Robert T. Pugh
The South Pines Pilot, June 24, 2011
Robert Thomas Pugh,
known as Bob to his family and friends, returned home to his heavenly
father on June 24, 2011.
His funeral was held Sunday, June 26, at the Boles Funeral Home chapel,
in Southern Pines.
Bob resided at the JFK Towers in Durham until this year, when he was living
at Capital Towers, in Raleigh. Following a brief illness, he passed away
at Rex Hospice in Raleigh at the age of 92.
Born Dec. 9, 1918, in Roxboro, he was a graduate of Bethel Hill High School,
class of 1938.
For more than 60 years, Bob was involved in the sport of boxing as a professional
boxer, promoter and trainer. He began his boxing career in Roxboro during
World War II. He left Roxboro to pursue a job with C&L Railroad in
Norfolk, Va. It was in Norfolk that he met Chris Dundee, the brother of
the now famous Angelo Dundee, who was the trainer for world heavyweight
champion Muhammad Ali. This partnership allowed Bob the opportunity to
travel around the country to further his professional boxing career.
During his colorful boxing career, Bob, known as the “Iron Man,”
held the title of Southern Heavyweight Champion from 1949 to 1952, which
included a fight with the great Joe Louis in a four-round exhibition.
Rocky Marciano happened to be in Bob’s corner during the fight with
the great Joe Louis. He also was scheduled to fight Rocky Marciano at
Madison Square Garden, but the fight was canceled when Marciano abruptly
retired. He established a fight record of 106 bouts with 86 victories,
of which there were 56 knockouts, never being knocked out himself —
a record not to be taken lightly.
He also played minor league baseball in the North Carolina Tobacco State
League for the Sanford Spinners and Durham Bulls, as well as the Lexington
Indians of the Winston-Carolina League. During this time, he established
a batting average of over 300. The New York Giants offered the Spinners
good money for Bob, but they would not release him due to his value to
the club. Later Bob decided not to re-sign for the next season, so he
continued to live and work in Aberdeen with his family, as the night chief
of police. His passion for boxing remained strong. After moving to Durham
as a police officer, he also continued his boxing career, and he decided
to promote and train boxers. He started his own promotion business. Later
he became the boxing coach and trainer for E.D. Mickle Boxing Club and
Recreation Center in Durham. He was instrumental in leading the club to
the 1994 Golden Gloves Championship. During his 11 years with the club,
he trained several boxers who went on to have professional careers. He
retired from the Mickle center at the age of 75, in 1993.
Bob’s biggest dream came true in 1999, when his many achievements
were recognized and he was inducted into the Carolinas Boxing Hall of
Fame. He considered this to be one of his greatest honors. He will long
be remembered as an institution in the state’s boxing community.
His biggest smiles would come when he would talk about his boxing and
baseball careers. Bob always would say that boxing made a man out of him,
mainly because of its discipline. He also never hurt anybody and never
He also had a musical career; in fact, he played with the Blue Diamond
Boys throughout the eastern United States. He played for a full house
at Madison Square Garden in New York. The banjo and guitar were his favorites
of all. He could really play that guitar.
So we, his family, think he must have been paying attention and holding
his hand up when the Lord was passing out talents. He obviously had many.
He was most proud that he was still driving until he was 90 years young,
as he would say. Bob always was the first one to be waiting for the church
doors to open. You could always count on him to arrive really early wherever
he was going.
Bob was a man of great integrity, discipline and faith in his Lord and
Savior. He often was asked how he stayed in shape and good health. His
response was always the same: “I never drank or smoked, and I read
my Bible and prayed every day.”
He was an active member of Glendale Heights Methodist Church, in Durham.
He participated in numerous church activities, which benefited the Durham
community. He loved his church family and sharing time with them, especially
the hugs that always made him feel special.
He is survived by his four children, Barbara Jane Binkley, Bobby Pugh,
Virginia Gail Byrd, and Sandra Kay Chisholm and husband, Duncan; 13 grandchildren;
16 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild. He is also survived
by a special niece, Wanda Holloway Stephenson and her husband, Dennis,
who were in his everyday life and cared for him as well as their children
and grandchildren; and his special sister, Lonie Pugh Kanak, of Richmond,
Va. There are many other loving nieces and nephews as well. He was preceded
in death by his wife of 62 years, Eloise Shotwell; brother, Henry Pugh,
of Roxboro; and sisters, Emma Pugh Holloway McDaniel, of Durham, and Edith
Pugh Tyson, of Richmond, Va.
We so appreciate and thank Dr. William Dunlap and the staff at Rex Hospice
for their warmth and caring of him during his stay. Words could never
express our gracious feelings. We also thank everyone for their continued
friendship and support during the wonderful years of his life and during
this difficult time.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Wake Hospice of Raleigh or
Glendale Heights Methodist Church of Durham.
of Raleigh or Glendale Heights Methodist Church of Durham.