George A. Thornton III

Published 10:41 pm Saturday, January 4, 2014

George Alden Thornton III

January 3, 2014

George Alden “Buck” Thornton, III, 73, of Duck, N.C., died Jan. 3, 2014. He was born July 2, 1940 in Lebanon, Tenn., and grew up in Norfolk and Suffolk, Va.

George Alden “Buck” Thornton III

George Alden “Buck” Thornton III

Email newsletter signup

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; a daughter, Windsor Elizabeth Thornton; a sister, Mary Eleanor Thornton Martin and husband Cecil Edward Martin Jr.; a brother, John Timothy Thornton and wife Rickey Howard Thornton; and two grandchildren, Robert Caldwell Thornton and Charlotte Graham Thornton, all of Richmond.

He was pre-deceased 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 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, Buck began racing outboard powerboats. His passion for racing led him to be an internationally prominent boat racing driver reaching speeds of 185 mph and 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.

In 1984 Buck began his career as a real estate developer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with his brother when they began building Ships Watch in Duck, N.C. Buck went on to develop in Corolla, building the TimBuckII Shopping Village and the community of Buck Island.

His influence on the Outer Banks was vast — from hosting seven Beach Music Festivals raising money for the Nature Conservancy, to chairing three Knight’s Balls raising money for the renovation of the Whale Head Club, as well as spearheading the effort for its restoration by serving for 15 years as the president of the Whalehead Preservation Trust.

In 2005, the state of North Carolina recognized Buck’s efforts by awarding him the prestigious North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor, and in 2007 Buck received the Outer Banks Citizen of the Year award.

Known for his warm smile, twinkling blue eyes, quick wit and calm and easygoing demeanor, Buck was often referred to as the “Southern Gentleman from North Carolina.”

He was a man whose actions spoke for him and his reputation for excellence, fairness, honesty and hard work were renowned.

Buck was a gregarious people-lover who looked at life’s challenges as opportunities to excel rather than as obstacles. His positive attitude towards life can be summed up in the words of his legendary voice mail greeting; “It’s another spectacular day on the Northern Outer Banks. Leave us a message, make it a happy one, live each day to its fullest, it will ALWAYS BE A GREAT DAY.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Whalehead Preservation Trust for the Buck Thornton Memorial Fund, which can be found at

A service will be held at St. Andrews by the Sea, Nags Head, N.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at 2:30pm. A celebration of Buck’s life will immediately follow in The Oceanview Hall at Jeanette’s Pier.

Twiford Funeral Home of Manteo, North Carolina is handling the arrangements. Condolences may be expressed to the family at