When North Carolina Baptist Hospital opened a century ago, the State Baptist Convention of North Carolina created a 12-member board to oversee it. Many committed members of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital Board of Trustees have lent their business and professional expertise over the years to support the hospital’s mission. One of the longest serving members was Gerald Quinn, who influenced the hospital’s growth and development for decades.
Gerald was a Duplin County business executive and deacon at Warsaw Baptist Church when he began his first four-year term in 1971. He rotated off the board for one year, as required, and was re-elected the next. This cycle continued until 2009, when he was named a Life Member, and his 37-year record included three terms as board chair—in 1984, 1985 and 1994.
“My dad was very serious about North Carolina Baptist Hospital,” recalled Gerald Haywood Quinn Jr, a bank executive in Kenansville, N.C. “They would mail the financial reports and meeting agendas, and he would come home at night and study them and write down questions to ask. He was always prepared.”
When He Talked, They Listened
N.C. Rep. Donny Lambeth, who worked for the hospital for 40 years and rose from cost accountant to president before retiring in 2012, grew to know Gerald Quinn well. Donny considered Gerald’s business expertise a critical advantage at a time when the hospital was struggling financially.
“Gerald was not just a board member, he was a friend,” Donny said. “I worked with him for over 20 years and found him to be fair, honest and unwavering in his commitment to serve others. He chaired the board during some of its most challenging years, when we were running deficits and had trouble meeting payroll. He was a southern gentleman but also a no-nonsense and savvy businessman. He was well respected by his fellow board members, and when he talked, they listened.”
“Gerald did not have to be loud and boisterous to be heard,” said Ernie Evans of Ahoskie, N.C. Ernie joined the board in 1984, when Gerald Quinn was chairman, and served for 25 years, including six terms as chairman. With similar backgrounds from rural towns in eastern North Carolina, they became friends “almost immediately.”
Ernie recalled Gerald Quinn being influential in the appointment of Len B. Preslar Jr. as hospital president in 1988. Len, who joined the staff in 1969, while still a Wake Forest University student, led the hospital for 19 years before retiring in 2007.
Gerald Quinn was also instrumental in negotiating with the State Baptist Convention for greater board freedom to amend its bylaws and nominate its own members. “Gerald knew the powers-that-be at the state convention,” Ernie said. “The agreement helped the hospital operate without an additional review by the convention.”
Family Business Roots
Gerald Quinn was born in 1937, the youngest of three sons and fifth of six siblings. His parents operated a country general store that led to a wholesale grocery business. With Gerald as president, the brothers ran the business. Their father developed rheumatoid arthritis later in life, and Gerald Haywood recalls them mounting wheels on a straight back chair to help him get around the store.
Quinn Wholesale Co. relocated to nearby Warsaw, N.C., for rail access, and the business thrived. Gerald Quinn took on many volunteer civic posts: the Warsaw Jaycees, Duplin County Industrial Board, Duplin County Hospital Foundation Board and Duplin County Board of Commissioners. Among his many commitments, he was most passionate about health care and his work on the North Carolina Baptist Hospital Board.
“Gerald traveled many miles from his eastern North Carolina home to Winston-Salem to support the hospital’s mission,” Donny said. “He loved the mission and had a great deal of influence on many of the executive team members.”
Gerald Haywood recalled that whenever the family vacationed in the mountains or drove near Winston-Salem, his father would detour by the hospital and usually stop in. “They were always building something,” Gerald Haywood said. “I could see the glow in his eyes. He would be pointing and talking about what was about to happen.”
Donny said Gerald Quinn’s influence extended beyond financial good judgment to long-term strategy. “He was a key advisor and supporter of our senior management. He knew how to run a business and insisted on having controls in place to monitor and measure how the hospital was doing. He asked hard questions and pushed the executive team to look for ways to improve operations.”
A Lasting Legacy
Gerald Quinn was recognized many times for his civic contributions. Gov. James B. Hunt awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 1984, and Gov. James G. Martin recognized his volunteer services in 1986. The North Carolina Baptist Hospital Board of Trustees recognized his eight terms of service in 2009. The State Baptist Convention awarded Gerald the N.C. Heritage Award in 2010, and Campbell University named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 2015.
Gerald and his brothers sold Quinn Wholesale in 1987, under an agreement where they stayed and managed the business during a three-year transition. In retirement, Gerald built a new house, played golf, bought an RV and drove all over the country with his beloved wife, Rita. “From 1990 until the day he died, they did everything together,” Gerald Haywood said. Donny confirmed that she was a fixture by his side and active with other board spouses during meetings. She now lives in Raleigh.
Gerald Quinn died in 2017. Ernie and his wife drove from Ahoskie to Warsaw Baptist Church for the family visitation and had to park blocks away. “I’d never seen anything like it,” Ernie said. “It took hours to go through that line. That says an awful lot about who he was and what he meant to his community.”
The Quinn family’s ties to the hospital continue. Madison W. Quinn is a talent recruiter for Human Resources at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. She’s married to Gerald Haywood’s son, Gerald Haywood “Luke” Quinn III, and they live in Kernersville, N.C.
“I wish my daddy had lived long enough to see my daughter-in-law working at the hospital,” Gerald Haywood remarked. “That would have made him happy.”