A Lincolnton native is the oldest-living licensed auctioneer in the state.
Josie Graves, whose family has been in Lincolnton for generations, is 96 years old, and yet she still has no plans to retire.
She has been teaching auctioneering for 41 years at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, for which she was honored with a certificate by the N.C. Auctioneering Board last month. She is a lifetime member of the N.C. Auctioneers Association and was the first woman inducted into the Auctioneers Association of North Carolina Hall of Fame 20 years ago.
She said she will continue teaching as “long as my brain stays all right.”
Graves left Lincolnton at the age of 17 to attend a women’s college in Greensboro. Her goal, she joked, was to get her “Mrs.” degree.
“I got it,” she said, marrying her husband shortly thereafter.
The couple moved to Kinston more than 50 years ago after spending some time in Detroit and Mt. Holly, and Graves soon stumbled upon auctioneering. She had previously worked as a secretary and taught dance, but tobacco auctioneering was really taking off in the area at the time.
Graves took some classes, eventually began teaching and later became licensed, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I just love it — I love auctions,” she said.
Lenior Community College is one of only three schools in North Carolina that teach the subject, she added.
She enjoys the different types of people she gets to meet through the trade, as well as the knowledge of older things that comes along with it.
“And, of course, I’m the oldest thing there is,” she joked.
Perhaps surprisingly, she is not so fond of the antique furniture, which she described as “not comfortable.”
Her husband died 15 years ago, and continuing in her job has helped to not only get her through that difficulty, but also to keep her mind sharp.
“Teaching is the only thing that’s kept me going,” she said.
She has one son who lives near the coast and a younger sister, Bobby Crowell, who still resides in Lincolnton. While her remaining family isn’t as close as she would like, her students provide plenty of company.
“I have lots of children from teaching this long,” she said.