Civic Hall of Fame announces 2018 Inductees

Each year, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama honors “civic giants” that have made an impact on the quality, livability and economic progress of our community. The Civic Hall of Fame was born during The Chamber’s 100th anniversary year in 2000 and is designed to honor exceptional citizens who have made significant, long-term contributions to the overall development of Tuscaloosa County. With this class, 116 citizens will have been inducted as members of the Hall of Fame.

Organizations, businesses and individual citizens submitted nominations for the 2018 class. These were reviewed by a committee and honorees were selected.

The 2018 Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame honorees are:

 

Bert Bank (1914-2009)

Serving his country and his city in a variety of ways, Bert Bank is remembered as a man who loved his community.

Born in 1914 near Montgomery, Alabama, in Searles, Bank moved to Tuscaloosa as a young boy, where he graduated from Tuscaloosa High School. Following his graduation from the University of Alabama and law school, he joined the military.

While stationed in the Philippines during World War II, he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He survived the Bataan Death March and 33 months in a prisoner of war camp. He was honored with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star awards.

Upon his return to Tuscaloosa, he started WTBC Radio Station. He also started the University of Alabama Football and Basketball radio networks. In the 1950s, his station became the first in the state to broadcast a basketball game. Bank was a pivotal figure in popularizing UA basketball as the program rose to national prominence in the 1970s.

Bank also served as a member of both the Alabama House of Representatives and Alabama Senate. He served two terms in the State House, first being elected in 1966, and one term as a State Senator, being elected in 1974. He authored many bills that became law in Montgomery including a bill that resulted in the naming of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Bank earned many honors during his lifetime including the Thad Holt Distinguished Broadcaster's Award in 1969 and the Tuscaloosa Advertising Club's Man of the Year. He was a past president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, the Junior Chamber of Commerce and Tuscaloosa Quarterback Club. He was also elected to the University of Alabama's College of Communications Hall of Fame, the Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame, The Alabama Military Hall of Honor and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama.

Mr. Bank dearly loved his country, the University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa community always held a special place in his heart.

Jordan Plaster (1956-)

There are few people in Tuscaloosa County whose lives Jordan Plaster has not impacted. Serving his community has been a way of life for Plaster, who has made a difference for young and old.

Born and raised on a small family farm in the rural community of Autaugaville, Plaster came to Tuscaloosa in 1974 to study business and finance at the University of Alabama. After graduating in 1979, he began his career in financial services with the Federal Land Bank.

Plaster has been active in civic participation over the last four decades. He has many years of involvement and leadership with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, having served as Chairman of the Board of Directors and currently serving as a member of its Foundation. He is a former president of The Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, where he has been named a Paul Harris Fellow. He serves on the Board of Visitors for the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama. Plaster has faithfully supported the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of America and serves on the Board of Directors of the Business Council of Alabama. He is also a strong supporter of numerous local organizations, including the Nick's Kids Foundation, the Tuscaloosa Public Library and the Tuscaloosa Tip-Off Club, of which he was a former president.

Plaster helped establish the Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight, which was set up to take World War II and Korean War Veterans to Washington D.C. free of charge, to tour the monuments constructed in their honor. Beginning in May of 2010, the Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight has completed eight chartered trips to Washington D.C. and transported over 660 Veterans to see the memorials all at no cost to the Veterans.

Plaster recently served as Chairman of the Capital Campaign for Easter Seals of West Alabama and raised more than $1.5 million for the new operating facility. He currently serves as the 2018 Campaign Chairman for The United Way of West Alabama, where he leads all fundraising efforts that provide crucial financial support for the United Way's 26 partner agencies across West Alabama.

In 2017, Jordan was recognized for the fifth consecutive year by Barron's Magazine as one of the top 12 Financial Advisors in the state of Alabama and among the top 1,200 Advisors in the United States.

Jordan Plaster’s commitment to civic engagement and community involvement has made a tremendous impact on the Tuscaloosa community.

 

Gene “Poodgie” Poole (1946-)

A longtime familiar face in the downtown retail scene as the owner of Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers, Gene “Poodgie” Poole has also been instrumental in supporting the groups and organizations that make Tuscaloosa what it has become today.

Born in Tuscaloosa to Leonard and Madge Poole, Poodgie Poole graduated from Livingston University in 1968 and joined the United States Army. After serving in Airborne Special Forces, Poole retired as a Lt. Colonel with 26 ½ years of service.

He has served as President of the Alabama Jewelers Association from 1979-1981, and was a former president of the Downtown Merchants Association from 1987-1995. In 2000, he was named Retailer of the Year. In 1985, Poole helped to start CityFest, a downtown music and art festival that lasted 20 years. The money raised benefited groups including the Children’s Hands-On Museum, PARA and the Police Athletic League.

Poole has been a supporter of Arts and Autism, The Tuscaloosa Symphony, and Hospice of West Alabama. He supports RISE and Tuscaloosa's Needy Children. In 2005, Gene was the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. He was also selected as Pillar of the Community in 2014.

The City of Tuscaloosa selected him to serve on the Original City Commission, The Downtown, Tuscaloosa Authority, The Riverfront Committee, The Great Lake Committee and the Tuscaloosa Convention Bureau.

Poole served as the United Way Campaign Chairman for 2015, and also served as the small business chair for the capital campaign for the Cancer Center at DCH.

Poole is married to Jamie Bennert Poole, with two sons, John and Ryne, and a daughter, Caroline. Poole’s contributions are due to his love of Tuscaloosa. He has tried to make Tuscaloosa a better place to live, work and improve the quality of life here in our "All American City."

Dr. Malcolm Portera (1946-)

Dr. Malcolm Portera’s vision, persistence, hard work, and inspired leadership have had a major impact on Tuscaloosa's economic recovery of the 1980's and on the quality of life issues primarily related to the availability of good jobs in a strong economy.

Portera pursued higher education at Mississippi State and after obtaining a Master's degree, he entered the University of Alabama, to earn a Ph.D. degree in political science. Together with hiswife Olivia, and sons Andy and John Paul, the Portera family developed deep roots in the soil of Tuscaloosa County.

Using his skills in strategic thinking, building relationships, and negotiating agreements, Mack led the team that turned economic outlook into a huge success for Tuscaloosa County. Portera has served on the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority Board of Directors; Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama committees, including Partners, Membership Drive, University Division Chairman, University Community Relations Committee, Leadership Development Committee, and Economic Development Planning Committees.

He has served as Division Head of the United Way of Tuscaloosa County; a member of the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority; member of the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Board; and the Tuscaloosa Commission to Improve Public School Education.

Portera moved on to higher levels of administration culminating in his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Alabama System. He served in that capacity for ten years, and continuing to provide leadership for linking the University System to the State's economic growth.

Ken W. Swindle (1952-)

With a focus on serving each member of his community, Ken Swindle has spent his career dedicated to the betterment of Tuscaloosa.

Born in Samantha, Swindle attended Northside High School in Tuscaloosa County and later attended The University of Alabama Law Enforcement Academy. He joined the Tuscaloosa Police Department in 1974, as soon as he was eligible. He also joined the Alabama Army National Guard and received three MOS certifications as an infantryman, a combat engineer and combat medic in 13 years of service.

Swindle was named Police Officer of the Year by Tuscaloosa’s Exchange Club after only five years of service.

In 1988, Swindle was catapulted into national acclaim for his actions and leadership during the West End Christian hostage situation where more than 100 children and teachers were held at gunpoint for 12 hours. Assistant Chief Swindle led the negotiations that ended peacefully and freed the hostages. That incident led to his selection as one of the top 10 law enforcement officers in the nation in 1988 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Parade Magazine. He was also presented with The Liberty Bell Award by the Tuscaloosa Bar Association in 1988.

In 1990, at the age of 37, Ken was selected as the youngest Tuscaloosa Police Chief on record. Chief Swindle served the Tuscaloosa Police Department and the citizens of Tuscaloosa for 34 years and the last 19 years serving as chief. He retired in 2008. Ken enjoyed a retirement of three days before going back to work as chief investigator for the law firm of Prince, Glover, and Hayes.

Swindle is the recipient of numerous awards, including the first Tuscaloosa Tourism Friend of the Year award, the V Race Unity Award by Baha’is of Tuscaloosa, and he was named a 2012 Pillar of West Alabama.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference recognized Ken for espousing the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and working to keep his dream alive by naming him as the 2013 Dreamers Award recipient. In 2015, Ken was selected to receive the Call to Conscience Award.

Each and every aspect of Swindle’s 34-year career focused on the betterment of the community, the interest and safety of each and every citizen, and community service as a whole. He went above and beyond his call of duty as an officer and gave tirelessly to his community by serving others through many civic organizations, community functions, church programs, and fundraisers. He has touched and impacted from the youngest to the oldest citizen in his forty-seven years of giving back to our community.

 

Harrison L. Taylor (1947-)

Harrison Taylor, affectionately known as “Mailman,” has spent the greater part of his years as a voice for the voiceless in the Tuscaloosa community. After graduating Druid High School and attending Shelton State, Harrison began his life mission serving the village that poured its best into him during his childhood years.

Harrison's journey of service began as an active foot soldier in Tuscaloosa's civil rights movement. He then became a member of the U.S Army. Harrison continued his service to the community as a mail carrier, where he spent 34 years learning community members' by name. It was during this time he felt the need for a leader that listened, understood and had a willingness and call to take action. Harrison took on the charge to be that leader by running for and being elected to represent District 2 on the Tuscaloosa City Council, where he served for 24 total years.

During his tenure on the Tuscaloosa City Council, Harrison not only represented District 2 but also fought to level the playing field for all Tuscaloosa citizens. It was this push for equality that became instrumental in getting the first black man appointed to the Civil Service Board.

Harrison "Mailman" Taylor has received numerous awards throughout the years for his service to the Tuscaloosa community. These honors include the 2nd Chairman Leadership Award for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and the Habitat for Humanity Golden Hammer Award. In 2014, the new splash pad at Palmore Park was renamed in his honor.

As a public servant, Harrison Taylor has been instrumental in achieving equality for the residents of the community he calls home.

Yvonne Thomas Wells (1939-)

Yvonne was born on December 26, 1939 to Reverend Peter Thomas and Fannie Thomas. After graduating from Druid High School in 1957, Yvonne bypassed athletic scholarship opportunities to stay at home and care for her mother, who was in poor health. Yvonne graduated with a bachelor's degree in Health and Physical Education in 1964 from Stillman College, a school also attended by all seven of her siblings. She later added a master's degree in Adult Basic Education from Alabama State in 1975.

Throughout her adult life, Yvonne also has maintained an active record of community service with a special emphasis on projects for children, veterans, and citizens in need. She lives her ideals of serving as "a light that shines for the community to see, and others to follow." Mrs. Wells worked full-time as a physical education teacher in the Tuscaloosa City School system from 1965 to 2000 while also initiating a second career of sorts as an artist in 1979 that has flourished into regional, national, and international recognition from the 1980s to the present.

Yvonne's artwork also became distinguished by her innovative incorporation of all manner of materials such as items of used clothing, discarded flags, and bottle caps-that are not part of conventional quilting traditions. These works caught the eye of Robert Cargo, a University of Alabama professor who operated the Cargo Folk Art Gallery She entered the Kentuck Art Festival for the first time in 1985, she received "Best of Show"-an award that she has gone on to win five more times. Boosted by this local acclaim, Yvonne's quilts soon caught the attention of art scholars, collectors, and curators and was included in national touring exhibitions.

Despite operating with modest institutional resources at her disposal throughout her life, she has established an extraordinary record of achievement as an educator, an artist, and active community member. Yvonne has helped to shine a favorable light on Tuscaloosa for a remarkably wide swath of the larger world to see through her exceptional artistic gifts.

The 2018 honorees will be inducted Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa River Market. There is no cost to attend the event.

Gold Sponsors for the event are the Award Company of America, McAbee Construction, Inc., and The University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences. Silver Sponsor is Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers.