APEX — Community members in Southern Wake County came together to help 87-year-old
Lynn Council pay off a 20-year-old loan on his former home that was threatened due to road widening from the Triangle Expressway I-540 project.
The state’s Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority made an offer to buy Council’s home on Holly Springs Road, but the offer wasn’t enough to cover the cost of a new home and the value of a federal home improvement loan on his old residence of around $20,000.
The improvement loan, which was given to elderly homeowners, stipulated its repayment upon the owner’s death or sale of the home. Neither of those conditions applied to Council, who was being forced out to accommodate a future onramp for the expressway.
Word got out about Council’s situation and community members stepped in to help.
Attorney and former state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Wake) volunteered to help with the legal aspects of Council’s case, as did Gerald Givens, president of the NAACP’s Raleigh-Apex branch.
Stam, who took the case pro bono, met with NC DOT officials and members of the Holly Springs Town Council to find a solution to the $20,000 loan issue.
“It was an unexpected position for an 87-year-old man,” said Stam of Council’s predicament. “And not only that, he lost his wife last summer that he had been married to for more than 60 years.”
Stam said he talked to the Wake County manager many times about moving the lien, but unfortunately the rules were clear and did not allow for adjustment or transfer of the lien to Council’s new residence.
At a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. held at Council’s church, family friend Doris Battle said she spoke with Holly Springs resident Garrett Raczek about the situation. After hearing the story, Raczek decided to set up a GoFundMe page to ask the public for help, and it worked.
The GoFundMe page raised over $24,300 through more than 630 donors.
“I totally thank you from my heart for what y’all did. I sure thank the Lord for the gifts. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, Lord,” said Council.
The additional funds in the GoFundMe will go towards repairs on Council’s new home.
Council was already known in local circles and received media attention last year after he received apologies from the Apex Police Department and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office for a wrongful arrest and attempted lynching that occurred 68 years ago.
In November of 1952, Council was arrested on robbery charges by Chief Sam Bagwell of the Apex Police Department. Bagwell had allegedly beaten Council, trying to force a confession but Council refused and stood firm that he had not committed the crime.
The crime had happened outside of the Apex Police’s jurisdiction, so Council was then handed off to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, where deputies tried and failed to get a confession.
Council was then taken from jail and driven out to a wooded area near where Ten-Ten Road now runs. Deputies strung him up by his neck from an Oak tree for at least a minute before letting him down. The intimidation didn’t work.
In 2019, Council received apologies from those same departments and attended an unveiling ceremony of a bench installed in the front of the Apex Police offices.
The bench has a plaque with an inscription that reads, “We are indebted to you for speaking out and raising awareness of an incident that was all but lost to history. Your courage and resilience has brought a perspective to a time in our history that needed to be acknowledged and remembered.”