HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) — It was an extremely historic day for Pender County native Ambassador Mattie Sharpless as the community, local, and state leaders came together to honor her legacy.
Sharpless was born and raised in Hampstead. As a child she would walk 2 miles to school and now she is driving on her very own highway.
“I made history, cause as they say, this is the first time I think an African American female from this county has had her name but on a highway,” Sharpless said.
Sharpless made her mark on history Thursday afternoon.
“It really brought to me how I have closed the circle of my life,” Sharpless said. “Starting here years and years ago, and back here with this great honor today.”
The North Carolina Department of Transportation, with help from the Pender County Board of Commissioners, named a section of US 17 after the former ambassador.
“That is a permanent recognition,” NC Attorney General, Josh Stein said. “Everybody who drives on Highway 17 will know that Ambassador Sharpless was from here, is an incredible honor to the community here, and someone we can be incredibly proud of.”
Dozens from all over the country attended the dedication honoring her life’s work.
“She went to college got her graduate degree,” Stein said. “Devoted 40 years of her life to serving this nation both at the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of State. She was the Ambassador to the Central African Republic and she is exactly what North Carolina should be.”
Sharpless was handpicked by George W. Bush in 2001 and now her legacy will live on forever. A grand accomplishment Sharpless is thrilled she was able to share with her mom.
“I’m so proud that my mother, who will soon be 97, is able to be with us today and she held the bible when I became ambassador,” Sharpless said.
While accepting her honor, Sharpless took the time to give back by donating to the community. Sharpless gave $3,000 to her church Manhollow Missionary Baptist, $1,000 to the local community center, and $1,000 to her high school’s alumni association.