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Charles Coburn Passes Away at Age 65

Charles Coburn was a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans and spoke often to school classes about adapting to disabilities and having sensitivity to people with disabilities.

Charles Coburn, a 1973 Pitt Community College graduate who coached basketball at his alma mater and became its first athletic director, was laid to rest Sunday in La Grange, after passing away Feb. 21 at age 65 with his family by his side.

Coburn, who received an associate degree in business administration, first came to PCC in 1970, a little more than a year after losing his right arm in a mortar explosion while serving in Vietnam. After nine months of recovery, he retired from the U.S. Navy with several awards for his service, including the prestigious Purple Heart.

A Pitt County native and 1965 graduate of Belvoir-Falkland High School, Coburn played basketball at PCC for two seasons under Coach Bob Turner before taking over as coach when Turner resigned in 1973. After two seasons at the helm, he resigned and moved to Texas, where he played semi-pro baseball for five seasons.

When he returned to North Carolina in 1982, Coburn was hired as PCC’s head basketball coach and athletic director. He went on to lead the Bulldogs for 12 more seasons, compiling a 169-151 overall record. His most memorable victory came over the University of North Carolina’s junior varsity squad coached by Roy Williams, which prompted legendary Tar Heels basketball coach Dean Smith to send Coburn a letter praising his achievement.

Perhaps most remarkable about Coburn’s service to his alma mater is that it was all done on a voluntary basis. In addition to basketball, he also spent several years coaching softball, golf and tennis.

On behalf of the State of North Carolina, former Gov. Jim Martin presented Coburn a certificate of appreciation for his volunteer service in 1988. Six years later, he received PCC’s Distinguished Service Award.

PCC dedicated its new gymnasium to Coburn on Aug. 27, 2000. Nearly 150 people attended the ceremony, which featured U.S. Rep. Walter Jones providing the dedicatory speech.

Located inside the Ed and Joan Warren Building on campus, the Charles Coburn Center is now home to Pitt’s basketball and volleyball teams in addition to numerous physical education courses and intramural sports activities.

Coburn’s service to the community and accomplishments also includes 41 years as a baseball umpire in Eastern North Carolina. When he retired from officiating in March 2012, the Pitt County Umpires Association retired his #32 umpire uniform during a ceremony at PCC.

Born March 8, 1947, Coburn is survived by his wife, Wanda, six children, two stepchildren and 14 grandchildren.