PEMBROKE — Judge James Lockemy, a UNCP alumnus, will serve as the keynote speaker for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke during the spring 2017 Ccommencement.
Lockemy will speak at the graduate ceremony at 7 p.m. in the Givens Performing Arts Center on May 5.
Lockemy will also deliver the keynote address at the undergraduate ceremony on the Quad at 9 a.m. on May 6. The Quad is located between Old Main and Mary Livermore Library.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings will confer approximately 680 degrees — 528 undergraduate degrees and about 152 at the graduate level.
Lockemy serves as chief judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the state. He served 18 years as a Circuit Court judge before he was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2008. He was elected as chief judge in May 2016. He is only the fifth chief judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
A native of Dillon, S.C., Lockemy has had a career in the military, law, politics and civic life. He earned a history degree from UNC Pembroke in 1971.
During a recent interview, Lockemy reflected on his experience at what was then known as Pembroke State University. He said when he makes a decision as chief judge he is guided by the law while remembering an important lesson he learned as a history major at UNCP.
“It taught me human nature, and it made me realize we’re all human beings who can make mistakes,” he said.
His chambers are filled with old history textbooks and yearbooks from UNCP. His membership in Alpha Theta Mu fraternity introduced him to a diverse group of people, many of whom would become lifelong friends.
It was in the classroom where Lockemy has some of his best UNCP memories, recalling history “coming to life” through beloved professors like David Eliades, Adolph Dial and George Polhemus.
“I don’t think you could have found better professors anywhere in the world,” he said.
Lockemy would go on to receive a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Lockemy served 30 years in the military, including a tour of duty in Kosovo, before retiring as full colonel in the National Guard. He began his professional career as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond. He later served as legal counsel to a subcommittee on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In 1979, Lockemy returned to Dillon and entered private practice with the law firm of Greene, Lockemy and Bailey. He served two terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives and, in 1989, began an 18-year stint as a state Circuit Court judge.
He is a former president of the National Guard Association of South Carolina and the Circuit Court Judges Association. He is also a member of the executive committees of the National Conference of State Trial Judges and the National Conference of Appellate Court Judges.
Lockemy is ctive in the community as a longtime Boy Scout leader and youth sports coach. He helped renovate the old Dillon County Theatre and serves as a board member. He is also active in community theatre.
Lockemy also led an effort to renovate the Dillon County Courthouse. He is an active Kiwanian, having served as president and lieutenant governor.
In 1989, he was named Dillon County Citizen of the Year.
In 2012, the UNCP Alumni Association presented him with the Distinguished Service Award. That same year, he earned a master’s degree in history from The Citadel.
Mark Locklear is a Public Communications specialist with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He may be reached at Mark.Locklear@uncp.edu.