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Dr. J. Grady Locklear, PhD, of Sumter, South Carolina passed away at his home on Saturday, September 30, 2023.
Many drift quietly measuring out their lives in coffee spoons.
Grady was not cut from passive fabric. He devoured his hours and days with relish. He slept little…often awakening at three to embrace the opportunities at hand…perhaps transforming fresh fruit into dozens of pies to be wrapped in reams of foil and given to neighbors, friends, and colleagues…perhaps evaluating scholastic literary-art magazines, lending his expertise, insight, and encouragement to students and journalistic sponsors across the nation, editing college applications, or writing endorsements for youngsters seeking scholarship assistance.
With the breaking of the dawn, Grady’s keen senses would become even more energized to drink in the music of the songbirds, Aurora’s awakening, and the tapestry of his English garden, the product of his artistic vision and countless hours of sweat equity. Yet, in his later years, Grady came to recognize that it was God’s Garden; humbly he identified himself as merely the caretaker.
“The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:6)
Grady’s parents were serious farmers; their livelihood arose from their sweat upon the soil. Although Grady developed into a renaissance man, he never lost his affinity for the land or for his blood line, many of whom remained yoked to the soil. Mama was the primary influence upon Grady’s formative years. At Mrs. Locklear’s apron, he learned the art of baking…from cornbread to cobblers to cakes. Even more importantly, Mama steadfastly exhibited love of neighbors as well as the stranger at the door; these life lessons were not lost on Grady. He learned early to embrace demanding physical work as well as academic rigors. He was instilled with a love for the colors that sprung from the earth and the beauty with which they enriched his life. These ongoing observances of a purposeful life were ingrained into Grady’s character.
Although the Locklear clan was extensive, Grady’s much larger family emerged through affinity rather than through blood. In explanation, Grady became the consummate mentor; the passion for shaping hearts and minds transcended his vocation; this calling became his life. Often, by the time the bell rang signaling the beginning of classes, Grady had been hard at work for hours for the benefit of those fortunate enough to be in his classes. Students recognized the investment that Grady was making in them and accordingly gravitated toward him. They would voluntarily gather at his home to wrap hotdogs for the Friday evening game, to work on the incomparable Signature literature-art magazine, to love on the TMD youngsters during the holidays, or simply to enjoy sweet delights from Grady’s oven. As testament of this bond, an extraordinary number of these young men and women remained in contact with their friend/mentor through frequent visits, telephone marathons, letters, and social media. Many attributed their successful careers to the work ethic and values which Grady had instilled in them.
Grady, with an exhaustive list of accomplishments in community service and academia, was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater; he was recognized as South Carolina teacher of the year. Compelling national and state awards and recognitions were showered upon him. Although Dr. Locklear was pleased by these honors, they paled in contrast to the decades of relationships he had established and maintained with his students and colleagues.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:15)
Grady was married to his work, and, of course, his students were the essence of his profession. Accordingly, he gave them the most precious gift that any of us could give—his time. Whether foreign exchange students or his corps of then-emerging scholars, almost all felt the joy of a second home on Calhoun Street. When Grady was not expending his energy in the service of his youthful charges, he would become engaged with his wide circle of friends. He would take home-baked goods to neighbors or visit individuals in Tuomey. In particular, he embraced the elderly who had outlived their circle of friends or who were often lonely and perhaps under- appreciated by their families. However, the cost of extending his family was heavy; he attended far too many wakes and funerals. He once confided in a colleague that he had to seek younger friends because he could no longer continue to bury people he loved. To honor them and to support palliative care for the ill, he grasped the initiative of spearheading fund-raisers for local Hospice.
Those who befriended Dr. Locklear well knew that it was impossible to out give him. Almost without exception, guests departed his home with delicious gifts from his kitchen or beautiful selections from his garden. Rather than hollow words, Grady supplied feet to his love.
Grady is survived by his brothers, James Perry "JP" Locklear, Jr., Richard Nixon Locklear, and sister, Elsie Locklear Lockey; sister-in-law, Betty Jean Clark Locklear, all of Laurinburg; in addition to a host of nieces, nephews and loving family. Along with his parents, Grady is preceded in death by brother, George "Griffin" Locklear and sister, Judy Locklear Bowen.
Services will be held at graveside 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 in the Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetery.
Family will receive friends following the service at graveside.