These pivotal leaders have changed the housing landscape in North Carolina and beyond.

The incorporators of LIHDC in 1966 were outstanding leaders in the North Carolina Fund: George Esser, Executive Director of the NC Fund; Nathan T. Garrett, finance director, and Michael P. Brooks, research director. From there, a full board was established. Early notable board members included:


biowheeler John Hervey Wheeler, President (1966 – 1978). After graduating summa cum laude from Morehouse College in 1929, Mr. Wheeler went to work for Mechanics and Farmers Bank, where he adopted a model of Black leadership. For Wheeler, the bank served as a base for action that went beyond providing financial services. The bank became an instrument for social change, making possible the purchase of decent homes, the acquisition of federal loans for housing projects, and the relaxation of racial barriers among white banks that learned from Wheeler that black borrowers were good risks. In 1935, he joined others to found the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs, an organization that became one of the South’s most effective local movements in the struggle for re-enfranchisement, civil rights, and economic justice. He joined efforts to build a local coalition of black and white workers, integrate The University of North Carolina and the Durham public schools. By the 1960s, Wheeler was gaining national recognition for his efforts. President Kennedy appointed him to the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, and in 1968, President Johnson assigned him to the National Housing Corporation, an organization created by the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. Along the way, he had become the President of Mechanics and Farmers Bank in 1952. His daughter, Julia Wheeler Taylor, was the first female president of MFB from 1983 – 2000. Read more on the life and accomplishments of Mr. Wheeler.

bioeverettRobinson (Robbie) O. Everett: Mr. Everett continually served Mosaic in a variety of ways including as legal counsel and Board member from our inception in 1966 until his passing at age 81 in 2009. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1950, Judge Everett began teaching at Duke Law School. He was only 22 years old at the time and was the youngest person ever to teach at Duke Law School. In 1951, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty for two years during the Korean War in the Judge Advocate General’s Department. This began his long affiliation with the military and resulted in his becoming one of the country’s most prominent and respected authorities on military justice.   In 1955, he returned to Durham and joined the law firm of his parents, who were also prominent attorneys. He engaged in private law practice from 1955-1980. His legal practice included administrative law, commercial real estate, construction litigation, zoning and land-use regulation, and redistricting litigation. He was a law professor at Duke University and was on the school’s faculty for 51 years. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated Everett to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, where he served for 10 years as chief judge. Judge Everett was legal counsel to the North Carolina Fund, and his interest and expertise in real estate matters made him a valuable resource as a LIHDC board member. Read more about Judge Everett.

biokornegaySamuel H. Kornegay: Mr. Kornegay was a board member since 1968 and President since 1989 until his passing March 2018. He had a Bachelor of Science degree from Johnson C. Smith University (1957) and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1972). He had over 40 years’ experience in nonprofit human service organizations. Professional positions included Director, Social Work and Assistant Professor at Livingston College, Human service Planner with the United Way of Central Carolinas, Executive Director of the Charlotte Area Fund and Director of Development Services at Johnson C. Smith University. Mr. Kornegay’s long-standing dedication and contribution to our board are unsurpassed and greatly missed.

Others: Over the years a wide array of community activists, bankers, lawyers, architects, urban planners, and representatives of public officials have comprised our board. Due to the passage of time and the damage from Hurricane Hugo, our records on early board members is incomplete. We regret that we cannot honor them all by name but sincerely wish to acknowledge their vision, courage, and commitment to establishing diverse and distinguished roots for this organization.

Early LIHDC Staff Members

Walter (Bob) L. Smith: Mr. Smith was uniquely qualified to become the first Executive Director of this new organization. His career began with a degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He served in the United States Army and as a Foreign Service Officer in Mexico and Venezuela. Following his Foreign Service tours of duty, Mr. Smith made his way to real estate when he became a real estate broker in Virginia. His was hired by the Federal Housing Administration as the Assistant Chief Appraiser and led a rent supplement task force that was in charge of implementing a new rental subsidy program. Mr. Smith acted as Executive Director from 1966 until 1989.

William R. Pursell: Deputy Director of LIHDC and Director of the LIHDC Rural Housing Program. Pursell’s experience with community housing needs stretches back to the mid-sixties when he directed one of the state’s largest community action programs, and later became a key staff member of the North Carolina fund. He joined the staff of LIHDC in 1968, specializing in development of housing for small towns and rural areas. Pursell secured sites, arranged funding, supervised construction and sales of single-family housing sponsored directly by LIHDC

Howard F. Drake: Assistance Director, LIHDC Rural Housing Program. Mr. Drake joined the staff of LIHDC in1970, after 5 years’ experience as a building inspector for the City of Greensboro. He directed field operations for rural housing initiatives, including negotiating contracts, packaging loans for new construction and rehabilitation and providing on-site technical assistant to community groups.

Others: The information on other early staff members is also sparse due to the Hurricane damage and the passage of time. However, we would like to acknowledge their many contributions to establishing solid roots for the organization.