Gov. Pat McCrory, members of his cabinet and the Council of State, N.C. Supreme Court justices and assorted politicians attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. observance for state employees Friday at First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh.
Speeches were made, music was played and a keynote address was given by John W. Franklin, son of the late historian John Hope Franklin and an official with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
But the most touching moment came when McCrory awarded Clemon Terrell of Burlington the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. As the son of a sharecropper, Terrell, 85, joined the U.S. Coast Guard after high school, knowing he could only serve as a steward because he was black.
Terrell spent 20 years in the military and rose to the highest rank he could as a steward: petty officer first class. In December, the Coast Guard sought to make amends by declaring him an honorary chief petty officer. On Friday, McCrory’s military adviser, retired Gen. Cornell Wilson, who is also African-American, and the governor presented Terrell with the state honor.
“This is the first time I ever met a governor – and a general,” Terrell said. “I just want to say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Terrell told the crowded church that he was a Democrat but voted for McCrory.