LAURINBURG — If James H. Alford was counting his blessings Friday evening, the 250 people standing and applauding him inside the Bright Hopewell Baptist Church in Laurinburg would be just the tip of that iceberg.
For the better part of three hours, during what could easily have been a version of the popular old “This is Your Life” television show, Alford patiently listened as one speaker after another spoke glowingly about “Brother Alford.”
But as the evening began to wind down, it was quickly energized with the presentation by N.C. Rep. Garland Pierce of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award.
“Looking at this man’s resume, it’s obvious he has worked hard and diligently,” Pierce said. “He should have had this award years ago.”
Alford, 70, is a 40-year educator — 30 of those years in Scotland County and the other 10 years Marlboro County (S.C.) school district.
“The number of young people he has mentored during those years is unimaginable,” Pierce said. “And he has molded and shaped a lot of men here tonight.”
A majority those present were men and women Alford served with in his church, Franklin Chapel AMEZ in Laurinburg, those who knew him during his 29 years with Scotland County Parks & Recreation, and those who came up with him through his memberships with the Eastern Star, Mount Scottish Lodge, Carpentry Consistory and Ouda Temple.
Along with his education and recreation positions, some of Alford’s highlights include receiving the District Deputy Grand Master of the Year for the Western Region six times in the Masonic Lodge; serving as secretary of the of the 29th Masonic District for 14 years; serving for 12 years as Worthy Patron of the Eastern Star’s Mount Scottish Chapter; served as junior deacon, secretary, junior warden, senior warden and worshipful master with Mount Scottish Ledge No. 188; and served as commander-in-chief of the Carpentry Consistory.
Following Pierce’s presentation of the Long Leaf Pine Award, Alford spent the next 30 minutes seated in front of his family and friends as, one by one, Masonic Lodge members from throughout the region paid their respects with stories and praise before leaving him with a gift.
Finally, Alford was given the opportunity to speak, and he wrapped t
he evening’s celebration up concisely.
“To all the beautiful family, friends and, not least, my beautiful 29th District Mason District family, Prince Hall Masons and Eastern Stars — thanks for being so kind and being there for me,” he said.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award is among the most prestigious awards given by the governor of North Carolina. It is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the state of North Carolina and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.
Since its creation in 1963, nearly 20,000 North Carolinians have received the award.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]