Hal Thompson Siler, the driving force behind Sanford and Lee County’s economic development in the 70s, 80s and 90s, died today at the age of 90.
A veteran of World War II who came face to face with Nazi war criminals as a prison guard in Nuremberg in 1946, Siler led the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce from 1970 until his retirement in 1995. In a recent article on Siler’s legacy, former Chamber president and current Sanford Area Growth Alliance Executive Director Bob Joyce called Siler the “lead recruiter for new business” during that time.
“His 25-year record of success here is unmatched by any other similar size community in America,” he said.
Joyce told the Rant that Siler was responsible for bringing “probably 70 or 80 industries” – including Coty, Moen, Magnetti Marelli, and Pentair – and between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs to Lee County in his 25 years as president of the Chamber.
“He came to the Chamber in 1970, and our biggest employer – the Roberts Company – goes under right as he starts,” Joyce recalled. “So he had a real challenge. But over the next 25 years, by anyone’s measure, he goes on to be probably the most successful small Chamber president in the Southeast.”
Joyce also recalled hearing from Siler and others about his time in World War II.
“He got drafted at the end of the war as a 19 year old in 1945 or 1946, and he’s on a boat across the Atlantic for three weeks,” Joyce said. “He’s this country boy from Chatham County, and he realizes he doesn’t know how long he’ll be in Germany. He says ‘I want to be able to talk to girls.’ And so he learns German from his bunkmate in three weeks. That itself is a real testament to his brain.”
Siler and his wife, Esther Ann Teague Siler, had a daughter and two sons and eight grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
Memorial contributions can be made to:
The Hal T. Siler Scholarship Fund @CCCC
1105 Kelly Dr
Sanford, NC 27330
First Baptist Church
202 Summit Dr
Sanford, NC 27330
Sanford Lions Club
PO Box 892
Sanford, NC 27331
Don’t forget: he was a gifted sketch artist
Hal was the most skilled and smartest man I ever had the pleasure of knowing . His vision and leadership contributed greatly to the growth of Lee County.
Hal Siler was an extraordinary person by any measure. While his success as a community leader with the Chamber and EDC is legendary it no way reflects the kind of person he was. Hal always had a joke or a story attached to a kind gesture. His legacy will always be the friendships he forged and the family he raised here in Lee County. It was a privilege to know and work with him. He was truly a fine gentleman in every sense of the word.
I remember being a young “bystander” during conversations between my daddy and Mr. Siler. At that time, I was thinking…my goodness, will these two ever stop talking. Now, I wish I had taken notes during those conversations…I could have foregone college and learned just as much!! A wonderful man. Lee County was lucky to have him.
He told me that the German he learned was with a New York accent and that when he would go back and forth between German in a northern accent and English in a southern accent that would cause Germans that didn’t know him well to have a quizzical look on their face.
Even though most of his accomplishments were ultimately located in Sanford and Lee County, the employment base he was able was a boon to Chatham, Harnett, and Moore Counties as well. It wasn’t until I left the area and worked in other parts of the State that I realized just how good he was at his job and how well he did and the ultra low key way he did it.
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