Colonel Cecil R. Sykes


Cecil Ray Sykes, Colonel, US Army, retired was born 1/1/1930 in Clinchco, Virginia. He died in his beloved Pamlico County, with family members by his side, 6/13/2019.

The third child of Leonard and Elizabeth, Cecil was one of 3 brothers and 2 sisters who grew up in a coal mining community where they learned farming as well as respect and love of family. Inspired to serve his country after one year at Purdue University, Cecil was accepted to West Point, NY and joined the US Army.

Educated at US Military Academy West Point, class of 1952, he met Marlene Schmidt soon after graduating. Married within the year, they shared 67 years together, raising 3 children.

Col. Sykes’ memorable military career included serving as Battalion Commander of Artillery in Viet Nam as well as multiple assignments across the US and overseas. Trained in the new discipline of Nuclear Physics at University of Virginia in the 1960s, he was integral to early experimentation at Sandia Base, New Mexico. One of his favorite deployments was to Bangkok, Thailand. Cecil learned to love the Thai language, culture, people, foods and opportunities Thailand gave his family and him.

Alexandria, VA was home for many years, during his years at the Pentagon and after retirement. Drawn to Oriental, NC, Cecil began Sykes Builders in 1983, constructing custom, high quality homes and buildings.

Cecil and Marlene lived a bucolic life on the water where they enjoyed sailing and being involved with several facets of the community. Cecil Sykes was instrumental in establishing and building St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Oriental, NC.

Cecil Sykes loved his God, country and family. Too, he was an incredibly talented Master Gardener, accomplished cook, an avid reader, thinker, conversationalist and friend to many from throughout his life. He enjoyed learning about and creating clocks. Cecil made certain all his children have a handcrafted clock to mark their time.

He was proficient in three languages: English, Thai and French.

Cecil was predeceased by sisters, Thelma and Alice; and brother, Robert. His brother, James (Brenda) live in Big Stone Gap, VA near the original family homestead.

He is survived by his sons, Paul (Tina), Robert (Terry), daughter, Joyce and claimed Charlene Morris as his own child.

Cecil has several grandchildren and great grandchildren, all of whom he loved and cherished. Grandchildren include: Danielle, Wesley and Shelby Rae, Sarah and Jessica (Jason), Brian (Abby) and Timothy.

Great grandchildren include Garrett, who serves in the US Army. Jennifer, Clark and Luke are among several other great-grandchildren whom Cecil often enjoyed in his life. Cecil’s newest great granddaughter, Edith Rae Karam, arrived 6/14/19 and will learn of Cecil from family members and the extensive archives he left for all to explore.

Celebrate Cecil’s life at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church on June 27th at 11 a.m.

Memorial may be given to St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, PO Box 461, Oriental, NC 28571 or Hospice of Pamlico, PO Box 6, Bayboro, NC 28515.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Before you start calling him a racist and tearing his statue down, you might want to read this.

Thomas Jonathan  Jackson was born January 21, 1824, Clarksburg, WV. Clarksville was then part of Virginia.  Jackson was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He graduated 17th out of 59 students in the Class of 1846.

Jackson distinguished himself during the Mexican/American War.  Commanding a battery of artillery, he found himself of the vanguard of the entire American Army.  On one occasion, his battery of 3 six pounders and a brigade of infantry chased the entine Mexican Army for six miles. For these actions, he was promoted to Brevet Major.

After the war, he was posted to several Forts acting as the quartermaster or commisariate.  In 1851 he resigned from the Army and accepted a position at the Virginia Military Institute.  He taught  Natural and Experimental Philosophy (physics) and instructed the cadets in artillery.


By the time the Civil War started, Jackson had carved out a comfortable middle class life.  He owned a small farm and a tannery.  He also owned six slaves.  Hetty, Cyrus, and George, a mother and two teenage sons were received as a wedding present. Another, Albert, requested that Jackson purchase him and allow him to work for his freedom; he was employed as a waiter in one of the Lexington hotels and Jackson rented him to VMI. The slave, Amy also requested that Jackson purchase her from a public slave auction and she served the family as a cook and housekeeper. The sixth, Emma, was a four-year-old orphan with a learning disability, accepted by Jackson from an aged widow. Jackson was not a harsh master.  He treated his slaves more like employees or sometimes family.  All were provided a pension for old age except for Emma who’s care was provided for her entire life.

Jackson was revered by many of the African Americans in town, both slaves and free blacks. In 1855, he was instrumental in the organization of Sunday School classes for blacks at the Presbyterian Church. His second wife, Mary Anna Jackson, taught with Jackson, as “he preferred that my labors should be given to the colored children, believing that it was more important and useful to put the strong hand of the Gospel under the ignorant African race, to lift them up.” 

The pastor, Dr. William Spottswood White, described the relationship between Jackson and his Sunday afternoon students: “In their religious instruction he succeeded wonderfully. His discipline was systematic and firm, but very kind. … His servants reverenced and loved him, as they would have done a brother or father. … He was emphatically the black man’s friend.” He addressed his students by name and they, in turn, referred to him affectionately as “Marse Major”.

Thomas J. Jackson was called many things in his life.,  hypochondriac, idiot, aloof, religious Zealot and genius.  His nicknames included “Tom Fool”, “Old Jack” and of course “Stonewall”.


Jackson’s first assignment was to march his VMI cadets to Richmond and use the cadets to train the thousands of volunteers that were descending on the city.  He and his cadets also provided security for the hanging of John Brown.

In combat, his Area of Operation was the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  He had fought suscession until the last minute and only agreed to command the First Virginia Brigade when Virginia was invaded.  He was the first Commander to realize the brutality required in modern warfare.  Later in the war, Union Generals Grant and Sherman adopted the same tatics Jackson had used.  Historians agree that Jackson’s agressiveness and ability to see enemy weaknesses and taking immeadiate action produced the lengedary victories of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee.

On May 2nd, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, General “Stonewall” Jackson was shot my his own pickets.  Surgeons amputated is left arm.  He survived the amputation and yet died of pneumonia on May 10, 1863.

On his deathbed, he asked his wife what his prognosis was.  She told him the the doctors feared he would die this day. He then asked what day it was ans she said it was Sunday. “Very well”, he replied “I always wanted to die on a Sunday”.

Dr. McGuire wrote an account of Jackson’s final hours and last words:

“A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Jackson is well portrayed by Stephen Lang, in the movie, “Gods and Generals”.

To read more about the life of this remarable man, please read

I’m looking at you Taylor Morton.