Dunn native, Mark B. Johnson, was awarded the highest honor a civilian can receive from a governor in the state of North Carolina Tuesday night: The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris presented the award at a council meeting with words of esteem for Johnson and his service to the Old North State as a highway patrol trooper, DMV investigator, museum curator, co-founder of the Dunn Area History Museum and now Harnett County commissioner.
Johnson was sworn into office to fill the vacant seat left behind by the late Commissioner Abe Elmore in July.
“We are privileged in the city of Dunn to have such a community leader to be selected to serve out (former) mayor and commissioner Abe Elmore’s term,” Harris said. “We think they made a wonderful selection.”
Harris gave Johnson a plaque of The Daily Record story of his appointment to the Harnett County Board of Commissioners.
Then, it was time for the highest honor of the night.
“Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments,” according to The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society’s .
A lot of great people have received this award “and it’s not easy to get. I found that out when I filed the application,” Harris said. “It’s an honor to present The Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Mark B. Johnson on behalf of Gov. Roy Cooper.”
Johnson was born and raised in Dunn. He graduated from the former Dunn High School, attended Fayetteville Technical College and served in the United States Navy.
He served as a trooper with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, as an inspector with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and as a lead special investigator with the DMV headquarters in Raleigh.
Johnson is currently a member of the General William C. Lee Memorial Commission and is curator of the Gen. Lee Airborne Museum. He is also co-founder, vice president and curator of the Dunn Area History Museum.
“I do hereby present and confer The Order of the Long Leaf Pine with the rank of ambassador extraordinaire, privileged to enjoy fully all rights granted to members of this exalted order among which is the special privilege to propose the following North Carolina toast in select company anywhere in the free world and here it goes,” Harris said in his presentation. “Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine, the summer land where the sun doth shine, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great, here’s to ‘down home,’ the Old North State.”
Johnson’s award was celebrated with a standing ovation.
“I thank you for the service you have rendered the state of North Carolina,” Harris said. “I just want to thank you for the outstanding job you’ve done and I wish you the very best. God bless you.”
Johnson was flanked by family members as the mayor handed him the coveted award.
“I would like to just say how honored I am to be a Harnett County commissioner. It’s an honor to me. I’m humbled by it. I’m also humbled by getting the Long Leaf Pine award,” Johnson said. “I just want to say thank you for this and I will work hard for Harnett County.”
Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to ‘down home,’ the Old North State.