Look for more on Hector MacLean and his life on robesonian.com and in Tuesday’s print edition — Editor.
LUMBERTON — Hector MacLean, a former Lumberton mayor, state senator, banker, philanthropist, civic leader and the chief 20th century architect of present-day Robeson County, has died at age 92.
The Robesonian learned of his death through an email from his son-in-law, Aaron Clinard, who said he died “peacefully … while sleeping in his (Lumberton) home last night … Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.”
A native of Baltimore, MacLean lived on Elm Street in Lumberton, and was the son Angus McLean, who served as North Carolina’s governor from 1925 to 1929.
Lumberton attorney Horace Stacy, a longtime close friend of MacLean’s, remembers him as being “very generous” and an “outstanding speaker.”
“He had a lot of friends,” Stacy said. “He was a powerful figure in this community. He was so involved in the community, and received so many honors, I can’t remember them all.”
David Weinstein, a former Lumberton mayor and state senator, said: “A mighty oak has fallen. (MacLean) loved Robeson County, Lumberton and North Carolina. He will be greatly missed.”
Weinstein said that when he was serving in the Senate he would often seek MacLean’s opinion on important legislative issues.
“He was someone you could go to for advice and get an opinion,” Weinstein said. “He was always honest and you would get a very intelligent answer.”
MacLean is credited with steering Interstate 95, which had originally been mapped for west of Lumberton, through the city when it was constructed in the 1960s. The major north-south highway sparked economic development along the corridor that continues to benefit Robesonians today. The stretch of the highway that passes through Lumberton was named in his honor in 1997.
MacLean helped create what is now BB&T, was instrumental in the establishment of the Robeson County chapter of the United Way and started radio station WAGR with partners. The local chapter of the United Way’s top award is named in his honor.
Raised in Lumberton, MacLean graduated from the Lumberton school system before going on to Davidson College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1941. He enrolled in the Philadelphia Textile School, but left to serve as a major in the U.S. Army during World War II.
After the war, MacLean earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill and began his practice in Lumberton. He was elected Lumberton’s mayor in 1948 and served from 1949 to 1953. At the time, he was one of the youngest mayors in the country.
MacLean was appointed in 1961 to serve in the state Senate, a position he held until 1971. While a member of the Senate, he was instrumental in the establishment of Pembroke State College as a university (now The University of North Carolina at Pembroke), and the establishment of the North Carolina Zoo.
MacLean was the president of Lumberton Bank, which became Southern National Bank in 1953 and would eventually become BB&T. When BB&T moved its corporate headquarters away from Lumberton in the mid-1990s to Winston-Salem, MacLean was credited with ensuring that the bank retained significant operations in Lumberton and Robeson County.
He also served as president of the Virginia and Carolina Southern Railroad, a company founded by his father.
In 1996, he was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame. The Hector MacLean Public Library in Fairmont was named in his honor in 1986.
MacLean married the late Lyl Warrick in 1944. He is survived by a daughter, Lyl Clinard, who lives in High Point with her husband, Aaron.
According to MacLean’s obituary in today’s The Robesonian, the funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Lumberton. Interment will follow in Meadowbrook Cemetery immediately after the service.