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George A. Thornton III

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Date published: 1/5/2014

George A. Thornton III

George Alden "Buck" Thornton, 73, of Duck, N.C., died Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

He was born July 2, 1940, in Lebanon, Tenn., and grew up in Norfolk and Suffolk, Va.

He is survived by his wife, Bronwyn Kenneweg Thornton; two sons, George Alden Thornton IV and wife Alison Perkins Thornton, of Ponte Vedra, Fla., and Haywood Alston Thornton and wife Kemper Williams Thornton; daughter Windsor Elizabeth Thornton; sister Mary Eleanor Thornton Martin and husband Cecil Edward Martin Jr.; brother John Timothy Thornton and wife Rickey Howard Thornton; and two grandchildren, Robert Caldwell Thornton and Charlotte Graham Thornton, all of Richmond. He was predeceased by his parents, George Alden Thornton Jr. and Eleanor Dillard Thornton.

Buck was a 1958 graduate of Suffolk High School and a 1960 graduate of Louisburg College and later attended The University of Richmond. While working on his degree, he spent summers teaching water skiing at Camp Seagull near New Bern, N.C. Buck enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1961, and served in the Marine Corps Reserves until 1967.

He began his career in the furniture industry at an early age, growing up working in his father's store, Thornton's Furniture. His first job was stocking the cold drink machine each day after school. He worked his way up from stock boy to store manager. In 1970, Thornton's Furniture merged with Heilig-Meyers Furniture. Buck went on to become a vice president of merchandising for Heilig-Meyers in Richmond.

In 1979, he moved to Atlanta, Ga., as the senior vice president of merchandising and advertising for Rhodes Furniture. Buck served on the executive boards of Heilig-Meyers, Kincaid Furniture, Simmons Bedding, Charles and Colvard, The Whalehead Preservation Trust and the North Carolina Aquarium Society.

In 1963, while living in Elizabeth City, N.C., Buck began racing outboard power boats. His passion for racing led him to become an internationally prominent boat racing driver reaching speeds of 185 miles per hour, capturing 18 National Championships and two World Championships. He was admitted to the American Power Boat Association Hall of Champions in 1977. Buck's drive to excel in one of the world's most dangerous sports carried over into his professional career.

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