Fit for a king

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

William Hooper, who represented North Carolina in the second Continental Congress, made history 229 years ago when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Earlier this week, William Henry King III-his seventh generation grand-son-made a bit of his own history at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Penn.

On July 4, King, who grew up in Suffolk, read aloud the document penned by his ancestor during a special ceremony held by the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. The organization-one of the few allowed to meet in Independence Hall, the exact location of the original signing-pay homage to their forefathers’ contributions to the country every July 4th.

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&uot;It was pretty surreal,&uot; said King. &uot;I can’t think of any better way to celebrate July 4 than to go to where our country’s government first got started.&uot;

King, 29, didn’t know he would be reading until a few minutes before he took the stage.

&uot;I was a little nervous,&uot; said King, who plans to attend law school after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University next December.

The room was quiet during the reading, with people reflecting on the contributions and sacrifices their ancestors made to the country’s freedom more than 200 years before, King said.

&uot;I don’t think anyone was expecting me to read it the way I did,&uot; he said. &uot;I really tried to put some life and expression into it.

&uot;I wanted to capture the feeling and emotion that I thought was appropriate for the moment.&uot;

Speaking skills must run in the family. Hooper was known for his oratory skills; John Adams even compared Hooper as an orator to the likes of Patrick Henry, King said. Hooper sat on more than 20 committees in the Continental Congress, serving with Benjamin Franklin, George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson.

King, a longtime history buff, belongs to several organizations: Masonic Lodge #15 in Petersburg, the South Chester-field Ruritan Club, the Richmond chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Dearing-Beauregard chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy.

King left Suffolk when he was in sixth grade, moving to several places around the country before finally settling in Richmond.

&uot;I still kind of think of Suffolk as home,&uot; said King. Much of his family still lives in town.

He is the son of William H. King Jr. of Suffolk and Faye Bryant Chaney and Jack R. Chaney of Richmond.

He is also the nephew of Mr. and Mrs. E. Lee King and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Harrell and a great nephew of Marshall Howell Parker, all of Suffolk.