WAGRAM — Rev. Johnnie Gorham says life’s work comes down to trying to serve residents and raise the consciousness of Scotland County.
For his efforts, the former Wagram mayor was recently awarded the Order of the Longleaf Pine given out by Gov. Roy Cooper. The recognition has been given out since 1963 to residents who have made substantial contributions to their communities and/or to the state.
Gorham, a longtime educator, minister and public servant was nominated by James A. Davis, Chairman of the Hoke County Democratic Party who called Gorham “a very worthy citizen of Hoke and Scotland counties.”
In his letter to Cooper, Davis praised Gorham’s work as a teacher for 33 years, a minister for 46 years, two terms as mayor of the town of Wagram and for the numerous boards on which he serves.
Gorham is proud of the award saying that it made him feel good to be able to look back on his life and be pleased to see that the work he and his wife Bernice Gorham, current Wagram Commissioner, have spent their lives doing for the county has made a difference.
“It feels excellent. It makes you realize that people think more about you and the work you done in trying to help the citizens of the town of Wagram and the students I taught at Scotland. I makes me feel worthy,” Gorham said.
Gorham is a native of Greenville but came to Wagram nearly 40 years ago to teach agriculture, crop and livestock production. Gorham earned with his Masters of Science in Agricultural Education from NC A&T.
It is no accident that he chose that specialty. He grew up on a farm run by his parents Lilie and Johnnie Gorham, Sr.
Rev. Gorham believes that it is important to try and bring the focus of government to rural communities because they “are often left by the wayside.”
He later completed his Master of Divinity from Shaw University in 1971 and has served as Pastor of Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Raeford for 43 years.
Bernice Gorham, who is also a former educator, is pleased with her husband’s life work and grateful that it has been recognized.
“I really think that since he’s been here, his work has been an outstanding thing,” she said. “Ordinarily a person that has just located to a community would not take the time to develop community interests. He spent his time trying to get sewage and water [service] for Wagram and trying to get the citizens to vote. It’s been our ongoing life tasks to try to get improvements for the citizens of Wagram and Scotland County.”
In 1991 Gorham became the first African-American mayor elected to the town of Wagram and was reelected the following term with 68 percent of the vote.
Gorham “saw good in the town of Wagram,” and pursued the office to “do some good” himself.
During his time in office, he pursued a block grant to make improvements to the town which many thought was dying. Under his leadership and that of succeeding boards, improvements to the town have continued.
Gorham has served on numerous boards including Head Start, 4-H, and the Dixie Youth Softball League which he helped to establish. He also is a member of the American Legion, the Wagram Masonic Lodge 322 and is a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Gorham sees his work as an educator in action across the county on a daily basis. He enjoys seeing his former students who have gone away to receive education or training come back to the county and put their time and efforts into its improvement. It makes him proud and grateful when his former students thank him and his wife for helping to shape and influence their lives in a positive way.
“Over the years, we have done our best to try to be of need to the citizens of Scotland County and surrounding counties with our work in education and in the community,” Gorham said.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169