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American Indian Heritage Center at UNCP named in honor of Curt and Catherine Locklear

Curt and Catherine Locklear. Contributed photo

PEMBROKE ― The American Indian Heritage Center at UNC Pembroke will bear the name of Curt and Catherine Locklear, a couple with ties to the university that date back to the 1930s.

As a young girl living at the Odum Home, Catherine would ride her bicycle to campus to deliver fresh milk to faculty and staff members. Curt played quarterback as a member of the school’s first football team in the 1940s. While working his way through college, one of Curt Sr.’s jobs was planting the now historic oak trees along Old Main Drive with Grounds Superintendent Walter Pinchbeck.

Curt Locklear Sr. passed away in March 2011 at the age of 87. But trees weren’t the only historic fixtures he planted in Pembroke. He and Catherine, his wife of 63 years, were respected pillars of the community as owners of the Pembroke True Value Hardware ― one of the most successful and oldest companies still in operation in the county.

The family’s success is rooted in the education the couple received from UNCP ― known then as Pembroke State College for Indians.

“You didn’t have a chance back then if you didn’t have an education,” said Catherine “Miss Cat” Locklear, the university’s oldest living alumna at 94.

With a growing business, they raised nine children: Janice, Cathy, Nancy, Curt Jr., Milton, Marcia, Stephen, Lindsey and Anthony. The children and their children built successful careers in their own right as educators and in business, including the hardware store, Sheff’s Seafood, Southeastern Veterinary and Metcon Construction Company. Curt Sr. and Catherine instilled in them at a young age the value of education, integrity, honesty and a good work ethic.

Those values inspired a $50,000 gift to UNCP from Curt Jr., and his wife, Janice, to name the Curt and Catherine Locklear American Indian Heritage Center. The family business, Pembroke Hardware, matched the gift, bringing the total gift amount to $100,000.

“We wanted to do something special in hopes that our parents’ legacy would continue through the work of the American Indian Heritage Center,” Curt Jr. said.

The center was established in 2020 through federal grants totaling $3.4 million to support efforts to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of American Indian students through cultural, social and academic programs.


“We’re proud of the work of our American Indian Heritage Center and honored that it will now display the name of a family who has shown continued support for UNCP,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.

“Their generosity has impacted the lives of so many in this community, and this naming will be a very visible way to recognize the decades of work Curt and Catherine have inspired in this community.”

After serving his country in World War II and teaching school for several years, Curt Sr., with his brother Monroe Lowry, opened Pembroke Hardware in the 1950s. The original store was located in downtown Pembroke. After decades of success, the store, now known as True Value, relocated to N.C. 711. At 140,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest True Value stores in the country.

“This gift (to the university) is an extension of how Daddy treated people at his business,” said his daughter Janice Sheffield. “He helped so many local businesses get started by letting them have credit, contributing to their small business or simply giving them advice on how to be successful.”

Through the years, Curt Sr. developed close friendships with the faculty and was a lifelong supporter of the university. He and Catherine established an endowed scholarship and generously gave to the athletic programs, Givens Performing Arts Center and Mary Livermore Library. Curt Locklear Drive, near the football stadium, is named in his honor.

The family believes Curt Sr. would be proud of this latest gift.

“Daddy would be pleased with this,” Curt Jr. said. “I want the next generation who visit the (American Indian Heritage) center to know our parents were good people … giving people who were always thinking of others.”

Catherine Locklear smiled and agreed stating the honorary naming “makes it feel like I was put here for a purpose.”

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