks with an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). Upon finishing, his squad had cleaned the APC and Dula tested the machine by driving it, solo, out into the Rhein River.
“We had been told those things would swim. They were built to float. I got it out into the river about 20 feet and it performed really good. All of sudden, it missed. When it did that, the front dipped. I pushed the accelerator, it picked back up. But it did it again and dipped moreso. I knew it was going to go down. I just managed to come out of the hatch, just big enough for your body. I just did get out of that hatch before the water rushed in,” Dula said.
Most assumed that Dula would be court martialed. However, his commander was understanding and was glad Dula had found out the APC wouldn’t float.
“I’m glad you tried it, because it is supposed to float,” the officer said.
Dula spent 31 months in Germany. About four years after his Army service, Dula married the former Cynthia Bennett and settled in Taylorsville. The couple has three grown children. He worked in the furniture and insurance industries. Dula obtained an Associate Degree at Wilkes Community College in Business Administration. He bought a college textbook on carpentry and began working in construction, eventually getting his building contractor’s license at Catawba Valley Community College. Dula built about six houses in Alexander County.
While in construction, his father was killed in an automobile accident. Around that time, Dula had also served part-time as a magistrate and was offered the position full-time, which he accepted. Dula was the first black magistrate in the county. He went on to serve 23 years as a magistrate in Alexander, retiring in 2005.
Magistrate duties include civil or criminal matters, issuing warrants, processing a defendant after an arrest, and setting a defendant’s bond. During those days, civil cases of up to $30,000 value could be handled by magistrates, many involving summary ejectments or money owed.
When asked what advice he would give to youth, Dula said, “If you do not know definitely what you want to do, out of high school, you need to go in the military. It can help you — responsibility is a must. You’ve got to be accountable for your actions. It helped me to get organized and have some pride in myself.”
Today, Dula enjoys gardening and fishing. He is a chairman/deacon at Gethsemane Baptist Church in Newton.