James Lockemy: Renaissance Man

A few years ago, I did an article on the Mount Rushmore of Dillon County. In it, I gave homage to what many, if not most, considered to be the four most important and influential people in the founding and progression of Dillon County. In the estimation of the people that were a part of a random survey I conducted in order to determine who these four people were, the names of James W. Dillon, A.B. Jordan, Alan Schafer, and Gene Carmichael were selected.
In my column today, I want to consider and commend a man who, in my opinion, is arguably our most accomplished and versatile citizen. He is a man who was reared in the same impoverished community of Dillon County as I and who has managed to soar through much diligence, determination, and patriotic passion to the Everest of the true greatest. Two of the qualities of true greatness (as was defined by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) are servitude and humility. James E. Lockemy exemplifies both of these characteristics. I have known James nearly all of my life and was quite familiar with both his father and mother (who were the owners of Lockemy’s Grocery). As a boy growing up in Newtown, I brought many of the two for a penny cookies and pieces of candy from Mr. Ed and Mrs. Nettie. I well remember Mr. Ed slipping some extra pieces of candy into my bag when I should have gotten only a few. There was another incident that will forever endear the memory of Mr. Ed Lockemy in my heart. During the time when his son (who had died in an automobile accident) was in corpse and the viewing was at a certain funeral home, my uncle and aunt (who were both patrons and friends of the Lockemys) were told that they could not come in and view the body. Word of this bigoted display quickly caught the attention of Mr. Ed, who quickly and sharply reproved the funeral director with an ultimatum, “Either you let my black friends view my son’s body or I will take him out of your funeral home.” The funeral home director sheepishly capitulated and my uncle and aunt, as well as any other black person who desired to do so was able to view the body of Mr. Ed Lockemy’s son. Could this perhaps be where James acquired his passion for fairness and justice from that he now possesses as the Chief Judge of South Carolina Court of Appeals?
Some years ago a certain teacher (whose name I will not mention here) who had taught James in high school told somebody very close to me (who was employed by the school district at the time) that he did not understand how James, who in his estimation was just an average student, could be doing so well. Obviously, he did not know when he taught James in high school what great potential that this Native American student possessed. Maybe it was racism that blurred his vision and ability to see beyond James’ mediocre academic performance in his class at the time. Many a great men in every field of endeavor did not have a stellar performance during either their high school or college matriculation. Nevertheless, they came of age as they matured and made great contributions in their given profession. Assuredly, the high school teacher who’s baffled by James Lockemy’s average academic performance and why he has been able to do so well must have had to admit that he missed it. We have had quite a few people from our locale who have and are presently doing outstanding things locally, nationally, and beyond. People like Ben Bernanke, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Dr. Kenneth R. Manning, M.I.T. tenured professor, and quite a few others have soared on the wings of eagles to great heights of achievement and accolades of which we all are proud. However, I can think of no one who has been so versatile and the wearer of many hats as James E. Lockemy. As a coach of the Kiwanis Little League baseball team, he has touched and impacted the lives of many young men. As a lawyer, he has represented and served many in our area in a very professional and proficient way. As a Circuit Judge of South Carolina, James has meted out justice with fairness and mercy. As the Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, he gives oversight and counsel to those judges who are under his auspices, as well as preside over cases that have been brought before him. As a military patriot, James served our nation and the State of South Carolina as a veteran of both the Army and National Guard and served as a Colonel and Major General, respectively. James is an actor with the Dillon theatrical group and gets rave reviews for his performances. Then there is the storyteller that can captivate his audience with his humor and dramatic presentation. James E. Lockemy has indeed become many things to many people, but to me he is first and foremost a friend, a fellow Newtownian, and Dillon County’s original Renaissance Man.