Daily Herald: Heading to Washington

This week, Jeff Watson is looking forward to a trip to the nation’s capital that has been years in the making.

Watson, 95, of Roanoke Rapids, will travel with his physician, Dr. Mario Fiorilli, to see his grandson, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, take the oath of office Thursday, along with other members of Congress.

“I am real excited and honored,” said Watson.

It is a journey that started with Hudson helping his grandfather as a youth campaign for Roanoke Rapids City Council.

Hudson lived in Roanoke Rapids from age 3 until he moved away after the seventh grade.

“He and I used to talk politics,” said Watson, who lives at the Bayberry Retirement Inn in Roanoke Rapids. “He loved anything to do with government.”

Watson remembered how the two would go around the city putting up campaign signs and putting stickers on cars.

Watson worked for Seaboard Coastline Railroad in various positions for most of his life and served on the Roanoke Rapids City Council from 1967 to 1989. A ball field at Emry Park is named after him.

He is also a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids.

“I’m a Christian and I believe in trying to live a Christian life,” Watson said.

For Hudson, his first political memory was standing out front of the Roanoke Rapids Fire Station helping his grandfather campaign for re-election to city council.

“He is my hero and role model,” Hudson said, adding his grandfather inspired him to have a sense of public service and to give back to the community.

Being able to sit in the gallery and watch his grandson in person is an honor because each new Congressman only gets two tickets for the event.

“My wife (Renee) got the first one and my granddaddy was second,” Hudson said. “If he could get there, I wanted to make sure he would see it. It means the world to me to be able to share this with him.”

Hudson was able to get a third ticket from another Congressman for his mom, Betty.

Initially, Watson’s family thought he wouldn’t be up for the trip.

Fiorilli, who has been a friend and doctor of Watson’s for 30 years, volunteered to drive him to Washington, D.C., for the day.

“He (Watson) is one of those people you would like to have for a father if you didn’t already have one,” Fiorilli said.

Hudson’s district includes all or part of 12 counties spanning from Charlotte to Thomasville and across South-Central North Carolina to Robeson County.

Before being elected to the Congress, Hudson said he had never run for public office but did it because he was fed up with the country’s direction.

As he was campaigning, he used three pieces of advice given by his grandfather. The first was to always tell the truth.

“He said make sure you have a strong relationship with the Lord,” Hudson said. “And don’t spend more money than you make.”

As a U.S. representative, Hudson will serve on three committees — Agriculture, Homeland Security and Education.

“He has worked hard to get where he is,” Watson said about his grandson.

“He wants to work on the economy.”
Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald
Reporter: Jacqueline Hough

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