First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON — The principal of Magnolia Elementary School was found dead at his home in Lumberton Tuesday morning, according to school officials.
Superintendent Johnny Hunt said the death of James Stanford Locklear, a 25-year veteran of the public schools, was sudden and unexpected.
“I didn’t know that he had any complications,” Hunt said. “We are just in complete shock.”
Sheriff’s Maj. James A. Hunt said it appears Locklear died of natural causes. Locklear’s daughter found him in his bed about 9 a.m. after employees from the school called his home when Locklear didn’t show up for work.
Johnny Hunt said Locklear appeared to be fine during a four-hour leadership workshop Monday at the Southeastern N.C. Agriculture Center/Farmers Market. The workshop ended at 8 p.m.
“He seemed to be fine,” Hunt said. “He was jovial and talking to everyone.”
Sheila Gasque, principal of the Information Technology High School, also attended the workshop.
“He was upbeat and happy,” said Gasque, a former assistant principal who worked alongside Locklear at Purnell Swett High.
“He was a mentor to me,” Gasque said. “He helped me when I was first starting out and we became good friends. I was so shocked when I heard the news. I couldn’t believe it.”
Gasque said Locklear talked with her Monday night about reviving his passion for American Indian jewelry crafts. For years, Locklear — who handmade crafts at his home — sold his work at powwows across the region.
“He was telling me that he went to a powwow last Friday in Hollister and sold his crafts,” Gasque said.
Locklear was in his second year at Magnolia. He began his career as a physical education teacher and coach at Littlefield High School in 1983. He taught the junior varsity football and basketball teams and was the high school girls basketball coach.
He left Littlefield in 1991 and taught for six years at Lumberton High School before landing a teaching job at Purnell Swett High in 1997. He was hired as assistant principal at Swett two years later. He served as athletic director for one year before replacing Jennifer Freeman at Magnolia in July 2006.
Swett Principal Antonio Wilkins described Locklear as loyal and dedicated to the community.
“He wanted the best for Purnell Swett,” Wilkins said. “He was fair. He treated everyone equally and he had a good sense of humor.”
Locklear, who celebrated his 58th birthday on April 2, rarely missed an athletic event, Wilkins said.
“He was a wonderful educator,” said Peggy Locklear, the bookkeeper at Swett. “He would lead the devotion during the faculty and staff retreats. He was just a wonderful person.”
Mable Revels, a retired educator, will serve as interim principal at Magnolia, Superintendent Hunt said. Revels is a former principal at the school.
“I went over there this morning and met with the entire staff,” Hunt said. “We broke the staff up into three groups and informed them of what happened. We had a word of prayer and then we sent guidance counselors into the classrooms to talk to the children.”
Several central office staff and additional guidance counselors spent the day at the school.
“The staff is devastated,” Hunt said. “Mr. Locklear loved education and loved his job. He was well-liked by all of the administrators and staff. He’s going to be greatly missed.”