CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — A South Carolina artist, inspired by the life of Charlotte civil rights pioneer Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, presented her with her portrait on Thursday.

Joey Withinarts heard Counts-Scoggins’s story while watching a James Baldwin documentary. He said it inspired him to paint the picture.

“The experience that I had at Harding changed my life,” said Counts-Scoggins in the Irwin Elementary School library.

It made her an activist. And then an icon.

In 1957, at just 15 years old, Counts-Scoggins became the first, and at that time, the only black student admitted to Harry Harding High School. The groundbreaking moment came nearly three years after the Supreme Court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

It produced one of the most iconic photos from her first day of school — children and adults spit, kicked, and threw insults at her in hopes of discouraging her from attending.

But it only made Counts-Scoggins stronger.

“Because it made me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and that is, be an advocate and a voice for those that don’t have a voice,” Counts-Scoggins said.

It’s been 65 years since Charlotte schools integrated — and Counts-Scoggins is still holding interviews and recalling memories from the four days she was enrolled at Harding – before her parents pulled her out of school due to the bullying.

After speaking with Counts-Scoggins, Withinarts received her permission to start painting.

“The picture that I chose really stood out because it was so strong and bold,” he said. “The way she carried herself properly, the posture, everything was everything to me. I mean, it was so perfect, how she walked through those lines of kids, her demeanor was… she wasn’t attacking anybody, she was focused, she was there to learn and educate herself, and that picture showed it all.”

Most of his work centers on Black icons like legends of film, music, and activism. He’s painted several pictures of legends like Prince, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes, Chadwick Boseman, and Muhammed Ali, among many others.

“At 80 years old, I am still fighting to make a change. I’ve always said that what’s important to me is to change the education system in this country.. not only in Charlotte but in this country,” Counts-Scoggins said.