By Betsy Finklea
In a dramatic and passionate performance, S.C. Court of Appeals Chief Justice James E. Lockemy shared his life story and his love for Dillon County in “All Roads Lead Home.”
The event, “An Evening With James Lockemy,” took place at the Dillon County Theatre on Thursday night in conjunction with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit which will be at the Dillon County Courthouse’s Law Library through June 29th.
Lockemy began with his birth on September 23, 1949 in the Newtown area in the county that he loves (Dillon County), in the region that he loves (Pee Dee), in the state that he loves (South Carolina). He was eight days late, and he has been late every day since, he joked, saying that in fifth grade he got the award for the most tardies.
Lockemy said the Newtown area meant and means so much to him. ‘It was my home,” he said, the place where he felt safe.
He recalled the pine tree off Dargan Street, which he said was the center of activity for the neighborhood kids.
Lockemy talked about Lockemy’s Grocery, the store opened in 1945 and operated by his parents. He talked about the fresh meats and cheeses, liver, hoghead cheese, clothing, and dry goods; the expectation of customers to exchange not only money for goods, but to exchange conversation and sharing; and checkers being played outside under the shelter. “Lockemy’s Grocery was my life. It was my family’s life,” said Lockemy, who said they lived there, played there, and they all worked there. Their house was beside the store. He said Clyde Jackson’s store, the competitor, was across the street. Also across the street was the Bubbles nightclub.
Lockemy said that his parents were hardworking and honest people, but also people who were very human.
He talked about 1961 when he first began to learn about racism and an incident where he started to back off from his friends, but soon realized who his real friends were. He said he has never backed off from his friends since and is proud to this day that Newtown is his home.
Lockemy tried to quit school many times, but he graduated and went off to college. While at Pembroke, he realized that he was the son of a Native American.
He talked about going to law school and then fulfilling his dream of joining the military and being stationed at Fort Bragg.
Lockemy talked about when his father died. He then talked about working for Strom Thurmond in Washington, D.C., and even his debut on the front page of The Dillon Herald in April 1982.
Throughout it all, all of his experiences, he kept being pulled back by a tie stronger than any other- his love and his heart for Dillon County.
Lockemy took the audience on a journey of laughter and tears, of ups and downs, of struggle and triumph, but a journey that always leads home- home to Dillon County, the county whose name is emblazoned on his heart. “An Evening With James Lockemy” was truly unforgettable.
After the performance, many of the guests enjoyed a reception in the Lockemy Courtyard.
By Betsy Finklea