A longtime resident of Erwin joined the ranks of those bestowed with an award signed by the governor recognizing “dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the Great State of North Carolina.”
Jerry Ray Royal was honored with the Old North State Award Aug. 1 during the monthly meeting of the Erwin Board of Commissioners. Presenting the award on behalf of Gov. Roy Cooper, was state Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett).
“I’m here tonight to present a very distinguished award to a very distinguished citizen of this great town,” Lewis said.
Lewis noted that Royal served the town of Erwin in some capacity since 1988, first with Erwin Fire and EMS. In 1993, Royal began his law enforcement career with the Erwin Police Department, retiring in 2015 as assistant police chief.
“He worked for more than 20 years to serve this town and the people of this town,” Lewis said. “The love that he has for this town grew during that time.”
Lewis read the award signed by Gov. Cooper, which stated, “Working together, we can make North Carolina a place of unlimited opportunity, a place where anyone who studies hard, works hard, and lives a life of high values can fulfill and exceed their potential.”
The Old North State Award is presented to nominated individuals who have 20 or more years of service in the state of North Carolina.
“I’m very humbled by the award,” Royal said. “I want to thank and accept it on behalf of all people who came before me, fire, EMS and law enforcement, that paved the road that I was blessed enough to travel down. Anybody who does public service, in my opinion, deserves this award. They make countless sacrifices that people don’t know about.”
Royal recalled how in 1987, following a bad car wreck, he was airlifted to Chapel Hill where he remained in a coma for six days.
“They didn’t think I was going to make it,” Royal said. “They told my parents ... they said if I come out of it I would be a vegetable the rest of my life.
“By the grace of God I came out of it with very limited effects,” Royal said.
Everyone kept telling him that he was left here for a purpose, he added. Before the wreck, he had submitted an application with Erwin Fire and EMS, so that was the path he took, later completing Basic Law Enforcement Training and joining the Erwin Police Department.
During his time serving the town of Erwin, Royal said he went to work each day with the intention to change one person’s life.
“If I could do that, that day was a good day,” he said.
Royal said he teaches his son, Austin, to seek the good in people — to help people if he can. He said, “I hope when he walks down the hall and sees this award on the wall, he will say ‘he practiced what he preached’.”
“On behalf of the Erwin Police Department, we would like to congratulate retired Lt./Asst. Chief Jerry Royal on being awarded the Old North State Award,” Erwin Police Chief Jonathan Johnson said.
“Jerry served the town of Erwin in multiple functions,” Erwin Town Manager Snow Bowden said. “It is a well-deserved award for all his years of service.”