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Former Gazette columnist, radio broadcaster dies

Henry Preston ‘Pres’ Young Jr., former columnist for The Gazette-Virginian and former general manager of radio station WHLF, died Sunday at Halifax Regional Hospital at the age of 87.

A well-known fixture in both the print and broadcast media in Halifax County for many years, Young wrote a weekly column in The Gazette-Virginian, “From the Old Elder’s Bench,” after retiring as station manager at the local radio station, WHLF. He also authored a book, “Country Folks-The Way We Were Back Then in Halifax County, Virginia, A Collection of Stories.”

Young served in the Army Air Force in World War II, having joined in 1943 and serving until the end of the war, attaining the rank of flight officer. In 1947, Young joined Halifax County’s fledgling radio station WHLF, founded by the late John L. Cole Jr. and Roy Marsh.

Young served as station manager at WHLF for many years in addition to handling broadcast duties and sales.

“Pres was the first thing I remember about the radio business, except for my father,” said John L. Cole III, former station owner and manager. “He was a fixture at the radio station.”

“When you thought of WHLF, you thought of John Cole and Pres Young,” said Cathy Cole, wife of John Cole III who worked for many years with Young. “He was a fine gentleman, always upbeat and happy, a pleasure to work with.”

Young was well known and tremendously liked by a multitude of people in and around Halifax County, South Boston and many areas outside of the county. He was “Uncle Pres” to kids and grownups alike, that familiar voice on the radio, broadcasting tobacco sales live from warehouses or reading “Letters to Santa Claus” several weeks before Christmas.

Sports fans remember Young teaming up with Ken Parton and, in later years, Nick Long, on Comets football and basketball broadcasts.

“First and foremost Pres was just a great person and devoted husband to the love of his life, Byrd,” said Long, current WHLF general manager.

“Pres was a member of that ‘Greatest Generation’ from WWII, a savvy businessman who loved Halifax County and approached each day with the passion to brighten the day of the next person he encountered. WHLF, South Boston and Halifax County are better because of the life and work of Pres Young.”

“Pres was a gentleman broadcaster, completely professional and gentlemanly in what he did. He was the benchmark which everyone in broadcasting aspires to,” said John Cole III. “After he retired and for all the years I worked at WHLF I came to rely on him for advice in the radio business and for general counsel.

“Pres was a great resource for me and for everyone else at the station,” Cole added. “He influenced many in a positive way.”

Young was an active member of First Presbyterian Church until failing health would not allow him to attend.

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Byrd Inge Young of South Boston, a sister, Annie Baker Young Torian of South Boston, and a number of nieces and nephews.

Services for Henry Preston Young Jr. will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in South Boston with the Rev. Dr. Russell Lee officiating. Burial will follow in the Asbury United Methodist Church Cemetery.