The Johnston County Heritage Center’s Black History Committee has named 25 “Political Pioneers.” They are black officeholders elected locally since the Civil Rights era.
Of the 25 pioneers, 11 are presently in office.
The first black elected to local office in modern times was Mack Sowell, who won a seat on the Selma Town Council in 1969. Dorothy Johnson of Clayton was the first black to win a countywide election – in 1998 – when she secured a seat on the Johnston County Board of Education. She is serving her fourth four-year term on that board.
Johnston’s “Political Pioneers” are featured in a display in the Heritage Center’s main hall. The display will remain in place this spring. In addition, the center has collected for its archives biographical information about these pioneers, who are listed below.
• Mack Sowell, Selma Town Council, 1969-71.
• James Barbour, Smithfield Town Council, 1971-95.
• Otis McClain (deceased), Selma Town Council, 1973-75.
• James E. “Red” Haley (deceased), Four Oaks Board of Commissioners, 1979-87.
• Nathaniel Sanders Jr., Clayton Town Council, 1983-91.
• Jimmy McClain, Pine Level Board of Commissioners, 1985-89.
• Eugene Watson (deceased), Benson Town Council, 1989-93.
• Charles E. Williams, Smithfield Town Council , 1989-2013.
• Vasal Joyner, Kenly Town Council, 1991-95.
• Frederick D. Nelson Jr., Benson Town Council, 1993, 1997-present.
• Keith Davis, Kenly Town Council, 1995-2003.
• Kenneth Dupree, Benson Town Council, 1995-2003.
• Joseph Wilder Jr., Wilson’s Mills Town Council, 1997-2003.
• Dorothy Johnson, Johnston County Board of Education, 1998-present.
• Walter Martin, Princeton Board of Commissioners, 1999-present.
• Jackie Lacy, Selma Town Council, 2002-present.
• Addie Harris Rawls, District Court judge, 2002-present.
• Cassandra Stack, Benson Town Council, 2003-present.
• James Ethridge, District Court judge, 2004-2006.
• Clifton Cooley, Wilson’s Mills Town Council, 2005-09.
• Joan Harris, Wilson’s Mills Town Council, 2011-present.
• Moses Robinson, Kenly Town Council, 2011-present.
• Charles A. Williams, Smithfield Town Council, 2011-present.
• Marlon Lee, Smithfield Town Council, 2013-present.
• Joe McDougald, Kenly Town Council, 2013-present.