by Billy Ball
As the Burlington Times-News is reporting this week, no one in North Carolina has ever intentionally been a two-time recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian honor.
At least not until this week, when Gov. Pat McCrory extended the prestigious award to Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, even as Johnson awaits a federal judge's ruling in a bitterly disputed racial profiling case.
Federal prosecutors are contending that Johnson directed his deputies to target and arrest Latino residents in order to cause their deportation. Johnson has denied those claims.
An Indy investigation in 2012 determined that, based on an analysis of Alamance records, Latino drivers were more than twice as likely as non-Latino drivers to be arrested during traffic stops by Alamance County deputies. An arrest is key because deputies were not able to begin deportation proceedings without one. The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Johnson's office weeks after the Indy report.
The Times-News reported that the state has mistakenly given the award multiple times before because of administrative errors. But Johnson's award, it appears, was intentional. Johnson was previously given the award in 2001 following a 30-year career in the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
Other notable recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine include Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Richard Petty, Andy Griffith, Michael Jordan and Charles Kuralt.