Local Black History Makers celebrated at event

Published 5:29 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

West End Neighborhood Watch celebrated local black history on Feb. 19 with recognition of those who have contributed to making Chilton County a better place and been trailblazers for future generations.

Young people joined the celebration through musical presentations.

“This has been a huge learning experience for me in learning about Chilton County’s black history,” organizer Francine Lewis said in the event program. “This journey has introduced me to some great individuals from all walks of life.”

Her hope is that the events inspire the young people present.

The recognitions began with memories of Emma McCall and Jessie Binion, two West End Neighborhood Watch members who had passed away in the last year, honoring them for their service.

“Her sweet welcoming spirit was unmatched,” Annie Varner said of McCall. “She was a loving person who loved everyone. She welcomed everyone to her home and fed them as if they were her own. She was a faithful servant of her church and this community.”

Velma Tinsley recounted how Binion got her involved in the neighborhood watch.

“Ms. Jessie always showed up ready to help … West End Neighborhood Watch lost a true visionary of our organization,” Tinsley said. “She is greatly missed by so many. She not only left a beautiful legacy to us in Neighborhood Watch, but also to her family and loved ones. West End Neighborhood Watch will continue to strive to make her proud of the work we are doing.”

Councilman Awlahjaday Agee presented the families with a plaque of recognition on behalf of the city.

The annual Gussie Saxon Founders’ Day Award was presented to Herman Washington.

Washington taught agriscience for 34 years and served as president for the local teacher association. He also had a career as a professional tennis player. He contributed to the community through coaching tennis, leading Boy Scouts and serving as a past president of the Chamber of Commerce, Marlon Harton said as he presented the award.

Lee Jones also received special recognition for her work with West End Neighborhood Watch as the only living founding member. She is still active within the group.

Community leaders were recognized in a number of categories. Pastor Orlando Week was the religion honoree for his work with local youth. Robert Binion, who was influential in having a street in the West End community renamed for Martin Luther King Jr., and Lucy Binion, the first black person to be appointed to the Chilton County Board of Registars, were honored as community leaders for their work in leading the local Martin Luther King Jr. parade. Education honorees included Margaret Cooper, Lenora Price, Warrene Wilson-Chaney and the first Black head football coach at Chilton County High School Marvin Morton. Business and Entrepreneur honorees included U.S. Air Force communications veteran and AT&T leader Audrey Kennedy, Tondia Wilson and Tracy Frazier. Next Level Successor honorees who continued the black legacy in their field included Ernest Abercrombie, Kimberly Floyd-Craig and Kendra Williams. Government worker honorees included U.S. Navy veteran and Chilton County Commission Human Resources director Terry Hinton, Winiferd Garner for her career at the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the first black registered nurse at the Chilton County Health Department Ludean Hicks. Military honorees present were U.S. Army veterans Rex Ray, Dwight Swindle and Carl Zeigler.