Heroic: Lumbee news editor rescues crash victims, has near-fatal heart attack

James Locklear is greeted by his wife Mary Locklear in 2016. The photo was a story about James in the Blue Highways Journal. Photo by Jock Lauterer

Vincent Schilling

Officer Smith: 'He didn’t know those people he got out to help. In my eyes, he’s an actual American hero'

When the Lumbee editor of Native Visions Magazine heard what he thought was an explosion on a street intersection in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Dec. 10, he decided to help once he discovered the reason. James Locklear, 52, says he looked upon Fayetteville Road and saw a horrible collision. After assisting drivers out of their vehicles and helping them to safety, he would suffer from a serious heart attack.

Locklear flatlined on the way to the hospital. In fact, he flatlined three times that day. Once when he first fell to the ground at the scene of the accident, once in the ambulance and once more after arriving at the hospital.

He says his cardiologist that he has since seen that he is lucky to have survived.

Locklear was on his way to the Select Bank and Trust on Dec. 10 at 4:45 p.m., as described by the Fayetteville Observer. He was in a hurry to get to the bank before it closed. As he was about to turn into the bank's parking lot, he heard what he thought was the explosion.

According to a police report in the Fayetteville Observer, 74-year-old Ted Tharp had turned his minivan north on Fayetteville Road and had collided head-on with a Kia van driven by 30-year-old Kendra McNeil.

Locklear says he was frustrated that other motorists had not stopped to help, but instead drove around the accident.

Locklear told the Observer, ″Don’t they realize these people have been in an accident and nobody was going to help them? I got a little bit upset and angry about that.”

He set his car in park and rushed to help the accident victims.

He said the woman “looked out of it” and when he saw the other vehicle smoking, he cut off the side airbag on the man’s car and assisted him to safety. He then had to carry the woman from her car, with help from another person and moved the woman to a safe place off from the road.

At the accident scene, Locklear then saw the bank teller who had come out of the bank. Wishing to hand her the checks to deposit into his account, he collapsed before he could hand her the checks in the street.

Locklear told Indian Country Today, "After I had helped the woman onto a soft spot on the grass, I said, 'I'll be right back.' I thought I had actually handed the bank teller the checks, but she said I didn't. She says my eyes rolled back in my head and I collapsed."

With over 90 percent blockage to the left anterior descending artery to his heart — a fact unknown to him at the time — Locklear began to have a serious heart attack that some medical professionals even refer to as “the widowmaker” due to the grave situation and non-likelihood of survival.

Luckily for Locklear, Alison Wright, a nurse, was on scene and began to administer CPR. Police Officer Daniel Smith Lumberton Police Department jumped in to help and began doing compressions.

However, before the police had even arrived, Locklear had become completely unresponsive, the nurse had to use a defibrillator on him.

"My cousin owns the Toyota dealership across the street, and I collapsed in front of him and his son who had come over," Locklear told Indian Country Today. "But they decided to start praying for me. My cousin's son, all the people around were praying for me. It's a miracle of the Good Lord and I am thankful to God."

Locklear came to at the scene to applause from the crowd and was taken to the hospital.

Locklear is the editor of Native Visions, a regional magazine dedicated to American Indian news. He says that his magazine has a circulation of about 10,000. He has been a journalist for several years and has contributed to several of his region's news organizations over the years. He also served in the National Guard, something he says also prepared him for such situations.

"Being a newsman, and as a National Guardsman, I was trained to be a minute man and be ready at a moment's notice to step up and fight. I was obedient to the Spirit which helped me to get these folks out of their cars. It was a matter of doing what was right."

James Locklear - Facebook
James Locklear with the two people that saved his life. Alison Wright, a nurse, was on scene and began to administer CPR. Police Officer Daniel Smith Lumberton Police Department jumped in to help and began doing compressions. Facebook

Though Locklear doesn’t know how the victims of the accident were doing, his wife Mary said her husband was a “servant of the community.” Officer Smith called Locklear a hero. 

“He didn’t know those people he got out to help,” Smith said. “In my eyes, he’s an actual American hero.”

James Locklear - Facebook page
James Locklear and his wife Mary in an image on his Facebook page.

When Locklear was told that the nurse and police officer had called him a hero, Locklear says he was honored.

"Wow, I appreciate them calling me a hero, but Allison and the officer are the heroes. They are the ones responsible for keeping me alive." 

Locklear says in the days after the event, he was grateful for a positive response from the public. He says people in the bank had all come up to him after he had returned to ask about his welfare. He also said he has received thousands of well-wishes on Facebook.

"I am so glad this all worked out. It was not my doing. I am just grateful to be alive."

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling and Instagram - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

Lead image of the Locklear's by Jock Lauterer used with permission -https://bluehighwaysjournal.mj.unc.edu/the-roadshow-goes-to-pembroke-or-the-continuing-education-of-mr-joke/