PEMBROKE — Gene Locklear didn’t take any chances Friday that his work wouldn’t make some good money to support the Julian T. Pierce Memorial Scholarship Fund.
When it came time for his art to be auctioned off at the 4th annual Julian T. Pierce Memorial Art Dinner and Auction, the artist and former major league baseball player came forward, picked up the microphone and personally led the bidding.
After about 15 minutes of spirited bidding, Eric Locklear of Saddletree, with a high bid of $2,500, walked away not only with a painting that the artist said would go for at least $5,000 in a gallery, but with a painted baseball of Rollie Fingers, a member of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and a print that will include the signatures of anywhere from five to 10 baseball legends.
“This is for a good cause,” the Saddletree resident said. “I have been coming here every year and always get something.”
The annual dinner and auction held at the annex on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke raises money to provide scholarships for students needing financial assistance to attend UNCP, Robeson Community College and North Carolina Central University, where Pierce attended law school.
Pierce, who was murdered in March 1988 when he was a candidate for a Robeson County Superior Court seat, is remembered for his work to bring about social change in his community. He helped many poor Robeson County residents receive health and legal services and helped create the Lumbee River Legal Services and Robeson County Health Care Corporation. He also played a major role in the merger of the county’s five school systems into one.
Harvey Godwin Jr., Pierce’s campaign manager when he ran for the Superior Court and now chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, said that the past three dinners and auctions have raised $85,000 for students needing financial assistance.
“Some of these students would not have been able to afford a college education without the help of these scholarships,” said Godwin, who along with a handful of other community leaders, established the annual dinner and auction, “There are students every day that are having to drop out of school and return to the workforce because they run out of money.”
At Friday’s event, the 300 participants had the opportunity to bid on 23 pieces of art provided by local artists. Although the total amount raised will not be available until early this week, Wendy Lowery, UNCP’s vice chancellor of advancement and a member of the Julian Pierce Memorial Art Dinner and Auction organizing committee, called Friday’s event a success.
“For me, I see this as a celebration for our community’s diversity,” she said. “It’s obvious how important education is to our community.”
Lowery said that over the past four years of being associated with the event honoring the legacy of Pierce, she has become more aware of how one person getting involved in their community can make a difference.
“You can do anything,” she said. “One person who sees an issue that needs to be addressed can make a difference in their community.”
The art dinner and auction kicked off the 48th annual Lumbee Homecoming, which continues through Saturday. Some of the upcoming events include:
— Today: Lumbee Games wrestling championships, UNCP, 12:30 p.m.; Farewell Tea, Berea Baptist Church, 3 p.m.; and gospel sing, Bear Swamp Baptist Church, 6 p.m.
— Monday: Lumbee Games swimming tournament, UNCP pool, 6:30 p.m.; and Miss Senior Lumbee Pageant, Robeson Community College auditorium, 6 p.m.
— Tuesday: Elder’s Luncheon, Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Evens Center, noon; and Little and Junior Miss Lumbee Pageants, UNCP Givens Arts Center, 6:30 p.m.
— Wednesday: Lumbee Games 8-ball tournament, UNCP Game Room, 9 a.m.; and dedication of Milton R. Hunt Memorial Park, Pembroke Town Memorial Park, Third Street, 4 to 6 p.m.
— Thursday: Lumbee Games tennis tournament, UNCP varsity tennis courts, 5 p.m.; Summer Jam, Milton R. Hunt Memorial Park, 7 to 10 p.m.
— Friday: Lumbee Games basketball tournament, UNCP, 9 a.m.; Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina open house and cookout, Lumbee Tribal Complex, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; State of the Tribe address, Lumbee Tribal Complex, noon; and Teen and Miss Lumbee Pageants, Givens Performing Arts Center, 6:30 p.m.
— Saturday: 5K run and fun walk, starts at the Southeastern Fitness Center on West 3rd Street, 7:15 a.m. Ceremony honoring former U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, UNCP Annex building, 1 p.m. ; Parade, 10 a.m.; Powwow, quad at UNCP, noon; outdoor gospel concert, LRDA office complex, 6 p.m.; and fireworks, LRDA office complex, 9 p.m.