"Celebrating the spirit of citizenship - the essence of leadership - and the true joy of service"
Each year, the West Alabama Chamber Foundation honors exceptional citizens who have made significant, long-term contributions to the overall quality of life of Tuscaloosa County through induction in the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame. The Civic Hall of Fame was established during the Chamber’s 100th Anniversary in 2000. In 2011, the Chamber unveiled a recognition wall at Government Plaza to permanently honor the 86 “civic giants” who have been inducted as members of the Civic Hall of Fame.
To nominate a citizen for the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame, please click on the form below:
Click on the names below to view their biography
Buddy Burton has lived in the Forest Lake area of Tuscaloosa for 42 years. His home there survived the April 2011 tornado, a storm that destroyed most of his neighborhood. He has long been involved in the Neighborhood Association, more recently in the efforts to revitalize the community.
Buddy attended the University of Alabama earning a degree in Accounting. He worked for JamisonMoneyFarmer, PC for 45 years. He retired in August of 2006 but continues to maintain his certifications in order to serve various roles in the nonprofit arena.
Buddy has always been involved in church and community projects. He has held leadership positions at Forest Lake United Methodist Church and other organizations such as United Way (board member), Salvation Army (former chairman), PARA (board member), Tuscaloosa Industrial Development Authority (board member) and more.
Buddy was an icon in the girl’s church league softball circle and was inducted into the West Alabama Softball Hall of Fame in 2005.
He was the driving force behind The Community Foundation of West Alabama, established in 1999. He served as the chairman until 2009 and remains of on the board of directors. He continues to be passionate about growing funds to meet the needs of our charitable groups now and into the future. The CFWA has given back in excess of $12 million already and there are very few charities in town that CFWA doesn’t fund or impact.
In recent years, the CFWA has named over 100 Pillars of West Alabama, recognizing deserving individuals for making our area a better place to live. Because of his position on the board, Buddy isn’t eligible for that award. However, he definitely should be honored for his contributions and deserves to be a member of our Civic Hall of Fame.
Transplanted in Tuscaloosa 25 years ago, Charlie Durham embraced his calling to First Presbyterian Church. From there, he has stretched the boundaries with vision, inspired the faithful within the block and beyond, and modeled servant leadership with determination and hope.
For Christ from the Heart of Tuscaloosa” is the mission for the church and for Charlie. Serving a community requires knowing its people and he, by extroverted nature, has become a friend to Tuscaloosa. Many consider him to be the community pastor, calling on him for help and comfort in a variety of situations.
Sensing a desperate need for those with dementia issues, Charlie went out on a limb to form the seminal board of Caring Days, sharing the vision, challenging the doubters, implementing its creation and nurturing its growth. This joyful home-away-from-home, filled with imagination, good humor and art, has been successful for over a decade.
Knowing first-hand the struggles of anxiety, grief and pain of our citizens, Charlie joined the pastors of First United Methodist Church and Christ Episcopal to found Counseling Ministry Professionals, a counseling service with a heart for the power of faith in addressing mental health issues. It continues to serve as a light in dark times for many.
Charlie has humbly served on the boards of many service organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Community Soup Bowl and Hospice of West Alabama. The DCH Institutional Review Board and Stillman College Board of Trustees have also benefited from his pastoral perspective. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow and acted as the president of the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club.
Always ready to be a hands-on helper, delivering Meals on Wheels and hammering nails at Habitat for Humanity sites have been meaningful ways to put faith in action.
The 2011 tornado was a debilitating tragedy for our town. Within 30 minutes, Charlie
was in a devastated neighborhood, armed with a chainsaw and tireless determination, helping to evacuate victims from their homes. In a long-term effort, his church hosted more than 300 workers who came to Tuscaloosa over the next three years.
Charlie is happiest serving with a team, identifying a need, nurturing the talents of others and going out on a limb.
Few people in the community have had the lasting impact that Carolyn Fritz had in so many areas.
She especially loved helping children and served on the Parent Teacher Association for many Tuscaloosa City Schools including Verner Elementary (president), Westlawn Middle, Tuscaloosa Middle, Eastwood Middle and Central High East and West.
She was a leader in many worthwhile community organizations serving as president of the Junior League of Tuscaloosa, Chamber’s Women’s Division and Tuscaloosa Medical Alliance. She was on the board of directors for the Juvenile Court, Boys & Girls Clubs of West Alabama, Rise, Adopt-A-School, Kentuck and CHOM. She was also involved with Leadership Tuscaloosa, Forerunners, PRIDE, Tuscaloosa Soup Kitchen and more.
She was named a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts, Grand Marshal of the West Alabama Christmas parade and Sustainer of the Year in Junior League Tuscaloosa.
Carolyn was a dedicated, tireless volunteer who impacted many lives by her involvement. She literally gave thousands of hours of service to make this community a better place.
In 1944, Lee Allen Hallman answered a call to serve his country. Little did he know his military career would extend more than 33 years before he would permanently return to Tuscaloosa. He returned as a Navy Commander and immediately began looking for avenues of community service.
He has provided a lasting impact on the development of Tuscaloosa County by investing his time with the youth, veterans and senior adults. Lee Allen is a long-time member of the Chamber and served as director on the Industrial Development Authority board during a time of great importance, when the Tuscaloosa Industrial Park was developed. He also served on the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Commission.
In 1982, he was appointed License Commissioner, a role he held until 2005 when he was appointed Supernumerary License Commissioner by the Governor of Alabama. He took this from a small office in the Courthouse basement with lines of taxpayers around the block to an efficient office in the annex and two satellite offices.
Lee Allen is an avid supporter of the University of Alabama and its Sports Programs. He established the Commander and Mrs. Lee A. Hallman Endowed Scholarship at the school and is a contributor to the Crimson Tide Foundation.
He has served in numerous civic organizations. In 1984, he revived the American Legion baseball program, which provided over 100 college scholarships to local youth. He also served as Commander of The American Legion Post 34 and vice president and president of the West Alabama Officers Association.
Lee Allen is a past president of Focus on Senior Citizens and still serves on that board. He also currently serves on the Tuscaloosa County Veterans Memorial Park committee.
He was selected American Legion Veteran of the Year for Alabama in 2002 and was awarded the American Spirit Award by the University of Alabama that same year.
Lee Allen earned a master’s degree from the University of Alabama at the age of 82. At the age of 88, he is still serving and displaying the attitude and spirit that others would do well to emulate.
Dr. John Woodruff Robinson was a long-time Tuscaloosa physician and civic worker. Most notably, he served as a physician at Stillman College for more than 36 years for nominal rates and sometimes at no cost at all. He was a leading booster and benefactor of Stillman and received an honorary doctorate from the school.
Dr. Robinson was born in Barbados, West Indies before moving to New York with parents in search of a better education. He was one of the first blacks to graduate from Towns and Harris High School and the city college of New York. He graduated from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. He served as a physician in World War II, stationed in this country and in Europe.
After coming to Tuscaloosa in 1949, he served as chairman of the original board of directors for the Benjamin Barnes branch of the YMCA and was president of the Century Club. He served on the board of the United Way, Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of American and American Red Cross.
Dr. Robinson was also an involved leader of Hunters Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church for many years and later joined Canterbury Episcopal Chapel.
He is remembered for his citizenship and concern for his fellow man, especially in regard to youth and education.
Randy C. Skagen is a mechanical engineer by trade, earning his degree in 1980 from Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology in his hometown in Canada. Upon graduation, he launched what would become a very accomplished career in the steel industry.
In 2004, he was selected as the general manager of Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, Inc. and was elected vice president in 2005. Upon his arrival in Tuscaloosa ten years ago, Randy immediately immersed himself in a wide variety of civic and charitable activities. He quickly advanced to leadership positions and gained a reputation as a “go to” person…if a non-profit is going through a difficult time and needs a strong leader, go to Randy; if a worthwhile fundraiser needs a chairman to accept the challenge and reach the goal, go to Randy; if a board or group needs wise counsel, go to Randy. He has always accepted these assignments with enthusiasm and a smile. He has successfully guided the operations of Nucor while oftentimes serving in multiple leadership roles in the community.
Randy has frequently rallied his troops at Nucor to help with community projects, including the construction of a playground at United Cerebral Palsy and outreach to families in need in the aftermath of the April 2011 tornadoes.
Randy has served as chairman of the United Way, the Chamber, and the Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts. He currently serves on the board of directors of the DCH Foundation, the Chamber and Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts. He also serves on the Leadership Advisory Board for the Dean of the College of Engineering and the Advisory Board for the Metallurgical Engineering Department at the University of Alabama. He has also been involved with Easter Seals, the Caring Days capital campaign and Tuscaloosa County Industrial Authority.
He has stepped forward many times when his community was in need of his leadership and service.
Throughout his career in the banking industry and since his retirement, Chuck Sittason has been a leader.
In 1980, he was appointed by the City of Tuscaloosa to serve on the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development board, where he served until 2001. He was chairman for two years and vice chairman for two years. He was the TCIDA negotiator when JCV chose to locate in Tuscaloosa and made numerous trips to Japan in pursuit of the manufacturer. He also worked with the IDA’s Foundation, serving several terms as president when the Tuscaloosa County Airport Industrial Park was created.
Chuck served as campaign chairman and then president of the United Way in the 1980s and several board terms for the Chamber as a division vice president for three terms. He also served on the board of the DCH Foundation from 1988 to 1996.
His commitment to the University of Alabama has been significant. He has been a member of the President’s Cabinet since 1988 and served as co-chair of the Crimson promenade campaign from 1998-2000. He was also a role model and advisor for the Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity from 1986-2008.
He served on the Alabama Commission for Higher Education from 1986-1993 as vice chair and chair of the Financial Affairs committee. During his tenure, legislation to improve the quality and management of higher education was passed and a technology scholarship for K-12 teachers was created. In 2003, he reactivated and served as president for Junior Achievement, which had been dormant for many years.
After retirement from Regions Bank in in 2005, at the request of the Chamber, he initiated the development of the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation and served as the founding president from 2005-2010. This brought numerous sports events to Tuscaloosa, including the Super Six High School Football Championship. In 2010, the TSF merged with the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau to form the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, on whose board he still serves as chairman.
Chuck also played a key role in the capital campaign to build the inpatient facility for Hospice of West Alabama, served as founding president of the Red Elephant Club from 2007-2009 and has served on the Progress Committee of Tuscaloosa since 1986.
He has demonstrated his ability to propel programs resulting in economic prosperity, strong education and youth programs and a robust health care system—facets he believes are cornerstones for quality of life in the community.
Dr. Carlson practiced dentistry in Northport for almost 52 years and, according to state records, was the first dentist to have a permanent practice there. He was active in professional dentistry organizations the whole time.
In the community, Norman served as President of the Tuscaloosa County High School PTSA, a term on the Northport Zoning and Adjustment Board, and in 1969-1970, he served as President of the Northport Quarterback Club. He has been a member of the Northport Lions Club since 1961 and served as President in 1964-5. He was a recipient of the Lion of the Year and is a Melvin Jones Fellow of Lions International. He also served on the Black Warrior Board of Counsel for Boy Scouts of America, for which he was presented the Silver Beaver Award in 1984, and has been a member of the board of our local Family Counseling Service. Norman was named Northport Citizen of the Year in 1982 then served on the board of the new Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama (after Northport and Tuscaloosa merged) and was Vice President in 1987.
As a member of Northport First Methodist Church, he chaired a committee to organize a new Methodist church in Northport, which became St. Mark Methodist, organized in 1965.He has served in many capacities in that church since.
Since his retirement in March of this year, Norman has continued to serve through his work on the board at Caring Days Adult Daycare and working the tornado relief efforts at his church. He is a very humble person, who has always been concerned about serving his patients and fellow citizens.
His life has been a demonstration of a servant’s heart and attitude.
Rev. Croom is most known for his civil rights work in the community, as the big black man with the big voice and white hat. Rev. Croom was a pastor for 33 years, completing three churches including College Hill Baptist with his wife Louise in 1981. He was also an educator for 30 years and among the first African-American teachers to integrate the Tuscaloosa County High faculty.
Rev. Croom’s civic engagement spanned five decades. While working in Tuscaloosa County, he spoke at several engagements to help move things forward toward civil rights and equality and even survived a near lynching. He was highly regarded and was the first African-American after the Civil War to qualify to run for public office in Tuscaloosa County.
During a time when then Gov. Wallace stood in the doors of the University of Alabama against integration, Rev. Croom was named Chaplain of its football team. He served under Paul “Bear” Bryant and was named an honorary assistant coach for his contributions. He has been recognized by the University as one of the 40 pioneers of civil rights in the state.
At age 58, Rev. Croom was inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame for his accomplishments. He also served as a member of President Ford’s Commission on Aging and helped entrepreneurs provide civic services in underserved areas of Tuscaloosa County. His legacy is his love for people and the ability to see the good in everyone.
Mr. Edwards is a role model in providing outstanding leadership and service to his community. A hallmark of his reputation is his willingness to champion a worthwhile cause. Even throughout an incredibly difficult period in the banking industry, where he makes his livelihood, and a busy time in his career, he has stepped forward time and time again, accepting new challenges when his community was in need.
Claude began working in banking while in high school and his first job at First Alabama/Regions continued on through college and for a total of 27 years. He then left to help start Bryant Bank as its first President in 2005 and has been in banking now for 35 years. Mentors over the years taught him the importance of community service, and he has upheld a standard of giving back throughout his career. He credits Paul W. Bryant, Jr. and Bryant Bank for promoting a spirit of community involvement and allowing him to be involved in various projects.
Claude has served as co-chair of the Caring Days capital campaign and is a board member for that organization. He is also a prior Chairman of the DCH Foundation and served as Chairman of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 2010. He has also served Chairman of the Board for Crime Stoppers.
He has served on the boards of many local charities including Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts (where he is currently president), Hospice of West Alabama, Capstone Health Services Foundation, Project Blessings, Tuscaloosa Museum of Art, and UCP of West Alabama.
Claude was recognized as the Member of the Year by the Chamber in 2008 after serving for many years on that board. He received a Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America and was named a Pillar of the Community in 2012 by the Community Foundation of West Alabama. He is a past member of the Kiwanis Club, the West Alabama Literacy Initiative, and a current board member of the Red Elephant Club. He has also served as a United Way of West Alabama Loaned Executive and volunteer.
Claude is a talented, unselfish leader who has demonstrated his willingness to go the extra mile for his community.
Charismatic is perhaps the best adjective to describe Walter Bryan “Doc” Jones. One of his greatest attributes was the ability to influence others to help preserve our natural resources.
In the depression era years, Doc Jones commenced the Herculean task of raising money to buy 300 acres encompassing the Moundville mounds. He recognized the cultural importance of this Mississippian Indian complex. Unfortunately, areas between the mounds were under cultivation, destroying many period artifacts. Without Doc’s leadership, the area would have probably remained unprotected and the Moundville Archeological Park and its museum, which is named for him, would not exist. In 1975, the University of Alabama, through which he was also successful in expanding the Alabama Museum of Natural History, awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and the town of Moundville honored him that same year for saving the mounds. The Alabama Geological Survey building on the University campus is also named in his honor.
A religious man, Doc was an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa where his skills and knowledge aided Boy Scout programs and the like.
He was the Alabama District Governor of Kiwanis International in 1950 and held active leadership roles in various professional and civic organizations including serving as President of Alabama Ducks Unlimited, for which he enlisted a number of people to run a conservation of wetlands program.
Respected by colleagues and friends, his contributions are lasting testimonies to sustain and maintain our natural resources thus contributing to the quality and livability of our community.
Dr. Nash has been a distinguished command level leader in both secondary and higher education for many years. He began his career teaching middle school science before becoming a high school assistant principal and elementary school principal. Currently, he serves as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for The University of Alabama System, a post he has held since 1992.
He is much more than that to the citizens of West Alabama. He has provided decisive, innovative and dedicated leadership in a wide range of civic endeavors.
He was named Citizen of the Year in Tuscaloosa County in 2009 and a Pillar of the Community in West Alabama in 2010. He was also presented with the first Friend of the AL Mathematics, Science, and Technology Initiative Award and the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award.
Dr. Nash chairs or has chaired many organizations including The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, Challenge 21, Leadership Tuscaloosa and the All-America City Campaign.
He is or was also on the boards of North Central Alabama Council of Girl Scouts of America, Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts, Elizabeth Project Care, Caring Days Adult Daycare, Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, Murphy African-American Museum, Tuscaloosa’s Promise, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Foundation, Tuscaloosa City Schools Education Foundation, Governor’s College and Career Ready Taskforce, Easter Seals of West Alabama, Family Counseling Service, Tuscaloosa Rotary Memorial Foundation.
He is also an Elder at Brown Memorial Church. Many have benefitted from his positive influence and ability to inspire others and will remember his loyalty to service.
Beverly Phifer became President of Phifer Wire at age 31 and has presided over the world largest screen wire manufacturer, Phifer Incorporated, for over 30 years. The family business was founded by her father, Reese Phifer, in 1952. As the leader of one of the state’s largest, most successful, most innovative, most community-minded companies, Beverly is always one of the first to whom civic leaders turn for help, knowing that she will always help.
Beverly has served in both volunteer and leadership capacities at the West Alabama Food Bank, Salvation Army, Temporary Emergency Services, Soup Bowls, Good Samaritan Clinic, Red Cross, West Tuscaloosa Promise Neighborhood, and Christ Episcopal Church’s Lazarus Ministry. She also built a small dorm and offered the use of a Phifer facility for overnight visitors to Tuscaloosa working as tornado recovery volunteers. Known only to her are the innumerable gifts of her time, talent, and treasure that she has given anonymously to the community.
She was given an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, The University of Alabama, and serves on the President’s Cabinet, Museum Board of Regents, Denny Society, Women of Capstone, and the Board of Visitors for the Culverhouse College of Commerce. She was inducted in 2012 as a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor, one of the top 100 living Alabamians.
The breadth and depth of her contributions to the community are legendary. Tuscaloosa would not be the place that it is today without the difference that Beverly makes every day.
Mr. Rosen has achieved much in his lifetime. He is a World War II veteran, the oldest practicing lawyer in Tuscaloosa (now in his 65th year of practice), past Municipal Judge and law professor, entrepreneur, commercial property owner in Tuscaloosa and Northport and a cattle farmer.
He founded two successful law firms locally but actions as Tuscaloosa’s City Judge in the early 1970s may be his biggest contribution to the community. During the Vietnamese War, he was asked to become City Judge as a public service with no pay. At that time, a multitude of cases had been brought against students and professors demonstrating on the University of Alabama campus and all were being convicted, even though police had not properly recorded all the facts. This was causing a rift between Tuscaloosa and the campus community. Rosen recommended that the cases be dismissed and a truce was declared.
He also served as a director at various times for the YMCA, Salvation Army, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Community Foundation of West Alabama, Indian Rivers, and other civic organizations.
In 2003, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama awarded him the Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of distinguishing and exceptional business leadership. He has also been designated as a Pillar of the West Alabama Community Foundation.
A generous man, he has provided funds in recent years to the Gordon Rosen Professorship at the UA Law School, the Gordon and Ann Rosen endowed Nursing scholarship, the Gordon and Ann Rosen Endowed Scholarship for License Practical Nurses at Shelton State and the Gordon and Ann Rosen Endowed Education Scholarship. For his assistance to OverComing Ministries, a church in Vance, a fellowship room was named in his honor.
Mr. Parker is a local businessman who serves as President of Parker Towing Company. He has served as Chairman of the Industrial Development Authority and currently serves as the Chairman of the Alabama Port Authority and as a member of the national Corp of Engineers Inland Waterway User Board of Directors.
Historically, Tuscaloosa has relied on the Black Warrior River for industrial jobs. This dependency continues today with companies such as Nucor Steel, Hunt Oil, Drummond Coal, and Jim Walter Resources. These companies, along with Parker Towing, create thousands of jobs for Tuscaloosa County. His leadership and public service as past President of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Council ensured that these jobs would remain in the West Alabama area.
Mr. Parker believes in the importance of service to his community, state and country. He has served as Chairman of the United Way Campaign, which is the largest annual fundraiser in West Alabama. He and Parker Towing generously support many other local charities and campaigns as well.
He has also served as an officer in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and as a Representative in the State Legislature for twelve years.
Currently, he serves on the President’s Cabinet at the University of Alabama and as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Culverhouse School of Business at the University. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Mercedes-Benz International, Inc.
Mr. Phelps practiced law in Tuscaloosa for more than 45 years. While in Tuscaloosa, he served on the DCH Health System Board of Trustees and served as Chairman of this Board from 1976 to 2000. During his tenure on the Board, he has a major and lasting impact not only on the DCH Health System, but on many hospitals throughout Alabama.
While he was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, he helped DCH evolve from a community hospital to a tertiary regional medical center to a health system serving 10 West Alabama counties. Under his direction, the regional cancer treatment center opened, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment was placed in all DCH facilities, and a home health agency was established.
Mr. Phelps also helped DCH facilities become clinical training sites for medical students, nurses, pharmacists, radiological technologists and other health care professionals. Many of these individuals stay in West Alabama to meet the region’s need for health care professionals.
His influence has extended beyond Tuscaloosa County. He helped to establish the Healthcare Authority Act, a state law which allows the state’s public hospitals to compete with for-profit hospitals. More that thirty public hospitals in Alabama have incorporated under this law so that they can continue to compete with for-profit hospitals and serve the medically indigent and underinsured.
Dr. Randall has spent a lifetime trying to make Tuscaloosa a better place to live and work and has touched thousands of lives for the betterment of the community.
She is the Chairman of the Board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, and she has served as the Chairman of the Board of Randall Publishing Company and Director of the University Honors Programs at The University of Alabama.
Dr. Randall is Chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor (the one hundred most outstanding living Alabamians) and has served as National President of Mortar Board, Inc., President of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, and as Director of Alabama Girls State.
She has also served as a member of the Boards of Directors of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, the American Village, the National Collegiate honors Council, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Law Foundation, the Alabama Archives and History Foundation, the Alabama Center for Civic Life, and the Tuscaloosa City Schools Education Foundation.
Recently, Dr. Randall was appointed as a member of the Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama (TRAC), developing recommendations for long-term recovery following the tornadoes of April 2011.
Ms. Washington has a passion for serving others through promoting mental health. During her 45-year career as a mental health professional, she served on boards for various agencies, including the Governor’s Advisory Board on Alcoholism, the Governor’s Task Force on Drunk Driving, Phoenix House Inc., The Governor’s Volunteer Program, The Tuscaloosa Leadership Conference, Tuscaloosa Woman’s Place, Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Crescent East Channel One, and Tuscaloosa Housing Authority.
Working in mental health, her focus was on those struggling with addictions. She, along with her sister, donated the first house used as a satellite center, which was later named the Insight Center. Clients who were intimidated by a formal office setting felt welcomed at the Insight Center. The Center was later named the Bernice Hudson Washington Center in honor and recognition of her work in mental health.
Working with at-risk children was also a passion. She focused her attention on Crescent East, a public housing facility known as a rough area with high drug infestation. There, she organized the Channel One program. Now, several Channel One participants have become productive citizens.
Her influence in developing adequate services and programs in mental health has greatly impacted the lives of countless individuals who are now mentally healthy and assets to the community.
Ms. Wells has spent over fifty years giving thousands of minority and disadvantaged children the gift of music. Free music lessons are taught through Zelpha’s Cultural Development Corporation. It has been her calling to show children that, if they can accomplish learning to play the piano, they can accomplish anything.
Zelpha’s Cultural Development Corporation (ZCDC) was formed in 1976, where she gave free thirty-minute lessons to hundreds of students in seventeen different city and county schools. During the summer months, she also provided free music instruction to students who could not attend her classes during the school year.
Ms. Wells also taught music in the Tuscaloosa City School system for twenty one years and taught Applied Piano at Stillman College. She was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1986 and a recorded interview featuring her and several of her students and their parents has been catalogued and included in the Library of Congress.
She was named Tuscaloosa Arts Council’s Music Educator of the Year in 1989, received the Governor’s State Award in 1993, and was honored as Grand Marshall in the 1997 Tuscaloosa County Christmas Parade for her services to the community. She was also featured in TIME magazine in 1997 as a “Local Hero”.
Ms. Wells has performed at many prestigious venues and events including the Alabama Governor’s Mansion and the Inaugural Reception for Governor Guy Hunt.
Willie Fort, known by friends and family as “Dino”, worked as an instructor at the UA’s School of Social Work from 1972-1976 before joining the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority as Director of Social Services. In 1984, he was promoted to Assistant Executive Director of the Housing Authority, a position he still holds today.
Dino works to help the homeless acquire decent, safe and affordable housing and collaborates with other community and faith-based organizations to provide resources to those in need. He has been involved in many positions of community leadership to ensure that the concerns of the less fortunate are addressed. This is his passion.
His life’s work was never more evident than in the day that followed the April 2 tornado, which destroyed much of the Housing Authority’s Rosedale Court. He worked tirelessly to find housing and resources for residents devastated by the loss of homes and property.
Dino is also an effective advocate in the political realm for causes that improve the quality of life for West Alabamians. He is a man who brings joy and positive forces into the lives of those he encounters. And this community has truly benefitted from his giving spirit.
Tom Joiner’s career as a college student then professional geologist landed him in Tuscaloosa in 1961. Tom’s career flourished and he founded his own geological and hydrological services firm here. A man with strong religious faith and a belief in helping the less fortunate, he became an exceptional citizen leader whose service has touched countless lives in our community.
His efforts have positively affected education, business and economic development, health care and our quality of life. But Tom’s lasting impact may be best exemplified by his leadership and guidance of a program to help disadvantaged children get a better start in life through improved early education: he helped guide the United Way’s Success by Six Program from the very start and continues to guide it today. The City of Tuscaloosa expanded on this and is now home to a nationally recognized Pre-K Program.
Jim Harrison, III is a Tuscaloosa native whose community service resume is exemplary and his personal commitment to civic, charitable and cultural organizations in West Alabama gives new meaning to the term “generous”.
Jim’s interest in art began as a young boy. Indulging his interest in photography in high school and college, he also studied art history while at the UA. In 1974, Jim began a 23 year career with the family business Harco Drug Stores, Inc., which ended in 1997 when it merged with Rite Aid.
Fred Hahn has excelled in the areas of business, philanthropy and humanitarian works during his long career. He’s been in business in Tuscaloosa for 50 years. He continues to be successful in his trucking and industrial warehouse firms (service express truck line, Tuscaloosa Warehouse, Inc. and Industrial Warehouse Service, Inc.), in addition to building and selling businesses elsewhere in the south.
Fred is a strong believer in giving back to his community and has been associated with many charitable causes though many years, especially the new Hospice inpatient facility located next to the VA Hospital, which is named for his wife. He enjoys giving his time and resources to improve our community and to help those in need. And he’s known for giving these things without fanfare.
Rev. Pradat graduated from the UA in 1952 before attending Divinity School in Tennessee. After serving several churches there, he returned to Tuscaloosa and began serving as Priest of Christ Episcopal Church in Tuscaloosa in 1973, where he stayed almost 25 years.
He immersed himself in our community and, in these early days, was selected to be on a committee making an effort to enhance race relations in the City School system. He was seen as open-minded and committed to social justice for all. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Tuscaloosa County DHR in 1979, an agency serving our most impoverished citizens. He was elected Chairman in 1990, a post he still holds to this day. He has a reputation for fairness, respect for others and a sincere desire to eliminate hunger in his community, which led to the formation of the first Soup Bowl in 1982. He was also a founding partner of Operation Warm Up, providing shelter for the homeless in inclement weather, as well as the first hospice in our area. His fingerprints on our community help us to remember that the most noble of all work is that done for those who cannot do for themselves.
Jim Flemming moved to Tuscaloosa in 1985 as City President of what was then SouthTrust Bank and immediately immersed himself into serving the West Alabama community. In 1987, a group of local business leaders approached Jim about starting a new bank, and in 1988, The Bank of Tuscaloosa opened for business with Jim serving as the Chariman, President and CEO. Under his leadership, the Bank of Tuscaloosa developed an identity as being one of West Alabama’s premier corporate citizens.
One of Jim’s greatest passions is for the success and viability of DCH Hospital. In 1992, when DCH was working to obtain its Northport location, Jim voiced his advocacy and support of the acquisition, which has allowed DCH to better serve the health care needs of West Alabama’s citizens. Jim later co-chaired the DCH Foundation’s capitol campaign for the new Cancer Center. The campaign was successful in raising $10 million toward completion of the facility.
Jim has provided leadership and service to many of the community’s charitable organizations as well.
Shelley Jones has dedicated her professional and personal life to improving the quality of education for all children in our community. She served 32 years in the roles of teacher, curriculum associate and principal in the school system. Shelley was appointed a City Board of Education member in 1997. And when the decision was made to elect school board members, Shelley was overwhelmingly elected by the voters as the at-large Chairman of the Board. She became the first female to chair the Board of Education in its 119-year history.
She was selected for Leadership Tuscaloosa and Leadership Alabama, Community Foundation of West Alabama’s Pillars of West Alabama, State PTA Outstanding Elementary Principal of the Year in 1989, Tombigbee Girl Scouts Outstanding Educator Award in 1990, Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year in 2006, among other honors.
A life-long resident of Tuscaloosa County, Nona Joyce Sellers had a vision for and made dedicated efforts to improve the Tuscaloosa County School system.
She became the first female assistant principal at Tuscaloosa County High School from 1982 to1986. She was also principal of Holt High School from 1986 to1990 and served as principal of Hillcrest High School from 1990 to 1994, before beginning her term as Superintendent of the Tuscaloosa County School System, directing its growth and expansion. Joyce also served as an adjunct professor of educational leadership at the UA, helping to train and inspire many education leaders.
The Education Excellence Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1994 by Joyce, continues to grow and provide ongoing financial assistance to teachers and classrooms in Tuscaloosa County.
Charlie Oliver Sealy, Sr. enjoyed a remarkable career in real estate development that spanned six decades. He actually worked for a lumber company and began selling and building houses on the side to help the booming demand created by returning soldiers and their brides. He helped the common man realize home ownership and eventually built thousands of homes and played a vital role in the development of dozens of subdivisions around West Alabama. In addition to this and apartment development, he was involved in the insurance, banking and environmental services industries. He founded Sealy Realty Co (which has managed over 8500 apartment homes in four southern states), Sealy Insurance Agency, Security Federal Savings and Loan, Peoples Bank of Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa Waste Removal and Rumsey Environmental.
Charlie also held numerous positions of leadership in a number of different organizations in our community.
Frankie Taylor Thomas was an outstanding teacher, librarian, administrator, civic leader, religious leader and volunteer for many organizations representing worthy causes.
Frankie worked as a teacher at Coaling High School and Fayette County Training School before becoming the first black faculty member and Librarian at University of Alabama Library in 1969.
A force for change and improvement, Frankie made her way gently through barriers to achieve improvements for future black faculty at the UA. She also worked tirelessly for improved funding for new Tuscaloosa County School system facilities as well as for improved library service.
She was a pastor’s wife, married to the Rev. EV Taylor, and, together, they founded Mt. Galilee Baptist Church in Northport.
One of Tuscaloosa County’s most active civic, educational and volunteer leaders, Star Bloom has dedicated most of her adult life working to build quality education and meet social needs within the community. She has made a significant contribution through a broad array of civic, educational and community roles and organizations, including Tuscaloosa County High School Foundation, Challenge 21, The University of Alabama’s Integrated Science Program and the Co-Director of The University’s Center For Communications and Educational Technology, Baby Talk, as a founding member of Tuscaloosa’s One Place, and a host of other meaningful leadership roles.
One of Northport’s leading citizens and for many years, Dawson Christian has engraved his name on the quality and development of Tuscaloosa County in many ways. Since the early 1950’s, he has contributed tirelessly to the community through a variety of civic organizations and community endeavors, including the Northport Lions Club, serving as their first president; the Alabama Lions Sight Conservation, Easter Seals of West Alabama, member of the Northport City Council and the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, St. Mark United Methodist Church, and many others. Recognized for his civic and community service, he is a recipient of the
Northport Citizen of the Year honor.
If you look back in the history of Tuscaloosa, you will see the handprints of Joe Duckworth on many significant economic, civic and community initiatives and lasting successes. Founder of the Duckworth-Morris Insurance Agency, Mr. Duckworth was a visionary business leader, later forming the Tuscaloosa Building & Loan Association, forerunner to First Federal Savings and Loan, serving as President and Chairman. In addition, he made a lasting impact through many other leadership roles including: serving as Chairman and a member of the Druid City Hospital Board and is recognized as one of the developers of the hospital; President of the Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, and the Alabama Association of Insurance Agents; a leader in the First United Methodist Church, and a variety of other important leadership roles. He was the Tuscaloosa Citizen of the Year in 1953 and played a key role in securing a hotel for Downtown Tuscaloosa.
Long-time county extension service leader, Ben Fields touched the lives of many citizens through his professional, civic, community and religious life in Tuscaloosa County. Involved in a myriad of service roles during his lifetime, he was an active leader the Boy Scouts Board of Directors, Benjamin Barnes Branch and the Metropolitan Board of Directors, the Tuscaloosa Opportunity Board, later to become Community Services of West Alabama, United Way, Kiwanis Club, Family Counseling Services, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, First African Baptist Church, and a variety of other initiatives designed to improve the lives of people in the community. Recipient of many honors and awards, he received the Alabama Association of County Agricultural Agents’ highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award in 1984.
One of Alabama’s most respected and effective chamber of commerce executives, Johnnie Aycock has served the community as President & CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama for almost 27 years, contributing in significant ways to economic and business development, education, cultural development, leadership development, racial harmony, livability, and other aspects of Tuscaloosa County that have far exceeded the traditional role of a Chamber executive. He has been an active, creative leader working to build a quality community through a diverse menu of organizations and initiatives, some of which he provided leadership to establish, including: Leadership Tuscaloosa, Adopt A School, Literacy Council of West Alabama, Center For Workforce Development, West Alabama Leadership Prayer Breakfast, Challenge 21, Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, Chamber of Commerce of Alabama, for which he was named Alabama’s Chamber Executive of the Year in 2003, Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, Alabama Citizens For Constitutional Reform, Calvary Baptist Church, and many others.
Any conversation about the civic leaders of today’s Tuscaloosa area community would always include Terry Waters near the top of the list. Since his arrival in 1995, Terry Waters has been an engaged, effective business and community leader. Employed for over 36 years with Alabama Power Company, Terry Waters has contributed in significant and lasting ways to the economic development, workforce development and quality of life for the area along with directly contributing to numerous service-oriented initiatives. An active leader with numerous organizations, he has served as Chairman or President of many associations including The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts, Hospice of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, and many others. Honored on many occasions, he is a recipient of the Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year and one of only 3 people in the history of The Chamber of Commerce to be named as Member of the Year twice.
One of Tuscaloosa’s most active civic and volunteer leaders, Josephine Davis has dedicated most of adult life serving the needs of citizens throughout the community in a variety of roles. She has contributed in significant ways to The ARC, DCH, First United Methodist Church, Tuscaloosa Public Library, Junior League, Bryce Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs, and a host of other volunteer service organizations. She has been dedicated to doing her “civic duty”, often quietly, for many years, earning deserved honors including Volunteer of the Year for multiple organizations, including United Way, The ARC of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society and the Distinguished Alumna of the Year of the University of Alabama’s National Alumni Association.
Dr. Myrtle Edwards Gray is one of Tuscaloosa’s most beloved educators and community servants. A native of Tuscaloosa, Dr. Gray dedicated her life to touching the lives of children and young adults in our community, working as an educator for 43 years in the Tuscaloosa City Schools. Active as a civic leader in a variety of organizations, Dr. Gray has served the First African Baptist Church, YMCA, Alabama Association of Women’s Clubs, Alabama Reading Association and many other educational and civic associations. The recipient of over 50 community service awards, she has been honored with the Lifetime Distinguished Service Award from Alabama Association of Women’s Clubs, Teacher of the Year, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s Woman of the Year, an Honorary Doctorate from Selma University, and included on three separate occasions in Ebony Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Black Women.
A respected educator at The University of Alabama for over 41 years, Sarah Ella Rodgers had a significant and long-term impact on many facets of education and community life throughout her distinguished career. A professor of business statistics, Sarah Rodgers affected the lives of many young students at The University; and in 1981, the University’s science and engineering library was named in honor of her and her husband, Dr. Eric Rodgers. An involved citizen, Sarah Rodgers contributed effectively to various organizations, including the Alabama Association For Crippled Children and Adults, West Alabama Rehab Center, Northport First United Methodist Church, West Alabama Health Planning Board, Tuscaloosa Community Council and many others. Honored on many occasions for her community service, she was a recipient of the Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year, Northport Citizen of the Year, and United Way Volunteer of the Year.
One of Alabama’s most respected educators and community leaders, Roger Sayers served as President of The University of Alabama from 1989 – 1996. During his highly successful and distinguished career, he served in a variety of important leadership roles including Chairman of the College Football Association, Member of the President’s Commission of the NCAA, Chairman of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, and served as an officer and director of numerous other organizations including First Presbyterian Church, Challenge 21, Southeastern Conference, Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, United Way of West Alabama, Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts, and many others. Honored on numerous occasions for his education and civic leadership in building “town-gown” partnerships, he is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor and a recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and the Minnie Miles Endowed Excellence Award.
During a highly effective business career, Paul Singleton also made a lasting and significant impact on the Tuscaloosa for many years, with very little in the civic life of the community escaping his attention and involvement. For over 50 years, Paul Singleton worked at Central Foundry, starting as a clerk and working his way all the way up the ladder to General Manager. During his distinguished civic career, he served as the general chairman of Tuscaloosa’s first United Fund (now United Way of West Alabama) campaign in 1954; served as a member of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education; a long-time trustee of Holt Elementary School; and on the board of directors of numerous organizations including the Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross, YMCA, City National Bank and Tuscaloosa Rotary Club. Honored often for his many contributions, he was the 1957 recipient of the Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year.
One of Northport's most prominent and beloved citizens, Bessie Booth devoted her entire life to teaching and education, volunteer service, her faith and church, and as a devoted wife and mother. "Miss Bessie" touched the lives of people through her long-term teaching and counseling career, through her volunteer work along side her husband's medical career and through the West Alabama General Hospital in Northport, and through here church related work. She was honored as Northport's Citizen of the Year at the age of 84, selected as Alabama's Senior Citizen Queen at the age of 73, and named Volunteer of the Year at the age of 85 by the West Alabama General Hospital.
Leading The University of Alabama to new heights of academic achievement, growth and physical expansion, Dr. George Denny left a significant and lasting impact that changed the course of Tuscaloosa as well as The University. During his tenure, there was unprecedented growth in student enrollment from 500 to over 5,000; expanded academic offerings; growth of the physical facilities from nine major buildings to twenty-three; and led The University to national prominence through the football program. His legendary leadership was recognized statewide and nationally, earning him various accolades from professional, civic and community-based agencies and organizations, including membership in the Alabama Hall of Fame.
One of Tuscaloosa's and Alabama's most effective legislators and political leaders, Ryan deGraffenried left a significant legacy and impact on the growth and development of the Tuscaloosa County community during his all-too short life. Known for his professionalism, expertise and understanding of the legislative process, and civic leadership, Ryan had a lasting impact on The University of Alabama, Shelton State Community College, the Department of Mental Health, economic development, and a host of other key initiatives that contributed to the area's growth and prosperity.
Serving as Pastor of the New Zion Baptist Church for over 40 years, Dr. E. J. James' involvement and impact expand far beyond his duties as a pastor and across a wide spectrum of community life and all people. A pivotal figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960's, he made significant contributions to understanding and bringing people together, as he still does today. An active community leader, Reverend James has made lasting contributions through the Tuscaloosa Ministerial Association, YMCA, Stillman College, Temporary Emergency Services, Northport Civil Service Board, Northport Housing Authority and a host of other agencies and organizations.
With a lifetime marked by public service and civic responsibility, Claud Morrison made a significant and lasting impact on education, recreation, business development, and positive community relations. A practicing and respected Certified Public Accountant and business leader, Claud Morrison was active in many important and diverse leadership roles, including being one of the first members of the Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Board, a member of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education, and active leadership in a variety of other civic and community organizations, including the Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants, Alberta Baptist Church, FOCUS on Senior Citizens, Civitan Club and many others.
One of Tuscaloosa's and Alabama's best-known entrepreneurs and innovative business leaders, Pettus Randall, III left a lasting impact on the area's economic, business and civic development. Building Randall Publishing into one of America's most successful publishing firms, Pettus Randall also insisted on building his beloved community into a prosperous and vibrant business center. Active across a wide and diverse spectrum of civic and community organizations, he provided significant leadership through the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Tuscaloosa Kiwanis Club, Christ Episcopal Church, United Way, Tuscaloosa Association of Retarded Citizens, March of Dimes, the American Village in Montevallo, Alabama and a myriad of other community causes.
Carl Albright lived a life of meaning, commitment, and service - and excellence marked all of his endeavors. From home life to the workplace, from the church to the courtroom, from the chamber of commerce to the boy scouts, from giving to encouraging – Carl Albright’s impact and influence permeated his beloved community.
Born April 27, 1944 in Birmingham, Carl was reared in Tuscaloosa. He graduated from Tuscaloosa High School, the University of Alabama with a degree in aerospace engineering, and from the University of Alabama Law School with his juris doctorate.
An effective attorney, Carl earned his business reputation and influence as an outstanding banker, serving in various capacities with First National Bank of Tuscaloosa, rising to the office of president of AmSouth Bank. His impact in banking was also seen across the state as a strong leader in the Alabama Banker’s Association.
However, it was his model of civic responsibility and leadership in the economic arena that earned Carl community-wide respect. He served in virtually all of the key civic and community leadership roles during his lifetime, including serving as chairman or president of: Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, DCH foundation, Stillman College’s board of trustees and the Stillman Foundation, United Way, the Tuscaloosa Port Authority, the University of Alabama Law School Alumni Association and President’s Cabinet, Tuscaloosa Bar Association, and a host of other key roles.
His economic leadership was key to Tuscaloosa’s development during the 1980’s and 1990’s, as Tuscaloosa became a global economic leader. Carl’s strategic thinking, vision, and determination contributed directly to successes, such as JVC America, Tuscaloosa Steel (now Nucor) and of course, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International. He also played an important role in the establishment of Tuscaloosa’s sister city partnership with Narashino City, Japan.
A compassionate leader, Carl Albright also left a legacy of service through many other community agencies and service organizations, such as family counseling services, Indian Rivers Mental Health Center, YMCA, boy scouts, and the American Heart Association. A dedicated and faithful leader of First Presbyterian Church, Carl was an elder and chairman of the board of deacons, and at the time of his death in 1997, he was providing essential leadership for the renovation of his beloved church.
A man of deep and abiding faith, Carl Albright promoted the public good in everything he did. He was a visionary, who strived for a better Tuscaloosa, a better Alabama and a better world for all citizens. He viewed his civic leadership as a calling and a responsibility to serve.
Three characteristics of leadership rarely come together in one person. When these qualities are combined with passion, southern charm, and humor, and under-girded with a profound sense of love and service to others, the surrounding community will be changed forever.
The vision that initiates change – the determination that implements change – and the character that inspires change were all found in Frances Allison Alexander.
During her lifetime in Tuscaloosa, Fran Alexander was instrumental in a broad range of civic, educational and religious activities, all leading to a better life for those touched by her generous spirit.
Born January 23, 1923 in Columbia, South Carolina, Fran Alexander was a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. And from the time of her arrival in Tuscaloosa in 1966, with her beloved husband, Syd, Frances was an active, involved community servant.
Perhaps her most visible legacy is CHOM - the Children’s Hands on Museum. As a founding member of CHOM, along with friends Helene Hibbard, Jane Ingram, and others, Frances was at the leadership center and anchored a driving core of believers in children’s education and enrichment to make CHOM a reality. She served on CHOM’s board until her untimely death in September of 2003.
Founded in 1986, the touch of Fran Alexander can be felt through CHOM, enriching the lives of thousands of children every year through the largest museum and educational center for children in West Alabama,
But that wasn’t the sum of her contributions as a community servant. A longtime teacher, Fran worked just as hard after retirement, putting in 20 years as a tutor at Alberta Elementary School and giving her time to numerous civic, service and religious initiatives.
Her vision and drive was evident in the lives of children. Fran was an early volunteer through the medical alliance and adopt-a-school program, and she saw the need for expanding new boundaries and encouraging retired teachers, business people and others to volunteer, thus beginning the Alberta Pals Program, which has touched the lives of literally thousands of young people.
Another recipient of Fran Alexander’s talent for initiating big ideas and inspiring excellence was her work with the family of Christ Episcopal Church. Fran was a leader in the Episcopal Church women – an early leader in the Cursillo Lay Renewal Movement of the Episcopal church statewide, helping hundreds to grow in their faith. Fran also spearheaded the formation of senior ministries at Christ Church, touching people daily with her caring and giving spirit.
Fran Alexander’s tireless efforts resulted in many tangible, lasting contributions in a variety of civic, educational, and religious areas of our community. Perhaps even more significant were the qualities she demonstrated and encouraged as a mentor and role model to a generation of young community leaders – the qualities of ethics and morals in decision making – the basic principles of justice and always doing what is right, fair and good.
Fran Alexander left a legacy for many women and a new generation of community servants, teaching others to lead with grace and humanity. She made life better for everyone she touched and for all of us.
Jerry Belk cares to the core and has proved it over and over, spending most of his adult life making Tuscaloosa County a better place for all of us to live. In the process, he has become one of our most dedicated and accomplished public servants and one of its most quietly effective citizen leaders.
Jerry Belk was born December 10, 1932 in Tuscaloosa. He is a graduate of Tuscaloosa High School, earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Alabama. After serving in the U.S. army as an infantry platoon leader, he returned to teach and coach at Holt High School.
While at Holt High School, Jerry raised the level of expectations of the school and the community to improve both education and athletics, always taking an active interest in the lives of the students. He was their mentor, their counselor, and an encouraging friend.
Jerry then turned to his attention to developing a modest recreation effort and transforming it into a county-wide parks and recreation program, known today as PARA. The Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority now serves thousands of citizens and continues to expand its facilities, park lands, recreational programs, and services.
Jerry will be the first to tell you that he didn’t do it by himself, that he was blessed to work alongside dedicated volunteers, citizens, and elected officials. But Jerry Belk and PARA are synonymous in the minds of most citizens in Tuscaloosa County, which is natural considering Jerry’s leadership of PARA for well over 30 years before his retirement in the late 1990’s. PARA honored him by naming the Jerry Belk Activity Center at Bowers Park in his honor.
But there is so much more to the servant-leadership of Jerry Belk; for he is a true humanitarian. Over his life of service, Jerry has quietly gone about working for the needs of the physically and mentally disadvantaged, youth, seniors, black and white, needy, and advantaged. Perhaps as much as any one citizen, Jerry has worked tirelessly to build positive race relations in our community. He has been a unifier, earning respect and trust through his consistent efforts to build bridges for all citizens.
While it’s difficult to separate Jerry from his noteworthy career in public service through PARA, you can also measure his impact as a private citizen through a wide array of civic, service and professional leadership roles.
Jerry Belk has provided distinguished and effective leadership through the Tuscaloosa Public Library Board, Tuscaloosa County Department of Human Resources Board, Salvation Army, Tuscaloosa County Heart Association, Veteran’s Memorial Park Board, First Baptist Church, American Legion baseball, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, serving his 5th term as chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame.
He is a past president of the Exchange Club, the Alabama Recreation and Parks Society, Alabama Recreation and Parks Association, “A” Club Alumni Association of the University of Alabama, and a host of other civic and service organizations.
Jerry Belk isn’t a passive citizen. He is a catalyst and pro-active leader, always willing to reach out and lift someone up or take on a challenge. He is a shining example of how one person can improve the quality of a community and at the same time influence the hearts and lives of men and women to become better citizens.
Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for others at personal sacrifice. If this is true, then Chester A. Fredd, Sr. certainly was a man of commitment.
Dedicated – determined – hard working – and a believer in every young mind, Chester Fredd was born on January 26, 1906 in Sawyerville, Alabama. He achieved his early education in Hale County schools, attending a one room school during his elementary years, and later attending Stephens Memorial School in Greensboro, where his father was the principal. He
Received his B.S. and masters degrees from Alabama State University, and later did his doctoral studies at Fisk University and New York University, receiving his doctorate from Selma University.
Dr. Fredd immersed himself into his career and into the lives of young people, believing that in every child there was a hero ready to be discovered. Throughout the region, Dr. Fredd emphasized the importance of having educational programs accessible, designed and available to meet the needs of every student, to be sure that no child was ever left behind.
Throughout his life and career, the thread of service to others was evident. A model of dedication and hard work, Dr. Fredd was often the first to arrive for work and the last to leave, modeling to others the importance of giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
A humble man, C. A. Fredd was recognized and honored on numerous occasions for his service to others and educational leadership. He was the recipient of Alabama State University’s Centennial Anniversary Award; Alabama A&M University’s award for Outstanding Service in Public Education; and a host of other education and civic honors.
During his tenure at C. A. Fredd State Technical College, later named in his honor, Dr. Fredd not only served as president, but he would go into the neighboring counties to encourage young people to seek education beyond high school. He mentored, supported, and even would provide any financial assistance possible to make sure that students in need would have the opportunity to live a productive life.
C. A. Fredd was a builder in everything that he did and impacted lives in so many diverse ways, serving in a variety of community, service and religious leadership roles during his distinguished career, which included active leadership in the Alabama State Teachers Association, Alabama Retired Teachers Association, Alabama Leadership Study Council, Alabama Baptist State Convention, Benjamin Barnes branch of the YMCA, Black Warrior council of boy scouts, Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action, board of trustees of Selma University, West Alabama Planning and Development Council, West Alabama Mental Health Association, and a host of other service roles.
C. A. Fredd also impacted the moral and spiritual lives of people as a pastor, with a total of 45 years of service, serving his last 34 years as pastor of the Greater 14th Street Baptist Church in Bessemer, building the church from a one room, concrete block building to one of the area’s most dynamic and successful congregations.
It has been said that “he who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.” And that is a fitting description of C. A. Fredd. He touched many lives, especially the young people of our area, instilling the desire to seek excellence and live productive, moral lives. And his legacy of service lives on today.
Rogers and Hammerstein wrote a show stopper for their hit musical, “South Pacific”. It was “There Is Nothing Like a Dame”. Now, they didn’t write that song for Doris Leapard, but they might have, for it suited her to a ‘T’.
Doris Hurst Leapard was born in Middletown, NJ, May 3rd , 1919 and grew up near New York City. From the beginning, she was gifted and in love with the arts and theatre, selling candy on the streets to raise money for theatre trips. Her early experiences became a constant motivating force to give people in smaller communities the same chance to experience the arts as big city dwellers. Add that to her passion for children’s arts education, and an activist was born.
Doris came to Tuscaloosa after World War II from a home, education, and musical career in New York, where she had graduated cum laude with a music degree from New York University, and had even worked for a time as a secretary at NBC in New York. A war bride who felt a bit out of place in the deep south, she worked hard to make a place for herself and Leapards interiors, which she and her husband, Bill, opened on University Boulevard, becoming a fixture for design trends, fine antiques, and stimulating conversation.
An accomplished pianist and singer, Doris used her gifts to establish a link to the community through the arts. When a national council on the arts was being formed in Washington, DC, she decided to press PARA to spearhead the formation of an arts council in Tuscaloosa, which was achieved in 1970. Doris ran the Arts Council as a volunteer for years until a director was eventually employed.
The Tuscaloosa Community Singers are another arts organization that owes its birth to Doris Leapard. Beginning in 1966 with fifteen singers, she and Dr. Fred Prentice built one of our community’s special musical treasures that is still inspiring audiences today.
In the segregated lifestyle of the 1960s, Doris displayed her character and courage to lead in making music education available to young black children through the Tuscaloosa city schools as well as at Christ Episcopal Church, where she brought together white and black children’s choirs. It was typical Doris Leapard, paving the way for progress and new opportunities for all people to experience the arts.
Perhaps her defining moment occurred in 1977 when Doris played the title role in theater Tuscaloosa’s summer show production of ‘Mame’. Profits from the show bought stage lights for the Bama Theatre and began its transformation from a movie house to a multi-purpose performing arts center. It was her passion, determination and untiring efforts that lit the fire of invention under the community to rebuild the Bama Theatre.
When substance abuse began to threaten our young people, Doris was not one to sit idly by. Instead, she acted, forming the Tuscaloosa chapter of PRIDE, which stands for Parent’s Resource Institute for Drug Education. In another venue, she played a key role in supporting the West Alabama Humane Society, showing her activist heart for a diverse needs.
No community is the work of one person, but inevitably at the heart of any movement beats one indomitable spirit. As much as anyone, Doris Leapard has been a driving force for the arts, not only enriching the lives of theatre, music, dance, and visual arts lovers, but establishing a legacy for future growth, livability, harmony and quality.
In addition to an exceptional academic, community, and professional record of service and leadership, one has to look behind the scenes to appreciate the quiet, highly effective impact and influence of Dr. J. Barry Mason. For this is a citizen that does not seek the spotlight, but simply serves to achieve and create excellence.
Born in Memphis, TN on March 24, 1941, J. Barry Mason has built an incredible record in academics, scholarship, and professional and community leadership. He earned his B.S. degree from Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, and his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Alabama.
His academic career has been exceptional, spanning more than 30 years, including service as a professor and teacher, department head, dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, and interim president of the University of Alabama.
His scholarship and research is nationally known and recognized for excellence, receiving virtually every major award available from the University of Alabama and marketing and management institutes and organizations. Among these are: one of the top 100 marketing scholars in America over the past twenty years – Academy of Marketing Science Educator of the Year – Alabama National Alumni Association Outstanding Commitment to Teaching – Algernon Sydney Sullivan award – and many, many others. In 1998, he was recognized by the American Marketing Association for his ‘uncommon leadership’ that resulted in turning around the 40,000 plus member national association.
However, look behind the scenes and the headlines and you will see the handprint of Barry Mason. His effective leadership in helping to save a failing General Motors plant in Tuscaloosa took Tuscaloosa to national prominence and literally opened the doors to the automotive industry. Because of his effective leadership, Tuscaloosa is a major player in the automotive industry today. Dr. Mason provided unsurpassed leadership for Tuscaloosa in the recruitment and development of key employers, such as JVC America and Mercedes Benz U.S. International.
He is a co-founder of the Alabama Productivity Center; and while serving as interim president of the University of Alabama, he led the economic revitalization of ‘The Strip,’ the creation of the “Healthy Campus” initiative and expanded enrollment at the University.
Throughout his years in community service, Dr. Mason has contributed to a diverse number of key organizations and quality of life initiatives. His leadership at PARA provided strategic, new directions for urban and rural recreational programs and expanded emphasis for the arts and parks.
In the world of health care, there are very few that have made such significant, lasting contributions as Barry Mason. Serving with great distinction on the DCH health system board, including chairman since 2000, Barry Mason has directly influenced the quality, effectiveness and advancement of our region’s world-class health delivery system.
Dr. Mason has served in a variety of key leadership roles that have directly influenced the quality of our community. He is a past president of the Black Warrior Council of the boy scouts, past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, past president of Challenge 21, and continues to serve a wide array of civic, professional, and service organizations.
A true servant-leader, Barry Mason is a model of integrity, excellence, and dedication to what’s right. You may not always see him in the spotlight, but quietly and effectively, he has changed and influenced many lives and the quality of our community.
A civil rights leader – public servant – fervent advocate for justice and fairness – a visionary always pushing for “a new day and a new way” - Charles Steele has made his mark on the very fabric of the Tuscaloosa County community, Alabama and the nation.
Charles Steele, Jr. was born in Tuscaloosa on August 3, 1946. A graduate of Druid City High School, he received his bachelor’s degree from American International University at Paramaribo, Suriname. He also hold honorary degrees from Stillman College, Bozeman School of Ministry, and Global Evangelical College of Louisiana and American University.
For many years, Charles has been co-owner, with his brother Danny, of the Van-Hoose & Steele Funeral Home and also serves as president of the Steele Group consulting irm. Today, he serves as national president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Grounded in the early days of the civil rights movement in Tuscaloosa, Charles has passionately served as a public servant and elected leader in Tuscaloosa County since 1985. Following change to a mayor-council form of government, Charles was elected to the Tuscaloosa city council, where he served two terms, and was one of the first of two African Americans to serve in this capacity. In 1994, Charles was elected to the Alabama State Senate, the first African American to serve in this capacity, and was subsequently elected to two additional terms.
Over the years as an elected public servant, Charles Steele has been relentless in efforts to improve economic opportunities, the quality of life and livability for his constituents. Using his constituency as a pulse to direct action and influence public policy, Charles Steele has maintained a common touch and sense of fairness.
His vision and efforts have been translated into progress and tangible economic development projects in West Alabama; - improved housing, including a first-time home buyer’s ownership program, one of the first in West Alabama; - increased support and funding for efforts to address drug issues, including the Bernice Washington Insight Center, partners for a drug free Tuscaloosa County, and Police Athletic League; - as well as active leadership in a host of community and service agencies and initiatives in West Alabama.
During his third term in the Alabama Senate, Charles was called on to serve as national vice president of the SCLC. In November, 2004, following his resignation from the Alabama State Senate, he was named president and CEO of SCLC, and began immediately to revitalize, redirect, and rebuild the organization.
Today, through Charles's passionate, innovative leadership, the SCLC is experiencing a rebirth and is expanding to a more global organization under his leadership. He is forging new multi-cultural partnerships.
A man of vision, vigor and passion, Charles Steele not only believes in fairness and justice for all people, he lives it. Perhaps controversial at times, Charles Steele has made a lasting impact on his community, his state, and now, his nation.
One of the most prominent and influential citizens in Alabama during the early days of Tuscaloosa's development, he was a successful attorney, industrialist, politician, and civic leader. His impact was felt in the areas of agriculture, land development, transportation, and business and industrial development. While serving as a State Senator, Jemison led the way to the establishment and later development of Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa.
Is there any civic endeavor that our next recipient has not been involved in or influenced during his over 54 year banking career? The statue of a man is not measured in physical terms, but rather by the watermark of his character and the influence of his life on others.
And Thomas P. “Tommy” Hester has significantly changed lives and improved the community, serving in virtually every community, civic and business leadership role available to a citizen in Tuscaloosa county.
A native of Moundville, Tommy was born on April 12, 1933. He is a graduate of Hale County High School, the University of Alabama, and the LSU School of banking.
With perhaps one of the longest careers in banking in Alabama, Tommy Hester has helped many people during his distinguished career. But his impact through service and meeting his civic responsibility is beyond measure. It has been written that he has no fear of the loss of self; he finds it in helping others.
Recently retired from the National Bank of Commerce, for over five decades, Tommy Hester has contributed significantly through his leadership roles with the Easter Seals of West Alabama, boy scouts, girl scouts, focus, the Chamber of Commerce, Shelton State foundation, DCH foundation, Civitans, United Way, and a long, long list of other civic and charitable endeavors. And for over 44 years, he has been an active and contributing leader of Forest Lake Methodist Church, serving in every office available.
A man of boundless energy and enthusiasm, Tommy Hester throws himself totally into every civic opportunity to help. One example, his over 28 years of service through the Easter Seals of West Alabama has resulted in an array of achievements, including expanded facilities, a work center, the mall ball and others. And this is just one example. You can take any civic and charitable effort he has been involved with and see positive results and progress.
Over the years, his tireless efforts have been recognized with a host of honors; including Citizen of the Year in 1976, United Way Volunteer of the Year, the Alabama Association of Rehabilitation Facilities’ Individual of the Year, and many, many more.
But the real honor and fulfillment for Tommy Hester is that he has been able to serve and help his fellow citizens. He is a leader whose intellect, integrity and energy is a model and inspiration for all of us.
A quiet, humble man, our next recipient has served his community, his church, and his country for over sixty years. Even today, we continue to build on the solid, caring foundation to which he had contributed greatly.
Harlan Cross Meredith was born on September 1, 1920 in his beloved Tuscaloosa. He attended Tuscaloosa public schools and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1941 with a degree from the College of Commerce and Business Administration.
Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Meredith has been passionate and committed to the citizens of the Tuscaloosa community, bringing the interests of business and local government to bear on the pressing needs of the community, especially the needs of youth.
A great patriot, Mr. Meredith served as a commissioned officer in the United States navy during World War II, providing exceptional leadership in decisive engagements. During a patriot’s Sunday at first Presbyterian Church, where he has been a member for more than fifty years, Mr. Meredith’s story was the subject of the sermon and how his faith has been unwavering, during the good and the bad times in his life.
In addition, Mr. Meredith’s leadership was instrumental in the completion of the family life center at First Presbyterian along with the expansion of one of the finest pre-school training centers in the community. Yet again, another example that will serve many future generations.
A man of integrity and wise counsel, Mr. Meredith has been sought out by all, and he has always responded to make a difference. For example, he is credited with providing the key leadership in the early 1950’s in the growth and development of Tuscaloosa YMCA, which includes the building of both the central branch of the ‘y’ and the Benjamin Barnes branch, as well as the acquision of land for expanded day camp programs. Through his tireless, unselfish efforts, Mr. Meredith has touched the lives of literally thousands of young people.
In addition, during his distinguished business career, Mr. Meredith was an example of excellence and leadership. He was elected three times as a president of the Tuscaloosa Insurance Agents; headed the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents; and served as a director of the National Association of Insurance Agents for several years. In the professional arena as well in civic life, Harlan Meredith has made an impact.
A community builder and compassionate servant, Harlan Meredith has made significant contributions throughout Tuscaloosa. He served as president of the exchange club; led a successful effort to establish the graduate department of the University of Alabama’s school of social work; and a diverse array of other civic achievements earned him the honor of Tuscaloosa County’s citizen of the year in 1967.
One of Alabama’s and Tuscaloosa’s most influential bankers and business leaders, our next honoree has made a significant impact on the economic, educational and public sectors for many years in Tuscaloosa County.
Born on January 16, 1935 in Northport, Sam Faucett has always been a determined and focused individual with a heart as big as the community he loves. He attended Tuscaloosa county public schools, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama, the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin, and the National School of Banking at the University of Oklahoma.
He began his distinguished banking career in 1962 with the City National Bank and retired in 2000 from Regions Bank. While achieving high levels of success in his banking career, Sam Faucett made a positive difference along the way in the public and civic arena of Tuscaloosa County.
His leadership and service resume has touched virtually every aspect of civic life and his generous heart has a significant impact on not only the citizens of today, but the leaders of tomorrow. His involvement in a wide array of leadership roles is impressive.
For 12 years, Mr. Faucett served as mayor and a city councilman for the city of Northport. For 25 years, his leadership as a trustee of the DCH health system was instrumental in the development of world-class, regional health system, which included expanded services, an open heart surgery center, cancer treatment center, a neonatal intensive care unit and many other services. And the results of his service as a long time member of PARA’s board is seen in expanded recreational resources for all citizens of every age.
He has played key leadership roles with the local chamber of commerce for many years, serving both the Northport and Tuscaloosa chambers – and he then led the way for the merger of the two to form Alabama’s first regional chamber, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 1984.
Active in a variety of civic, service, and charitable leadership positions, Mr. Faucett has made an impact through the United Way, the President’s Cabinet at the University of Alabama, Association of Retarded Citizens, the Tuscaloosa County Special Tax Board, Capstone Health Services Foundation, American Heart Association and a long menu of other leadership roles in banking and economic development.
In 1996, when the Tuscaloosa County school system was facing a major financial dilemma, it was Sam Faucett who stepped up to make today’s Tuscaloosa County High School a reality. Through his personal model of generosity and commitment with one of the largest gifts ever by an individual to a secondary school in the United States, he then provided the personal leadership and catalyst for a highly successful private funding initiative to build Tuscaloosa County High School, which today is known as “TCHS, the house that Sam built.”
Sam Faucett has made such a significant difference in the life of his community and the multitude of citizens he has touched. It has been written that “deep down in every human heart is a hidden longing, impulse and ambition to do something fine and enduring people choose to make a difference.” Sam Faucett has always translated the impulse of his heart into practical and real results rom which we all benefit.
A legendary fixture at The University of Alabama, Dr. Minnie Caddell Miles left behind a long and impressive legacy of educational excellence, women's rights, equality for all, and unbridled generosity. As a resoultion from The University's Board of Trustees on her 90th birthday reflected, "...in her ninety years, this soft-spoken, determined, influential leader, humanitarian, and teacher has affected the lives of decades of students, citizens, and women nationally and internationally..."
Minnie Caddell Miles was born in Glen Allen, AL in 1910. She received her diploma in elementary eudcation from Florence State Normal School (now the University of North Alabama) in 1928. She went on to Texas to earn her Bachelor's from Mary Hardin-Baylor College in gerneral business, an area dominated by men. She then went on to Northwestern University to earn a Masters in personnel management, and later earned her Ph.D from Purdue University in industrial psychology, in spite of the dean's admonition that "we don't encourage women to come into our program."
Dr. Miles began her lifetime of service to The University of Alabama in 1942 as an instructor, becoming one of the first women to hold faculty and professorships in the College of Business. During her distinguished career, she earned numerous teaching honors including the National Alumni Association's Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award, and was named Professor Emeriti of Organiational Behavior prior to her retirement in 1978.
Student accolades poured in over her career. Vivian Malone Jones, the first African-American graduate of the University has stated that Dr. miles was a constant source of support and inspiration. "She acted as a mentor; she offered me guidance, assistance, and help when others did not feel comfortable in doing so. She was a caring person who was willing to step out and take a stand when it wasn't popular to do so."
And step out she did. Dr. Miles was a tireless leader at national and international levels in efforts to achieve equality in the workplace. An active, founding leader of the local and Alabama Federation of Business and Professional Women, Dr. Miles traveled to Los Angeles in 1962 to become the President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, a position she credited with opening opportunities for her to influence the course of women's equality in the US. Two years earlier, she has been the only woman to take part in the Ford Foundation's Industrial Relations program on "New Developments in Business."
In 1963, Minnie Miles stood at President John F. Kennedy's left shoulder as he signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 because of her tireless, determined efforts. Later that year, Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, appointed Dr. Miles to the Defense Committee on Women in Services, which led to a bill that removed restrictions on promoting women in the military. Her impact was significant in these early efforts to contribute to equality in the workplace for women across the nation.
She later served in numerous other leadership roles in pursuing equality for women including work with the US Civil Service Commission, NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Marshall Flight Space Ceter.
Dr. Miles also leaves a legacy of generosity and civic service. She was one of the first individuals to establish one of The University of Alabama's earliest annuinty trusts to promote faculty excellence and scholarships for women. Not only did she initiate this early trust, Dr. Miles was a leader in spearheading and supporting a wide-range of endowed funds for or honoring others. Among the numerous education endowed funds are the Frank Rose - Minnie Miles Endowed Commerce & Business Administration Professor of Leadership, the Minnie C. Miles Endowed Graduate Scholarship, and many others.
Her leadership and service was broad and touched the lives of many citizens during her lifetime. Dr. Miles was a founding member of the Altrusa Club, Chair of the Wesley Foundation at UA, and national trainer and spokesperson for the Widowed Person's Service of the American Association of Retired Persons. Her work with the Tombigbee Council of the Girl Scouts earned her a Distinguished Alumni Award from Purdue University.
Dr. Miles was one of only 13 recipients of the Governor's Women in Leadership Awards in 1989; was awarded an honorary doctorate from Mary Hardin-Baylor University; named "Woman of Achievement" in Alabama; and received the Soroptimist "Women Helping Women" Award and the International Women's Year Award of Achievement.
In 1993, Dr. Miles was named the Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year for her service and impact on people throughout the community. In addition, she was honored by induction into the Alabama Women's Academy of Honor as well as the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Dr. Minne Miles touched the lives of literally millions of Americans because of courageous and determined efforts to break through gender barriers. Her perseverance in pursuing her own education allowed her to break down barriers and exert leadership to make a difference in many lives.
Few individuals have been called to service in as many leadership capacities as was Henry Holman (Bene) Mize, and few have a record of accomplishment his equal. In his own quiet, dignified, and unheralded manner, he made many contributions to a better Tuscaloosa County.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Bene Mize was born in 1911 and attended local public schools as well as the University of Alabama, receiving his undergraduate, graduate, and law school degrees. An excellent scholar, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and held a teaching fellowship while attending the university.
He served with distinction in the US Army, National Guard, and the reserve and at the time of his retirement in 1963, he had served his country for over 33 years. In his chosen law profession, Bene Mize was also a leader, serving as president of the Tuscaloosa Bar Association as well as president of the Alabama Association of Circuit Judges.
He was elected to the Alabama State Senate from Tuscaloosa County and served from 1946 to 1950. An effective and respected legislator, he was instrumental in passing legislation that created the Druid City Hospital Board of Trustees, of which he was later appointed to serve as a member during an important time of growth for the community’s hospital.
A practicing attorney for over 30 years, he was the senior member of the law firm of Mize, Spiro & Phelps when he was elected as circuit judge in 1966, and was elected by his peers as the presiding judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He served with a reputation of integrity and fairness until his untimely death in 1971.
In addition, Judge Mize served on the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education, and was chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Pensions and Security. He was a lifelong active member of First Baptist Church, serving in a number of key leadership roles, and Judge Mize was also a charter member of the Tuscaloosa Lions Club, which honored him with the Lion of the Year award in 1960.
A devoted and loving family man, Bene Mize was a friend, counselor, and inspiration to many, and Tuscaloosa is a better place to live because of his service and lifelong contributions. He took his citizenship seriously and set the highest example of unselfish public service.
Born in 1935 in Sumter County, Alabama. Theophilus Yelverton Rogers, Jr. , better known as reverend TY Rogers, Jr., came to Tuscaloosa in 1964, and he is credited with providing key leadership for the civil rights movement in Tuscaloosa.
Reverend Rogers was appointed the pastor of the First African Baptist church in Tuscaloosa in 1964 and was a call to action for many civil rights activists. Rogers was recommended to the church by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to whom Reverend Rogers had served as an assistant pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery.
A brilliant scholar of The Bible, Reverend Rogers had outstanding leadership skills, a sincere concern for humanity, and a keen understanding of national and international affairs. And he put these talents to work to impact the future of Tuscaloosa and the civil rights movement.
Reverend Rogers received his undergraduate degree from Alabama State College in Montgomery, and his divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, at the encouragement of Martin Luther King, Jr., and where he was a Lily Foundation Fellow.
While serving as pastor at First African Baptist, Reverend Rogers gained support from both blacks and whites throughout the county, and with the help and support of pastors and citizens, he organized the Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee. This organization served as the base for planning and directing all civil rights activities in Tuscaloosa, and later became an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Among his significant contributions, Reverend Rogers led the famous march on the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in 1964, a time that was known as Tuscaloosa’s Freedom Summer. While he and many other marchers were jailed, injured, and forced back, the first attempt was ended.
However, a new march was planned with protection and great success. That day, Reverend Rogers’ speech on the courthouse steps had great impact, and the next day, all signs in the courthouse designating separate facilities for blacks and whites were taken down. The records show this day as the ‘death of black water and white water’ in Tuscaloosa County. And Reverend Rogers was at the forefront of the success.
Active on many fronts, Reverend Rogers served in key leadership roles during his career, among which included: director of affiliates and chapters for the SCLC, president of the Confederation of Alabama’s Political Organizations, NAACP, and contributing editor to the Baptist Foreign Mission Outlook.
Honored on numerous occasions for his courageous leadership efforts, Reverend Rogers was elected as an outstanding young man of America by the Jaycees in 1967, and was honored by the SCLC, YMCA, and other church affiliated organizations.
On March 26, 1971, Reverend Rogers’ life was cut short by a tragic car accident, yet his legacy and impact lives on in the hearts, actions and efforts of citizens throughout Tuscaloosa and Alabama. In 1985, part of 27th avenue was renamed for T. Y. Rogers to keep the dream alive.
A civil rights’ activist and leader, a spiritual minister, a compassionate humanitarian, Reverend T. Y. Rogers courageous life changed the course of Tuscaloosa and the lives of many citizens he touched. As written in a Tuscaloosa News editorial column, ‘Rogers was fully aware of his mission and he seized the moment. He knew he had a cause that the majority could not deny, and he knew, too, that the moment in history had arrived.”
Marvin Lee Harper, born in 1919 in Northport, AL, earned the title throughout the community and Alabama as “Mr. Preservationist” during his 84 years. He has had immeasurable impact on the community through his work in heritage and historic preservation, tourism, and community beautification; and has dedicated his entire life to preserving the visual and written history of Northport.
Mr. Harper was born on Compress Street (now 30th Avenue) in Northport, but grew up on the family farm on U.S. Highway 43, an area that became known as “Harper Hill.” He lived there until 1979 when he moved to his present home – the Shirley Home. He attended Tuscaloosa County High School, Tuscaloosa Business College, Business College of Birmingham, and UA’s New College. He spent more than 30 years in administration management at Reichold Chemical in Holt.
Acting as the “public’s conscience,” he worked tirelessly to preserve historic landmarks and homes, encouraged local governments to invest in the community’s rich heritage, and relentlessly promoted community beautification and restoration of historic homes.
His active civic life is diverse and meaningful with leadership roles in a wide range of organizations and initiatives, including: the Alabama Historical Commission; Cahaba Trace Commission; Tuscaloosa County Preservation Authority (now known as the Heritage Commission) of which he helped found and headed as first chairman; the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society of which he founded and served as the first president and later executive director; Historic Preservation Commission of Northport; Northport Renaissance Commission; founder and first chairman of Kentuck Association; and a host of other organization and community associations.
Throughout the community, you can see Marvin Harper’s hand and impact. Whether in preserving historic homes and structures, at FOCUS on Senior Citizens, Friends of Historic Northport, C.H.O.M., the Northport Chamber of Commerce, Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a host of other diverse efforts – Marvin Harper made a lasting and historic impact.
William H. Lanford, born in 1935, is a native of Gadsden, AL and graduate of Gadsden public schools. He later earned his B.S. degree at UA. After graduating, he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps.
Bill Lanford, after graduation and his military service, settled in Tuscaloosa where he began his long and successful insurance career. He began his career with Metropolitan Life, but soon joined Cotton States Life Insurance Co., where he rose to senior vice president. In 1975, he began a highly successful career with Southland National Insurance Co., retiring in 1999 as president and CEO.
During his entire business and civic career, Bill Lanford always has a keen sense of purpose and civic responsibility coupled with a dedication to doing what’s right for all. In his public service and civic leadership, he has been defined as a man of vision, fairness, and progressive ideas.
His early civic involvement began with the United Way, where he served and chaired virtually every standing committee, as well as all top leadership roles. This laid the foundation for his leadership in virtually every major civic organization in Tuscaloosa including Tuscaloosa YMCA, American Red Cross, Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts, United Negro College Fund and many others.
His civic roles prepared him well for a remarkable career in public service, which began in 1975 as a member of the City Board of Education where he served 10 years (five years as chairman). During his tenure, he provided steady and balanced leadership during some tumultuous desegregation phases in the late 70s and early 80s that resulted in a more progressive system to meet the needs of all children.
In 1985, Bill Lanford’s visionary, effective leadership was called upon once again when he was elected to the first of two terms on the new Tuscaloosa City Council, which had just changed from a commission to mayor-council form of government. His steady, progressive leadership as City Council president resulted in not only a smooth transition to a new form of government, but local government because more inclusive and result oriented.
Even though he served successfully in key public, elected roles, and as an effective corporate CEO, Bill Lanford continued to give of himself in a variety of leadership roles. He was the first chairman of the visionary strategic planning initiative known as Challenge 21; served as Chamber chairman; co-chaired the successful Chamber task force that brought about the Bryant-Denny Stadium expansion; and provided award-winning, effective leadership for many other endeavors.
Charles H. Land has cast a very long shadow on the economic and civic development of Tuscaloosa County because of his commitment to a better way of life for all citizens over his long and distinguished newspaper career. Born in Memphis, TN in 1932, Charles Land grew up in Tuscaloosa and attended public schools and UA. One of Alabama’s most distinguished newspaper journalists, sports writers, and publishers, Charles Land served The Tuscaloosa News and affiliated companies more than 40 years prior to retiring in 1995.
His leadership and professional service earned him many leadership roles and honors including president and member of the Alabama Press Association Board of Directors; member of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association’s board of directors; and president of the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation. He has received a host of Associated Press and Alabama Press Association writing awards, including Alabama Sportswriter of the Year and 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award, voted by his peers.
But it was perhaps Charles Land’s quiet but effective, behind-the-scenes leadership that made a significant, lasting impact on the community’s economic progress. It was Charlie Land that the community, corporately and as individual citizens, often turned to for counsel, leadership, and mediation to meet an issue or challenge.
In the early 1980’s following a series of serious economic setbacks, it was Charles Land who brought the community together along with UA, General Motors, and United Auto Workers to save a failing GM plant, which later laid the foundation for today’s automotive and economic development success. As chairman of The Chamber and Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Charles Land contributed to a cohesive, effective economic development process that still works today. By the way, Charlie is the only individual to have served both organizations as chairman at the same time.
Charles Land was also the key leader who led the merger of the Northport and Tuscaloosa Chambers of Commerce, resulting in today’s Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama of which he served as its first chairman. He is also one of only two individuals to have ever been named The Chamber’s Member of the Year in two different years, and has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award as well as having the annual Member of the Year Award named in his honor.
An active supporter of UA and a host of civic community endeavors, Charles Land has served as a member and chairman of UA’s President’s Cabinet; member emeritus of the College of Communications’ Board of Visitors; and is a recipient of the prestigious Julia and Henry Tutwiler Award, the Distinguished Service Award from UA’s Communication Alumni Association, and an Honorary Membership in the “A” Club Alumni Association.
His hand prints can be found on a long and diverse list of civic, charitable, economic, and philanthropic initiatives, including: The DCH Board of Directors, past chairman and Fellow of the DCH Foundation; Capstone Health Service Foundation Board; past chairman of the United Way; Boy Scouts, Black Warrior Council, Hospice of West Alabama, First Presbyterian Church, the IDA and a host of others.
Joseph Mallisham, born in 1928 in Tuscaloosa County, has spent a lifetime as an advocate for individual rights and social justice for all people, regardless of race or place in society. Following two years in Korea as an outstanding soldier, earning several awards and decorations, Joe’s Mallisham’s leadership became evident.
A longtime social and community activist, Joe Mallisham’s leadership had an early impact through the labor movement, becoming an effective labor leader.
During the early 1960’s, he took leadership courses and went to night school to study auto mechanics. He enjoyed these newly-acquired skills and eventually purchased his own filling station, which has become a Tuscaloosa landmark and the center of much of Joe’s community activism. In the 1960’s his service station became the informal center of many civil rights activities and Joe’s leadership was soon apparent again. In the midst of the struggles, Mr. Mallisham helped create a biracial advisory group that played a key role and provided pivotal leadership for local elected leaders. His sense of fairness and justice for all people earned him great respect and influence, which led to the development and transition of local city and county governments to a more representative form of government in place today.
In 1984, Joe Mallisham became the county’s first black commissioner, serving three consecutive terms on the County Commission, and paving the way for many other African-Americans in many elected leadership roles.
Active on many fronts, Joe Mallisham’s influence and impact have been felt on the President’s Commission On Mental Health (a President Gerald Ford appointee); as chairman of the West Alabama Regional Planning Commission that awarded him the coveted David Cochrane Award for leadership; UA’s Presidents Advisory Board; member of Human Rights Commission for Bryce-Hospital; and member of various boards including the Tuscaloosa Transit Authority, Benjamin Barnes Branch of the YMCA; West Alabama Health Center, and the Christ Lutheran Church.
Joe Mallisham founded the Tuscaloosa Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and chaired the Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference as well as the 7th Congressional District. His leadership and efforts have earned him great respect and recognition from a diverse list of civic, governmental and educational institutions.
Born in 1890, Reuben Hall Wright, was a lawyer, circuit court judge, civic leader and longtime member of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education.
Judge Wright, a native of West Blocton, AL, died in 1964. He was a graduate of West Blocton High School, the University of Alabama (UA) and UA Law School. His law practice grew successfully in Tuscaloosa and in 1947, he was appointed by Gov. Jim Folsom as a circuit court judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He was later elected to a full term in 1948 and served 17 years.
An active, civic-minded leader, Judge Wright was involved in many key leadership roles in Tuscaloosa’s development. A veteran of World War I, he earned the rank of captain in the U.S. Army and later served as Post Commander of the Tuscaloosa American Legion Post. He served as President of the Tuscaloosa Bar Association, the Greater Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce, and the Alabama Circuit Court Judges Association.
Judge Wright worked tirelessly on major initiatives, especially in education, health care, and transportation. He wrote the enabling bill that allowed the city and county to levy a 1-cent sales tax to finance the construction and setting up the administration of the hospital through a board of directors. As chairman of the Chamber’s Highway Committee, he forcefully worked to get a new bridge across the Black Warrior River, today known as the Woolsey Finnell Bridge. Some of his greatest contributions were in education, serving more than 30 years as a member of the City Board of Education.