First class of Pender County Schools Wall of Fame honorees inducted

The first class of honorees in the Pender County Schools Wall of Fame were inducted at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
First class of PCS Wall of Fame honorees inducted on Tuesday night (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — The first class of honorees in the Pender County Schools Wall of Fame were inducted at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

The Wall of Fame is sponsored by Pender Education Partnership, an organization that helps create opportunities for students by collaborating with educators and the community. The first group inducted into the Wall of Fame was co-sponsored by Coastal Pender Rotary Club to purchase the plaques that will hang in the Board of Education meeting room.

Five people were awarded the honor on Tuesday and they had advice for students in the Pender County School system and beyond.

First, Mary Gore Jordan. Pender County born and raised, Jordan is a C.F. Pope High School graduate that went on to serve the district after becoming the first member of her family to earn a college degree. She taught at Maple Hill Elementary, serving as the director as the Head Start program. She also taught at Penderlea and Pender High School before becoming the assistant principal at Burgaw Elementary. Jordan was the first principal of Willard Community School in 1983. In 1985, she served as the principal of Topsail Primary School. Jordan helped create South Topsail Elementary before retiring in 1999 after serving the district for 34 years.

“Work. Love home because if you don’t love home, when you get somewhere else, what do you have to give? because you have no foundation. Homes give foundation,” Jordan said.

Judge Gary Trawick, a 1963 graduate of Burgaw High School. After graduating from UNC School of Law in 1969, Trawick practiced law in Pender County until 1990 when he was elected resident Superior Court Judge from the Fifth Judicial District. After serving the district for five years, he was appointed by Governors Bev Perdue and Michael Easley to serve as Special Superior Court Judge. Trawick is one of only eight judges in the history of the state to have held court in all 100 counties. In 2001, The North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers selected him as the Outstanding Trial Judge of the Year. He retired as Superior Court Judge in 2016, but continued to serve as an emergency judge until 2019. Trawick also authored books, “Born in Reconstruction,” “Give Them Another Chance,” and “Just Throw the Rock.”

Trawick shares a Shel Silverstein poem to inspire students.

“Listen to the must’nts child, listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’t haves, the nevers, the wonts. Then listen close to me, anything can happen child. Anything can be,” Trawick said.

Ambassador Mattie Sharpless went to Sloop Point School and Annandale School before graduating from Pender County Training School in 1961. After graduating from college, she was hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a clerk stenographer in 1965. This led to her career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Sharpless worked in Switzerland and Paris before earning a master’s degree in business administration. After sharpening her skills and claiming through the ranks, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton and appointed by President George W. Bush as the U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic.

“You have to come out of your corner of the world. You have to think outside of your side of the box. You have to be prepared to deal with anything and everything that crosses your path,” Sharpless said. “Most of all, if you feel you can do something, do not let other people persuade you that you cannot.”

Dr. Johnny Batts is a 1960 graduate of Pender County Training School and a Vietnam Veteran. He is a physicist and previously taught physics at several universities across the country. Batts worked at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology as the first African American physicist to assist in the development of the ultrasound scanning technique that helps detect brain tumors and other abnormalities in the head. While working at NASA, Batts helped in its mission to pioneer space exploration.

“They have to work very hard. And don’t give up,”

Last but not least, the late Valdosia James Williams. Wiliams graduated from Burgaw Colored School in 1934. After getting her teaching degree, she returned to the school as it transitioned to C.F. Pope High School. She was a founding member of the C.F. Pope Alumni Association. Williams died in 2007.

For more information on Pender Education Partnership and information on how to nominate someone for the Wall of Fame, visit here.

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