‘It’s a good life’: Fmr. senator who led integration of Gaston Co. Schools turns 100

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A man who is considered one of the most generous people in Gaston County is celebrating his 100th birthday.

Marshall Rauch made a name for himself as a businessman, but as Channel 9′s Gaston County reporter Ken Lemon found out, that’s not what he considers his biggest achievement.

There’s an entire stretch of Interstate 85 through Gaston County that’s named in Rauch’s honor. But he didn’t mention that when Lemon asked him about his greatest accomplishments: He said the highest honor of his life so far was helping others.

Rauch often credits his success to fortune.

“I have lived with a great deal of luck,” he told Lemon.

He doesn’t take much credit for the spot he earned on Duke University’s basketball team, or for surviving a Nazi attack at sea during World War II. He’s believed to be the oldest living Duke basketball player.

“The other ship got sunk in the English Channel,” he said.

He said luck helped him make millions in business, and that same luck made him a state senator for 24 years. As head of the Human Relations Commission, he did so well leading the integration of Gaston County Schools that his name was placed on the Martin Luther King Jr. monument.

“I didn’t do anything special,” Rauch said.

But he did take credit for giving to others.

“The highest degree of charity -- and I have a pretty good batting average on it -- is to help someone in such a way that they never need help again,” he said.

Rauch was well known for giving people ideas for success along with the money to see it through. He believes the joy from that is much bigger than he is.

“You get inner strength that you won’t believe,” he said.

He landed in Gaston County by following his college sweetheart, Jeanne, who became his wife of 64 years. Jeanne died 13 years ago, but he still credits her for getting him here.

“For some kid born in New York City, I have had a whole lot of fun and a great life in North Carolina,” he said. “It’s a good world.”

Lemon asked Rauch the key to living to long -- he said he treats his body well and surrounds himself with good people.

Rauch had several public birthday celebrations, but on Thursday, he celebrated his 100th birthday privately with family and close friends.

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