Kienus Boulware — “Coach” to his co-workers — looked across his desk at a sturdy young man seated opposite him. He broke into a warm smile and got to the meat of his sales pitch.
But instead of extolling the virtues of a college football program, Boulware was trying to convince the young man that the time was right to buy a new car at Peters Auto Mall.
“The one thing that made this transition easy is that it’s sales and the feeling of helping people,” he said. “But instead of selling a university, I’m selling cars to families.”
The transition he’s referring to was not of his choosing. Boulware in April 2019 was fired by Winston-Salem State University after a fight between players — something that’s not unheard of on a college football team.
The subject of Boulware’s new career came up last week following a hearing in Forsyth Superior Court, another step in a lengthy battle he’s waging to restore his reputation.
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. I worked all my professional life — you don’t go far doing things the wrong way — to get where I did,” he said. “I’m just looking to get my name back.”
Boulware’s roots in the area run deep. He was a standout at Thomasville High before moving on to play for Mack Brown (Act I) at the University of North Carolina.
A neck injury prematurely ended his playing days, but it gave him a head start into coaching. That path eventually brought him to WSSU, where he guided the Rams to multiple league titles and a Division II playoff berth.
It all came to a screeching halt in April 2019. Two players had a running feud — school records indicate that it may have been a dispute over marijuana — and that led to a locker room fight April 4.
Boys being boys, the fight flared up again in a dorm room. And coach being a coach, Boulware hustled over to sort things out.
Boulware called the father of one of the players. The story about dope circulated, as did a rumor about a player having a gun. A bag with brown residue was located in a trash can, which the father took and said he would handle by flushing it.
As things turned out, neither a gun nor illegal drugs were found in the dorm or on the players.
The only criminal allegation that ever resulted was a misdemeanor pot possession pressed against a female student after a small amount of marijuana was found in a car parked outside. That case wound up being dismissed.
Still, Boulware was fired three weeks later.
“It is illegal to have weapons and drugs on campus, and having such items on campus endangers the campus community,” wrote Chancellor Elwood Robinson in a termination letter dated April 24, 2019.
The reason, Robinson wrote, was Boulware’s “failure to contact law enforcement and the athletics director given the information you received jeopardized campus safety.”
But that’s not exactly true. The coach, in fact, did go to the athletics office and reported the altercation to an assistant athletics director. He also gave a detailed statement — on videotape — to campus authorities.
WSSU’s position is that Boulware should have called police before going to the dorm.
Feeling aggrieved, Boulware hired a lawyer and began an arduous (and shifting) appeals process that has landed in Forsyth Superior Court more than a year later.
“We’re here because there’s been yet another legal hurdle thrown at Coach Boulware,” said Jone Byrd, one of his lawyers.
Not that it should come as a shock, but there is money involved.
Boulware’s contract, which ran through June 2020, paid him $130,000 annually plus bonuses. WSSU agreed to pay him while an in-house appeals process played out; that ended in December.
And that is a major reason why a contract dispute wound up in a state court.
A 15-page “petition for judicial review” and another 30 of supporting documents — an appeal by any other name — filed in June against the UNC Board of Governors, WSSU and its board of trustees spells out Boulware’s complaint in detail.
The short version goes this way: Robinson’s dismissal of Coach Boulware was illegal, unsubstantiated and “an abuse of discretion.”
Further, Robinson made the decision to fire Boulware and then, after a review by a faculty committee, acted as the university’s appellate judge rather than the Board of Governors doing so. That’s the process that was spelled out online as university policy through late spring 2019 anyhow.
Some might call that moving the goalposts.
The school, through its attorneys, says it merely adapted its appeals policy to match one set by the UNC system as a whole.
It gets worse.
Carrie Johnston, an attorney with the UNC System, and lawyers representing Boulware wound up in court Wednesday arguing about whether the university should publicly file records related to the case, where, say, interested parties such as the taxpayers (on the hook for the contract and legal fees) might get a chance to look through them.
“We’re not trying to not disclose anything or not file them,” Johnston told Judge Richard Gottlieb, citing an alphabet soup of federal student/privacy laws. “It’s just that there is sensitive information of a private nature in there.”
Family and information about anger issues, for example. The list also includes such things as student names, heights and weights. You know, the kinds of information found, say, in a football program.
Boulware’s attorneys were having none of it, and asked Gottlieb to issue an order that all documents be filed where anyone can view them.
“Coach Boulware has been going through this rigmarole for months … it’s hard not to feel (WSSU) is throwing roadblocks at him as has happened all along in this,” said Alli Tomberlin, one of his lawyers.
A ruling could come at any time. Another hearing is scheduled for early September.
Meanwhile, Boulware sits at a desk next to a Bentley rather than one overlooking a football field.
He’s not complaining; he’s grateful for the opportunity. Still, football is in his blood.
“It took a while to regroup,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my wife (Kellie), who knows where I’d be? …
“From whistles to wheels. I just want my name back.”
Anyone driving down what used to be called Business 40 can tell the end of the massive renovation looks near.
The overhead bridges sport fresh coats of paint and attractive brick facings on the side walls.
References to the highway on traffic signs are being changed to reflect its new name: Salem Parkway.
Midway between Peters Creek Parkway and Marshall Street, the arches of the Green Street pedestrian bridge cross the downtown freeway.
And this week, workers have been putting down some final layers of asphalt.
But while substantial completion is just a couple of weeks within sight, highway officials say there are enough remaining details to finish to keep workers busy into the fall.
One thing that’s not there yet are the new signs that set the speed limit of Salem Parkway to 55 miles per hour. Tantalizingly dangled before eager motorists almost four years ago, the higher speed limit will go into effect soon without any fanfare.
“We did an evaluation and it met the guidelines for 55,” said Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County. “Once the contractor wraps up the work, we anticipate changing the signs.”
The freeway has been closed for paving during nights of the past week.
“In recent weeks we took out the supports from underneath the Green Street bridge,” said Larry Shaver, the resident engineer here for the N.C. Department of Transportation. “That has allowed us to put down the final paving of asphalt from Brookstown Avenue to the west.”
The part of the freeway from Brookstown Avenue to the Hamilton Bridge got its final coatings of pavement earlier, but the temporary structures holding up the Green Street bridge prevented workers from doing any paving on the western end of the project.
With the suspension rods in place at Green Street, the temporary supports were removed, and now the bridge spans the highway with no structural support other than the suspension.
Business 40 reopened as Salem Parkway in the early morning hours of Feb. 2, capping off a 14-and-a-half-month closure that saw the original roadbed and bridges ripped apart and systematically replaced.
With little room to economically add more lanes, engineers took a different approach: They designed the road to have fewer intersections and longer on- and off-ramps, in a bid to make the higher safer and work better.
“I think everybody has finally seen what we have been talking about,” Ivey said, noting how well the new road is functioning. “Even though we were not able to add more lanes, we made it much ... safer.”
A lot of the work being done now is on the pedestrian bridges and the approaches to Salem Parkway rather than on the parkway itself.
At the Strollway bridge, work proceeds on what has been styled a “land bridge” complete with plantings, to give people who cross it the feel of still being in nature.
Soon, Shaver said, workers will be starting on the gabion baskets at the strollway. These are rock-filled wire cages that will flank the ends of the bridge and give them more the appearance of being anchored in natural stone.
While the Green Street bridge hangs by its suspension rods, the bridge is still off-limits to pedestrians because contractors are awaiting the arrival of the safety fencing, Shaver said.
“We also have to do lighting for the bridge and tie in the sidewalks on the ends,” he said.
Other parts of the work under way include:
Although a multi-use path alongside Salem Parkway remains a key part of the project, a major section of the work will have to wait because of state highway financial crunches.
The sections of the multi-use path around Peters Creek Parkway and the baseball stadium, including the tunnel under Peters Creek Parkway, are being done under the same contract as the overall project, and workers are still busy on that section.
But to the east, where the multi-use path will tie in with the Strollway, a separate contract will be awarded to finish off that part of the path once the main Salem Parkway contract wraps up in November.
That part of the multi-use path will feature a bridge that takes users over the ramp leading from Cherry Street to Salem Parkway eastbound.
Meanwhile, the city plans to award the contract this fall for the conversion of First and Second streets to two-way traffic over much of their distances.
The project had to wait for the completion of the Business 40 renovation, and will begin with work to put in properly arranged traffic signals.
The streets could be paved in 2021 before summer, according to Jeff Fansler, the assistant director of transportation for Winston-Salem.
First Street, in particular, is heavily patched because of utility work that had to take place before the Business 40 revamp could move forward.
Liberty and Main streets are also on the list for repaving and conversion to two-way traffic, but that won’t be done until 2022, Fansler said.
Two 14-year-olds died Saturday from injuries sustained in an apparent drive-by shooting.
According to the Winston-Salem Police Department, officers responded to the shooting at approximately 12:37 a.m. Saturday at 811 Utah Drive. When they arrived, police said, they found the two teens lying in the yard with apparent gunshot wounds.
One of the teenagers was pronounced dead at the scene, police said, while the other was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center by ambulance. That second teen later died Saturday evening at approximately 6:50 p.m. Their names were both withheld by police.
The WSPD Criminal Investigations Division investigated and, according to police, learned from witnesses that the two victims and some others were having a small gathering at the address.
A vehicle drove through the area and fired at the two victims, police said. Witnesses heard multiple shots, and investigators located multiple shell casings at the scene.
It was the city’s 17th and 18th homicide this year. At this time last year, there had been 15.
This was the second straight weekend there was a drive-by shooting in Winston-Salem. A pair last weekend sent a combined five people to the hospital.
According to Winston-Salem police Lt. Greg Dorn, Saturday’s shooting had no indication of a connection to the week before.
Last weekend, two separate shootings took place roughly two miles from each other that sent five people to the hospital.
The first happened around 5 p.m. on July 25. Police said two vehicles stopped in front of a residence in the 900 block of Ferrell Avenue. Three victims were shot in the yard, police said, while trying to run for shelter.
Nine hours later, at 2:11 a.m. on Sunday, another drive-by occurred in the 1300 block of North Jackson Avenue. Much like the Ferrell Avenue incident, police said the two victims were outside when a vehicle drove up and began shooting at the victims.
In both cases, the cars fled the scenes before police arrived. All five victims of last week’s shootings were taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, but all were in stable condition when police released information about both.
“We are looking at all avenues right now,” police Lt. John Morris has said about last weekend’s shootings. “They are trying to determine a nexus.”
The case of the Utah Drive shooting is still very active, police said. Authorities are asking that anyone with information regarding this investigation contact the Winston-Salem Police Department at (336) 773-7700 or CrimeStoppers at (336) 727-2800. CrimeStoppers may also be contacted via “Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem” on Facebook.