Donald Bonner, a longtime educator in Robeson County and the first African American president of the NCHSAA, passed away in September. Bonner's career included involvement in athletics from a number of different perspectives and positions. A native of Robeson County and a 1955 graduate of North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University), Bonner began his teaching and coaching career at two high schools in South Carolina, sandwiched around a stint in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. His duties included coaching football, basketball, baseball and track. He returned to his native state in 1961 and was a teacher and coach at Leach Street High in Rockingham, coaching both men's basketball and baseball, and then was involved with women's basketball and baseball in Maxton for five years and then at Rowland High School for four.
In 1972 he became principal of Rowland's Southside Middle School, and then in '77 was elevated to the central office, where he now serves as associate superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County. Very active in civic and church affairs, Bonner has been involved at a statewide level in athletics in a variety of capacities. He is a former member of the NCHSAA's Board of Directors and served as president of the organization in 1983-84. He has served on the Association's Hall of Fame Selection Committee, has co-chaired the difficult Realignment Committee, and chairs the Association's Region 4 Scholarship Selection Committee. Bonner also headed up the State Endowment Committee, which made the proposal for the NCHSAA Endowment that has become a reality. Bonner has been honored by the NCHSAA with a Distinguished Service Award and was recognized in 1990 as the superintendent contributing the most to high school athletics.
Outside of the NCHSAA, Bonner was active politically, serving as the chairman of the Robeson County Democratic Party from 1995-1996 and was elected to the NC House of Representatives, serving in the General Assembly from 1997-2004. He received numerous awards and recognitions for community service, but perhaps his highest in the public space include the naming of the public library in Rowland the Donald A. Bonner Public Library in 2007 and his selection to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2018.