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Cherokee councilmember receives North Carolina’s highest honor

Longtime Cherokee Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown, became the latest recipient of North Carolina’s highest honor when she was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine last month. 

Saunooke has served on the Cherokee Tribal Council since she first ran in 1999, serving on nearly every committee the Council has during that timeframe.

A 1959 graduate of Brevard College, then just a junior college, Saunooke returned to school in the late 1990s to complete her bachelor’s degree at Western Carolina University and completed a master’s of public affairs there while serving on Tribal Council, later returning to serve on the school’s board of trustees. 

Saunooke is the mother of three children, including Cherokee Chief Justice Kirk G. Saunooke, and an active member of Olivet Methodist Church. 

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was created in 1963 to honor people with a proven record of service to the State of North Carolina and their communities. Past recipients include Andy Griffith, Billy Graham, Maya Angelou, Earl Scruggs, Kenny Rogers, Oprah Winfrey and many more. The award is given by the governor of North Carolina.

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