The late Tom Oxendine of the class of 1948 will be remembered with a scholarship in UNC Pembroke’s American Indian Studies Department.
Oxendine Family: From left Joe, Magnolia Lowry, Louis, Ray and Tom Jr.
Oxendine, who died on May 27, was remembered in a June 14 reception at the University. The Thomas Oxendine Endowed Scholarship was announced to benefit outstanding American Indian Studies (AIS) students.
Although Oxendine will be remembered as the nation’s first American Indian Navy pilot and for winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for a daring sea rescue under enemy fire, friends and family discussed a much richer legacy.
“My father possessed a couple of qualities that I admire,” said Tom Oxendine Jr., who traveled from Lexington Va. “He was a tough man and, more importantly, a kind man.”
Tom Oxendine said American Indian heritage was very important to his father.
“The Lumbees were one of his great loves, and he worked for federal recognition until his death,” he said. “I agree that a scholarship in American Indian Studies is the appropriate way to honor him.
“As a young boy, my father learned about discrimination,” Oxendine said. “He learned that through hard work, you could overcome a lot.
“Bringing back a plane with (bullet) holes in it changed attitudes,” he said.
Tom Oxendine’s brothers: Joe, Ray and Louis, and sister, Magnolia Lowry, were there. UNCP’s Chancellor Emeritus Joe Oxendine spoke first.
“There are so many memories, but Tom was very proud of the fact that he was the University’s first Distinguished Alumni Award winner,” Dr. Oxendine said. “The family thought about the appropriate way to honor our big brother.”
A perpetual or endowed scholarship was an appropriate choice he said because it is “something that will help people.” Although Tom Oxendine had ties to many universities, he spent eight years in Old Main’s classrooms through high school and college, Dr. Oxendine said.
Where to place an endowed scholarship at UNCP was another issue because Tom Oxendine was an English major, a soldier and played three-sports in high school and college.
“Tom was an American Indian longer than anything else,” Dr. Oxendine said. “He was a proud Indian, and he felt good about being an American Indian.”
After serving in three wars, Tom Oxendine worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and consulted on American Indian matters.
“This endowment will be a great legacy for our brother,” Dr. Oxendine concluded.
Dr. Linda Oxendine, a former AIS chair, thanked the family and remembered “Tom-Boy,” as he was known.
“I’d like to thank you on behalf of all the little girls who Tom bought ice cream for, and for all the little girls who ran outside when they heard a plane flyover to say: ‘there goes Tom-Boy,’” Dr. Linda Oxendine said. “He was a big hero; thank you, Tom.”
Tom Oxendine’s generosity with family and friends was legendary, according to younger brother Louis.
“He would send money home, and my mother gave me 50 cents every Saturday,” Louis Oxendine said. “I could get a Pepsi, hot dog and go see a movie, twice.”
Chancellor Charles Jenkins, a personal and family friend, thanked the family on behalf of the University.
“We all miss Tom greatly,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “He leaves a legacy as a legendary figure in this community.
“The Thomas Oxendine scholarship extends his legacy and his generosity,” he said. “You can’t place a value on helping students at UNCP.”
Current AIS Chair Mary Ann Jacobs also thanked the family on behalf of her department.
“Today, students come to UNCP just to study in our program,” Dr. Jacobs said. “One thing we do is teach Lumbee history, culture, art and literature.
“Thank you for helping our program and our students, who come from all walks of life and many are in need of financial aid,” she concluded.
To learn more about the Thomas Oxendine Endowed Scholarship or other scholarships, please contact UNCP’s Office for Advancement at 910.521-6252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.