Julia McCullers of Smithfield got a surprise when she arrived at the Johnston County Heritage Center on June 29.
McCullers thought she was going to be making a presentation about “1913 – The Way It Was a Hundred Years Ago.” Instead, she was greeted by a gathering of friends and admirers who applauded her as a new inductee into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors.
“Throughout her professional life, Julia Allen McCullers has been an advocate for education and for the preservation of history,” said nominating statement read by Ann Lee Huckenbeck, one of McCullers’ closest friends and a collaborator on several recent projects on local history.
One of those projects was establishing a Smithfield High School museum inside the recently renovated A.G. Glenn Building, the school’s former home. “This was a three-year marathon of planning, collecting artifacts that had been discarded, organizing displays and planning a grand opening attended by over 700 alumni of Smithfield High School,” Huckenbeck noted.
McCullers also published a history of the school, which closed in 1969.
As a member of the Johnston County Heritage Commission, McCullers has helped “bring to life” several projects of the Johnston County Heritage Center, including its annual Ghost Walk and several major exhibits.
In addition, she has produced a number of narratives about her own encounters with history, including her family’s evacuating the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Many of her memories are included in a book, “Never Far From Home,” a compilation of personal columns she wrote for the Smithfield Herald for almost 20 years.