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CCCC attorney named Sanford Herald Lifetime Achievement Award winner

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Click to enlarge,  Sanford native Jimmy Love Sr., The Herald's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, has done it all. He played quarterback during the fifth annual East-West All-Star Game in 1953, spent 14 years as Lee County's voice in the N.C. House of Representatives, been in law practice since 1960, and has maintained a fervor for making Sanford and Lee County a better place to live. A strong believer in public education, Love now serves as the attorney for the Lee County Board of Education and Central Carolina Community College. Photo by Hannah Hunsinger, The Sanford Herald

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Sanford native Jimmy Love Sr., The Herald's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, has done it all. ... (more)

01.28.2016College & CommunityCollege General

By Zach Potter, The Sanford Herald

SANFORD - Playing quarterback in an all-star football game?

Jimmy Love's done it.

Receiving the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the highest honors North Carolina can bestow on a civilian?

Jimmy Love's done it.

Earning a law degree, working on literal life-or-death cases, serving on the N.C. Legislature and working tirelessly to better Sanford and Lee County through it all?

Jimmy Love's definitely done it.

When it comes to Sanford, there isn't much that Love, one of two of The Sanford Herald's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winners, hasn't done.

"It's been my home all my life," Love, now the attorney for a variety of local organizations, including the Lee County Board of Education, the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees and the Sanford Alcohol Beverage Control Board, said of Sanford. "It's the place I've always wanted to live."

And apart from his time at UNC-Chapel Hill earning his undergraduate and law degrees and a year working with Judge J. Wallace Winborne, former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, the now 81-year-old Love has called Sanford home.

"I've known Jimmy for almost 20 years now," said BOE Vice Chairman Mark Akinosho, one of a number of people who nominated Love for the recognition. "When we moved to Sanford, Jimmy was the one who did the closing on our house. I was so impressed with him. We didn't know too many people; we hadn't even moved in then. He was just the nicest guy, and he was telling us this was a good place to live."

Akinosho said after he and his family moved, they began to see Love everywhere. Among the numerous organizations to which Love previously has pledged his time and effort are the Rotary Club of Sanford, First Baptist Church, the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, the Sanford City Council, the Broadway Town Council and the Lee County Wildlife Club.

"Basically, I just try to participate," Love said of his service. "It keeps you young - at least I hope it does."

And while Sanford and Lee County have been at the heart of all of Love's doings, some of his most dedicated efforts to improve his hometown took place in Raleigh, where he served for 14 years as Lee County's representative in the N.C. House of Representatives from 1967-1977 and 2007-2011.

"I was always interested in politics," Love said. " ... Back then, the legislature was made up primarily of lawyers. ... I primarily supported public education, which I think is the most important thing the state does. I've always been interested in that."

BOE Chairman Lynn Smith, who also nominated Love for the Lifetime Achievement Award, said that Love's passion for public education permeated all of his work.

"I have to start by saying he's absolutely a man of integrity and character," Smith said. "You can always depend on Jimmy Love to do the right thing. ... He's certainly done that for our board of education. And when he was in the legislature, he was always available. I don't think I ever called him and he didn't answer. He's just that kind of person. He wants to make our town and our county a better place to live, and he'll go to any lengths to do it."

CCCC President Bud Marchant agreed that education is a big priority for Love.

"I think that's one of his passions," Marchant said, "making sure the education you can get here locally is the best it can possibly be."

While a lifetime of legal, political and civic service would be more than enough for some people, Love also can brag -- though he wouldn't -- of several notable athletic achievements as well.

In 1953, he played quarterback during the fifth annual East-West All-Star Game in Greensboro, and he attended UNC on scholarships for both football and baseball.

"Athletics was one of my primary interests growing up," Love said. "I was able to play on a good football team, able to play on a state championship baseball team."

Love, an avid fan of local sports teams, said he roots for both Lee County High School and Southern Lee High School, but when they play each other, his heart belongs to Lee County.

"That's where I went to school," he said. "But I root for both of them to have good, successful athletic teams, and I think they have."

Athletic, legal and political recognitions aside, former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, who also provided Love with a nomination for the Lifetime Achievement Award, said many of Love's greatest contributions to Sanford have flown under the radar.

"I practiced law with him or 15 years," Wicker said of Love. "And there were multiple times Jimmy would help people with getting their children admitted to college, securing them a job or recommending someone for a position of trust. On many occasions, people would come to his office asking him for legal help when he knew they could not afford to engage him, and he would nevertheless take their cases without compensation."

When he's not busy advising the BOE and the CCCC Board of Trustees on legal matters, Love often can be found indulging his passions as a sportsman.

"I've been quail hunting for 40-50 years," Love said, "and fishing too."

Smith said the image of Love fishing is iconic in his mind.

"One of my fondest memories of Jimmy is, when he's not busy here doing something or other, he's standing on the end of a pier at the beach fishing by himself," Smith said. "We all have to have a getaway, and I can just imagine Jimmy Love on his pier fishing by himself. That's how he recharges.

"He was telling me once about the fish he caught; he ended up catching quite a few fish. I asked him, 'What did you do with them?' and he said that he gave them away (to someone on the pier). That is just so Jimmy Love. That's just who he is."