Endowed scholarship established for one of UNCP’s ‘first families’

First Posted: 12/5/2013

The late Curt Locklear Sr. was a remarkable man who grew up in a remarkable time. He could remember plowing on the family farm with oxen. When World War II and Uncle Sam called, he put down the plow and served his country in the European theater.

After the war, Locklear studied, played football and worked his way through Pembroke State College. While he was a student, one of his jobs was planting the historic oak trees along Old Main Drive with grounds superintendent Walter Pinchbeck.

Locklear planted other seedlings in his time. One grew into a successful business that continues to provide employment for more than 60 people today. He and his wife, Catherine, raised nine children: Janice, Cathy, Nancy, Curt Jr., Milton, Marcia, Stephen, Lindsey and Anthony. They have 23 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

A scholarship will continue the legacy of Curt Locklear’s successful life. The family and many friends of Curt and Catherine Locklear completed the endowed scholarship in their honor in 2013. At $10,000 and growing, the income from the scholarship will provide financial aid to deserving students at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in perpetuity.

Curt Locklear Sr. passed away in March 2011 at the age of 87. With Catherine, his wife of 63 years, they produced one of the most celebrated business and family success stories of the Pembroke community.

With his brother, Monroe Lowry, Curt founded Pembroke Hardware Company in 1960. His children and their children fashioned their own success business successes at the hardware store, Sheff’s Seafood, Southeastern Veterinary and Metcon Construction Company.

A younger generation of customers at Pembroke Hardware’s new store on N.C. 711 will remember Curt talking with friends from his desk strategically located near the front door, where it still sits today as a living memorial to the its founder. Curt always said folks were not just customers, they were “friends.”

He built the business from the ground up with shrewd management skills that resulted in great customer service and an inventory for every need. Locklear explained his business philosophy: “If we had $50 at the end of the week, we bought $50 worth of hardware from the Monroe Hardware salesman.”

Lowry added: “We had a good work ethic and good credit. By that, I mean we had no credit.”

The business added building supplies to serve the growing demand from local contractors. A large family was also being added. While raising nine children, Catherine worked at the store, and became well known for her housewares and Christmas shop.

In addition to the endowed scholarship, Curt and Catherine will be remembered with the legacy courtyard and Curt Locklear Drive named for them at UNCP’s football stadium. Their philanthropy also extended to other sports, the Givens Performing Arts Center and the Mary Livermore Library.

Wendy Lowery, UNCP’s vice chancellor of Advancement, said the Locklears are one of the “first families” of the university. “We can’t begin to express our sincere appreciation for the Locklear family and their continued support of UNC Pembroke,” she said. “They represent the core nature of what this great institution is all about.”

At the dedication of the new hardware store in 2006, Curt Sr. said he had no regrets. “A business like a hardware store takes a lot of devotion, and it has been good to me,” he said. “I was never discouraged, and I found a lot of happiness.”

A 1949 graduate of Pembroke State College, Locklear was the recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002. In an interview that is archived in the Native American Resource Center at UNCP, he summed up his feelings about this community: “This was a beautiful place, still is. This is the best place, the only place I ever wanted to live.”

The scholarship is designated to an American Indian student who is majoring in business with demonstrated need for financial assistance. To contribute to the Curt and Catherine Locklear Endowed Scholarship or other scholarships, please contact the Office of Advancement at (910) 521-6252 or email [email protected]

Scott Bigelow is the public information officer at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.