By Alexa Baer / Times-News


Percy M. Watlington celebrated his 100th birthday Friday, Oct. 18. The Caswell County native served in World War II, and traveled around the country and overseas before settling in Burlington in his retirement.


Watlington was born in Caswell County, the oldest of Azzie and Hattie Watlington’s five children. He grew up on his family’s farm and went to school in the Caswell County school system. It was at Caswell County Training School, the only high school for black students in the county, where he met his wife, Fadonia Gwynn Watlington.


In 1942 Percy Watlington was drafted into the Army. The couple continued their relationship throughout Watlington’s tour of duty. In 1947, Watlington married Fadonia, and the couple adopted their only child, a daughter, Andrea Gordon.


During the war Watlington was stationed at Fort Bragg and in Norfolk, Va., and New Orleans before being deployed overseas to England and eventually France. At the end of the war, he returned to the United States. Watlington’s parents were farmers, and he knew he didn’t want that career for himself, so he attended Hampton University.


After graduating from college Watlington moved to Maryland and worked for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington until his retirement in 1982.


War and civil rights


As an adult, Watlington closely followed the civil rights movement of the 1960s.


"I wouldn’t try to tell you all I heard about the civil rights cause everything at the time was civil rights as far as I was concerned," Watlington said.


His experiences living through and participating in WWII and the civil rights movement were "difficult to capture it all for me," Watlington said. "I don’t know if I’m willing to even try."


However, one historical event Watlington considers his favorite is the day the United States. elected its first black president. It was a moment he had waited almost a lifetime to witness.


"It finally came," Watlington said. "I guess that was probably, that was a top moment."


Getting to 100


Post-retirement the Watlingtons spent time traveling to all 50 states and abroad.


"I did quite a bit of driving across country," Watlington said. Fadonia "was not very fond of travel. She tolerated it, but she didn’t love it like I did."


Although Watlington has visited all 50 states, his favorite travel destination was France. In fact he has been back to France multiple times since the war.


Once Watlington moved back to North Carolina, he began spending more time with his extended family and began to form a close relationship with his niece, Sharon James and her children.


"He was kind of very stern, well educated," James said, describing her Uncle Percy when he first moved back to North Carolina.


But Watlington proved to be a cool uncle as he and his wife would give unique presents for Christmas. "They would always buy my children something for Christmas, but it would be something unique," James said. The children "were like, ‘We always get the coolest different things from Uncle Percy and Aunt Fadonia.’"


Since Fadonia’s death in 2011 Watlington has lived by himself and recently moved into an assisted living facility. He still exercises 30 minutes every day, but he was not banking on making it to 100.


"Just watched the days come and go," Watlington said. "I was never sure that I would get to be 100."


Watlington also spends his days doing something he didn’t have a lot of time for when he was younger: sleeping.


He doesn’t regret his lack of sleep when he was younger as there is plenty of time to sleep now. Instead, he thinks he should have spent more time reading,


"Before you get too old, if you need to do any reading, you better read it," Watlington said. "Your eyes will probably change on you."