CHADBOURN, NC (WECT) – Former Mayor Leo Mercer received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine awards Saturday, before acting as the parade marshal for the 80th North Carolina Strawberry Festival.
The award is presented by the NC governor to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. It is one of the most prestigious awards offered.
Governor Bev Perdue was unable to attend the event, so long time friend, and former Superintendent of the Columbus County Schools, Mitchell Tyler, presented the award to Mercer.
Mercer, 86, once represented Columbus County residents in Raleigh as a member of the NC House of Representatives. For several years, he was a special assistant to former Governor Jim Hunt.
Mercer has served the Town of Chadbourn not only as it's Mayor, but Postmaster as well. And he has been a key supporter of the North Carolina Strawberry Festival for many years.
"I am just honored and surprised," said Mercer. "It has been a pleasure to come here and do this for the people, and have them honor me for things I have done."
Gayle Williamson, Strawberry Festival President, said Mercer has always supported any event that took place in Chadbourn, and when you think of the Strawberry Festival, you think of Leo Mercer.
"He was our mayor, and as I was growing up here as a child, he was our postmaster and then our legislator," said Williamson. "But he has also been our neighbor, a good neighbor."
Since the Order of the Long Leaf Pine was created in 1965, during the administration of Governor Dan Moore, more than 6,000 people have received the award. Originally, the Order was a symbolic honor for visiting dignitaries, but later it became an honor for notable North Carolinians. Some of those who have received it include Reverend Billy Graham, Michael Jordan, Charles Kuralt and Maya Angelou.