LUMBERTON — The late Hector MacLean was recalled at a gathering of family and friends Tuesday as “a child of Lumberton,” “the essence of a Southern gentleman” and “a mighty oak.”
MacLean, who was one of Lumberton’s most outstanding leaders of the second half of the 20th century, was honored at the unveiling of a historical marker in Downtown Lumberton.
The marker was revealed by his great grandsons, William Kluttz and Rudduck and Hector Clinard, after a ceremony honoring the banker, politician and family man.
“Above all else, my father was a man who loved his faith, family and friends,” his daughter Lyl MacLean Clinard told the gathering. “He as a storyteller, teacher, peacemaker, mediator, economic developer and a great leader.
“This city and county were his greatest passions,” Klinard said. “Whenever we came home, he would say ‘let’s ride to town.’ After his funeral, we took him for one last ride to town.”
The marker is located in a landscaped spot across from the former post office, which is now the Musselwhite, Musselwhite, Branch & Grantham law firm. It is Lumberton’s second historical marker honoring a member of the MacLean family. Hector’s father, North Carolina Gov. Angus Wilton MacLean, is honored with a state marker at the intersection of Pine, 24th and Cedar streets.
MacLean advocated for the First Presbyterian Church, what is now Southeastern Health, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, United Way of Robeson County and the economic development of Lumberton and Robeson County among other projects.
While he was helping Robeson County grow, MacLean had phenomenal success growing Southern National Bank, which was founded by his father as the National Bank of Lumberton. Under the leadership of MacLean and bank President Joseph Sandlin, the bank grew through a series of acquisitions between 1979 and 1993 into a regional bank with $4.5 billions in assets. Ultimately, SNB merged as equals with BB&T in 1994.
“Hector MacLean was one of Robeson’s most influential people,” said Lumberton City Councilman Erich Hackney, who worked on the project and served as emcee. Dr. Brownie McLeod, a 21-year bank employee, offered personal remarks about growing up in Lumberton with MacLean as a mentor.
“As a child, he offered me words of encouragement,” McLeod said. “All I knew about him was that he was a great man who treated me like I was somebody.
“When I told him of my decision to go to medical school, his only stipulation was that I return to Lumberton to practice,” he said. “He declared he would be my first patient, and he was.”
Also in attendance was Larry Chavis, CEO of Lumbee Guaranty Bank. Chavis was also mentored by MacLean at Southern National for 16 years before beginning his own success story at Lumbee.
“A great guy. He was the type of person you wanted to work for,” Chavis said. “A people person, he would remind us at staff meetings that it is the people who are important.”
MacLean was born on Sept. 15, 1920, and died on Dec. 7, 2012. After graduating from Davidson College, he fought with Gen. George Paton’s Third Army in the European Theatre of World War II, earning a Bronze Star and the rank of major.
After receiving a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, he opened a practice in Lumberton. He won election as the city’s mayor and served from 1948 to 1953. He joined the bank in 1955.
MacLean was elected a state senator in 1961 and served for 10 years. He sponsored bills to add UNCP to the UNC system and another bill to found the North Carolina Zoo.
For UNC, MacLean was president and founder of the Medical Foundation of N.C. for 22 years and recipient of the University’s Distinguished Service Award. Among his many tributes, Interstate 95 through Lumberton is named The Hector MacLean Highway. I-95, too, was a project that he helped win for Lumberton after initial plans put it west of the city.
The historical marker will find a new home in the future as Lumberton builds a new downtown park not far from its current location, Hackney said.
Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-416-5649.