The Porter family has long been part of the Cleveland County, North Carolina, community, where Foundation namesake, Paul Baber Porter, was born in 1920. The fourth of seven children, he grew up on the family’s working farm in rural Belwood. His father, from whom he inherited an entrepreneurial spirit, also owned the country store, which provided Mr. Porter his earliest business and management experience.
Margaret Lee Porter (nee Alexander, b. 1920) also grew up in Cleveland County, where she graduated from Shelby High School. She was a talented musician who faithfully played the piano at every Sunday morning church service for many years. After a two year courtship, the couple was married in 1947 and shared an idyllic, Christian grounded marriage for over sixty years.
In 1949, Mr. Porter founded what would become Porter Brothers, Inc. with his brother, William Robert “Bobby” Porter, Jr. The business quickly grew into the preeminent regional distributor for outdoor power equipment and turf care products. The addition of turf care equipment sparked an interest in golf courses, and led to their development of Riverbend Acres, a housing and golf course community, in 1964.
Mr. Porter created the Porter Foundation to give back to the community that had so loyally supported him and his family, both personally and in business. Although he did not attend college, he believed in the importance of education. Indeed, scholarships formed an early basis for his philanthropy, though he also made major gifts to Gardner Webb University and the Paul Porter Center for the Performing Arts at Brevard College. In recognition of his commitment to higher learning, Brevard College conferred on him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Porter were recognized for their support of social services that met basic humanitarian needs, medical care for the indigent and compassionate care for the elderly.