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Lincolnton native oldest state auctioneer

Lincolnton-native Josie Graves is the state’s oldest licensed auctioneer.
“My license number is 89, and I’m 89 years old,” she said.
She began her career in her 50s and is still active in the profession. As a professor at Lenoir Community College, the Kinston resident has taught thousands of aspiring auctioneers.
“You meet so many different people,” Graves said. “I feel like I have children from all over North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.”
Graves’ husband was killed in an accident eight years ago, and she says teaching is “the only thing that’s kept me going.”
She enjoys working with young people, and while she’s known to have a sharp tongue, her students have a near-perfect record of passing the state licensing exams.
“She’s an inspiration to me,” said Bobby Crowell, Graves younger sister. “I think it’s remarkable. I hope I can stay on my feet and do as well as she does.”
Crowell, who is 10 years younger than Graves, has always been the baby of their family.
Growing up with four sisters, Graves became Crowell’s caretaker – especially after their father and older sister died in a plane crash in 1932.
The crash left their mother a widow at the age of 40, but she still managed to take care of her crippled mother and four surviving children and run a boarding house.
“Josie was just like Mama – determined and strong-willed,” Crowell said.
Crowell loves to watch her sister in action. A few years ago, Graves came to Lincolnton to participate in a benefit auction at First Baptist Church.
“She’s so vivacious and assertive and puts so much of her personality into her work,” Crowell said.
As a professor, Graves does her best to teach her students the art of auctioning.
“It’s just like you’re an entertainer,” she said. “You’re an actor. You’re entertaining the public.”
She can usually tell which of her students will become successful auctioneers. Their enthusiasm gives them away.
“It’s like everything,” Graves said. “You get what you put into it. That’s the main thing.”
And while she’s a tough teacher, she’s also a good friend and contact. Graves regularly connects her former students with jobs.
“They call me to get an auctioneer because I’ve taught them from everywhere,” Graves said.
Auctioning is Graves’ third career – she’s also been a secretary and dance instructor.
These days, she gets the most joy from teaching the tricks of the trade. She teaches three 12-week courses every year in which she imparts her wisdom about auctioning off everything from knick-knacks to expensive antiques.
She also has control of “Josie’s table” at her local Bogangles, where she meets with friends every morning to drink coffee and discuss the latest news. If any other patrons try to take a seat at the table, they’re quickly shooed away.
Another thing that impresses her little sister?
“She comes home every Thanksgiving and drives in four hours from Kinston without stopping. She comes straight up and makes it in four hours,” Crowell said. “That amazes me.”
by Sarah Grano

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