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News Community Ramsey receives state’s highest honor

Clayton Ramsey. Photo by Ellen BishopOrder of the Long Leaf Pine presented at Folk Festival.

Franklin native Clayton Ramsey was honored last weekend during Franklin's 9th annual Folk Festival. Ramsey, who had no idea that presentation had been orchestrated in his honor, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the most prestigious awards given by the Governor of North Carolina.

“I was totally speechless on Saturday,” Ramsey said of the surprise ceremony. “I had no idea and certainly didn't expect anything like that. I am so grateful and happy to have been afforded a long life to dedicate to service for Macon County. I am thankful for the opportunity to have served in the schools, with Rotary, Macon Program for Progress and for 55 years as a member of the Masonic Lodge.”

Although Gov. Bev Perdue first awarded Ramsey with the high honor in May 2011, after having surgery, Ramsey's family was unable to present the award at his 85th birthday like originally planned. It wasn't until last Saturday that Ramsey was officially presented with the award.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was created in 1965 and is presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Contributions to their communities, extra effort in their careers, and many years of service to their organizations are some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award. The honor is most often presented when a person retires.

“The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is an award that may be presented only to North Carolinians who served the people and/or the state of North Carolina with a lifetime of service,” said school board member Jim Breedlove who presented the award. “Past recipients of this award include Billy Graham, Andy Griffith, Richard Petty, Bob Timberlake and William Friday. Now, I don't think that Clayton would say that he talks to God as much as Billy Graham, drives as fast as Richard Petty, or uses a paintbrush like Bob Timberlake, or managed educational institutions as big as those of William Friday. But, Clayton, who was born and raised in Macon County, has spent his life helping to make the lives of everyone in Macon County and Franklin better in one way or another- as a teacher, principal, and administrator. Through his 34 years of service through the Macon County School system, his many years with the Macon Program for Progress, —15 years as its chairman — his love of teaching others about horses as a founding member of the Macon County Horse Association, and many other community services, Clayton has helped to make Macon County the place it is today.”

“I certainly enjoyed what everyone did for me on Saturday,” said Ramsey. “I have known about the award and the society of recipients for a long time but I never expected to be included among them.”

Among those who helped celebrate Ramsey's dedication were county commissioners, candidate for Congress Hayden Rogers and John Snow, candidate for N.C. Senate. "Franklin was the scene for the presentation of one of the highest honors that the governor of North Carolina can bestow on a North Carolina citizen," said Snow. "Clayton Ramsey was honored as a recipient of the Order Of The Long Leaf Pine. Clayton richly deserves this honor for his many years of service to the people of Macon County as a principal and educator in the Macon County Schools. Clayton's dedicated service has touched many Macon County citizens in a positive and helpful way."

From the mid 1950s throughout the late 1960s Ramsey taught at Franklin High School. He touched the lives of countless students lives teaching general science, drafting, physics and even driver's education. After leaving Franklin High School, he started at Iotla Elementary, where he worked until the late ’70s. From Iotla Elementary, Ramsey went to Macon Middle School where he served as principal until he retired.

During his 34 years in the Macon County School System, Ramsey served in multiple positions all over the district and by the time he retired, there were very few children in the district that he didn't know.

Ramsey also continued to serve his community though his work with the Franklin Rotary Club, where he has been an active member for the past 50 years. While serving as a Rotarian, Ramsey served in various official posts while working to raise money and develop scholarships for students in Macon County. He also volunteered his time in local schools teaching the Rotary Four-Way Test to students for decades.

“If you were a family Macon County that needed assistance, you probably knew Clayton as the person who could find you and your family needed services through Macon Program for Progress, such as head start,” said Breedlove. “If you are a horse rider or enthusiast, you might know Clayton (and one of his horses or mules) as he judges the local 4-H or Macon County Horse Association Horse shows or brings his love and knowledge of horses to children, youth and adults.”

During the presentation, Breedlove noted that the Class of 1967, who held their 45th reunion later that day, honored Clayton with their yearbook dedication, which read, “To a man, to a friend ... who has given of himself, his time and his talents; to a man who is forever curious and who is forever seeking answers to questions; and most of all, to a teacher who possesses that ability which helps to create a desire on the part of a student to seek answers for himself.”

After presenting Ramsey with the award, Breedlove asked for all of those in attendance who knew him to raise their hands. As members of the crowd simultaneously raised their hands, they began clapping in appreciation to join in honoring Ramsey for his service and dedication to the Macon County community.


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