LUMBERTON — Robeson County still likes Mike, and the Robeson County History Museum will celebrate native son Mike McIntyre’s service in Congress with a special exhibit.
An opening reception will be held on Oct. 15, with doors opening at 2 p.m. and a ceremony at 3 p.m. featuring McIntyre and his family. The exhibit’s title is “18 Years of Service: Mike McIntyre in Congress.”
The reception is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be on display through June in the museum, which is located at 101 N. Elm St. The reception will end at 5 p.m.
McIntyre and his wife, Dee, live in the Triangle area today. He works as a senior advisor for government relations for a Raleigh law firm. The McIntyres are in Lumberton often to visit friends and family.
“My work often takes me to the coastal region of the state, including Robson County, to work on economic development projects,” McIntyre said in a telephone interview. “I was at the Robeson County Fair on its first Saturday night.”
The congressman is looking forward to the opening of the museum exhibit. He called it a “real honor,” but said his service in Congress was about the people at home.
“Our desire in Congress was always to make a difference right here,” McIntyre said. “This exhibit is about the people, purpose and partnership our family shared with this county.
“The exhibit is really the people’s story,” he said. “In public service, I strived to fulfill the Founding Fathers’ vision of democracy as a true representative of the people by someone who has lived in and knows the local community.
“My first and last question on every issue: How does this affect the people back home?” he said. “We were blessed with a wonderful opportunity to represent the citizens in our area in the nation’s capitol.”
McIntyre has a long list of Robeson County economic development projects for which he helped obtain federal grants and loans. Among them are the Workforce Development Center at Robeson Community College, the Entrepreneurship Incubator at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, COMtech, a veterans clinic for Robeson County, Lumberton’s police headquarters and city hall, renovations at Carolina Civic Center, library and courthouse, and funding for fire departments, law enforcement and transportation infrastructure.
The tobacco buyout program was a project that McIntyre worked on for much of his 18 years in Congress.
“The tobacco buyout was something I promised I would do on my first day in Congress,” he said. “It brought $4 billion to North Carolina’s economy.”
McIntyre twice pushed Lumbee recognition bills through the House of Representatives, once with a veto-proof majority despite a president’s objections. He visited nearly every fellow congressman in the House to advocate for what he calls “a human dignity issue.”
With McIntyre, the big issues never obscured service to individual constituents.
“Constituent service was always a top priority for us, and we were blessed to have a wonderful staff in offices in the district and in Washington,” he said. “These services make a difference in the lives of many people.”
As for the exhibit, viewers will see a variety of memorabilia from 18 years of service. There is a large collection of items from McIntyre’s six trips aboard Air Force One, including itineraries signed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.
There are keepsakes collected from inaugurations, framed bills with pens used by presidents to sign them, Easter eggs from the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt, and many photos with sitting presidents and Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
Of special interest to military veterans is a large sample of McIntyre’s collection of 270 military “challenge coins.”
This is the 20th year anniversary of McIntyre’s first year in office, and the museum is planning a memorable exhibit, said Shep Oliver, president.
“The idea of an exhibit for Mike has been floated at the History Museum for quite some time,” Oliver said. “The museum board traveled to UNC Wilmington to see the exhibit that the Randall Honors Library put up for Mike.
“It took us two hours to go through the whole exhibit at UNCW,” Oliver said. “They did a real fine job. It was extensive.”
Born and raised in Lumberton, McIntyre was a Morehead Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where he received a law degree. He practiced law in Lumberton until his election to Congress in 1996 as a Democrat representing the 7th District, which included his hometown, Fayetteville and Wilmington.
The exhibit will be spread throughout the museum and displayed by themes.
The museum has undergone various restorations and renovations since 2015, when ownership of the building was passed from Helen Sharpe, who embarked on building restoration in 1986 and later turned it into a museum.
A new wave of enthusiasm for exhibiting Robeson County’s colorful history has taken root under the leadership first of Richard Monroe and now Oliver.
Recent exhibits have included antique bicycles, cameras and wedding gowns, quilts, American Indian musical instruments, Black History Month and Robeson’s highest ranking members of the military. The Robeson County History Museum will participate again in the annual Lumberton Christmas Tour of Homes.
Improvements are ongoing to the museum’s building and grounds. CSX Railroad has given a $10,000 grant for landscaping. A dehumidifier has been placed in the sub-first floor so papers and photographs can be stored safely.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Oliver said.
Scott Bigelow can be reached by calling 910-416-5649.