N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley joined a packed room full of recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at The Levine Museum of the New South on Sunday. And he had some news for them. A special license plate is now available to state troopers and other law enforcthem, designating their honor.
Brawley said in jest that it could prove helpful if a recipient got stopped by law enforcers.
But Brawley was right in acknowledging that the Order of the Long Leaf Pine designation does recognize a lot of public and community service that is significant worthy of taking note of. That's what happened Sunday at the reception at the Levine. It was the brainchild of well-known community activist Theresea Elder and was coordinated by former district court Judge Nancy Norelli. UNC Charlotte's Jennifer Harkey and Levine historian Tom Hanchett.
Among the recipients who showed up were former Commerce Secretary Howard Haworth (in Republican Jim Martin's administration) who is also chairman emeritus of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
The award was created in the 1960s during Gov. Terry Sanford's administration and is given by governors to those who have done great service to their N.C. communities or the state, or those who have significant achievements in their lives. The certificate dubs the recipient an “ambassador extraordinary.” Some well-known North Carolinians lay claim to being part of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Among them are evangelist Billy Graham, poet and entertainer Maya Angelou, artist Bob Timberlake and Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
The award is truly egalitarian though, honoring teachers, community leaders as well as politicians and famous N.C. residents. On Sunday, the broad swath of civicly engaged and community-minded honorees were represented.
Phillip Fisher, who founded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society, said a statewide reception is being planned for next year. Fisher has compiled a list of the more than 15,000 recipients after discovering the state had not kept a comprehensive list of recipients.