Stephen King, the writer, thinks the best stories are about the people rather than the event. That was true in telling this year’s story of the 2019 Hall of Fame banquet. It is inspiring when you add together the long and varied list of accomplishments this year’s inductees have contributed to the life and times of Rocky Mount. That inspiration filled the large banquet room and lifted us to a better place. You could feel the outpouring of love and respect for those who have not only gone before us but are with us: continuing to make a difference in the world. You could hear the laughter and good cheer around the tables, feel the pride of family and friends who had come to honor the stories of these ten men and women.
Everyone who attended this event brought their own amazing stories with them. Perhaps the point of the whole exercise in having a Hall of Fame is so we never forget there is this large perspective. I believe that in honoring each inductee we also honor the setting of their lives. We must not forget the important ‘others’ who have lived and are living beside each inductee. If we take them out of their context, we not only lose their essence but the history they represent. I hope my story, your story won’t be lost. Leave us here in this place, with our music, our fashions, our causes, practicing the faith of our fathers. Stories help us know where we have been, how far we’ve come and that we are not alone in our endeavors. By their work and deeds, let these good people continue to inspire us. It was said of Inductee, Vernon Sechcriest that he lived a satisfactory life. That is my prayer for all of us that we too may live a satisfactory life.
Gary Hodge’s Wonderful Photographs Featured In This Post
“Live your life in such a way that you’ll be remembered for your kindness, compassion, fairness, character, benevolence, and a force for good and respect for life, in general.” – Germany Kent
What a difference a year makes in the evolution of a new enterprise like The Event Center. The venue for the Hall of Fame banquet was fantastic. Clean as a whistle, shiny and bright, fabulous lighting and sound system and powerpoint equipment. Like every endeavor, it is the people behind the scenes and out front tap dancing and smiling that added to the evening’s pleasure. The wait staff is a crew of personable people who performed admirably. One of the young women told me the day before as tables were being set, their marching orders were, everything must be wonderful. It still isn’t easy to get an entree out of the kitchen for nearly 400 people, but a tasty, well-presented plate it was. I write this as a preamble to the event itself because you will be delighted to know, that knowledgable people helped our planning, making every effort to please. I want you to spread the word that this prestigious event and attendees (dressed in their fine bib and tucker) shared this lovely venue with pleasure and pride.
Once again, we should have had a style show for those attending the event. The ladies in red were gorgeous in their dresses and suits. It was like watching red birds flitting in the garden; bits of red throughout the audience.
Several of our elected officials in attendance were introduced. Councilman & Mrs. Bullock, Councilwoman Chris Miller, and husband and the cities newly elected mayor and wife. Sorry, I don’t have Mr. Bullock’s photo or of the five Nash County Commissioners and county manager among the guests.
There would be no Twin County Hall of Fame banquet without the tireless efforts of the President of the board, Dave Iery, and Board Members who serve with pleasure.
Tony Williams, Lanny Shuff, Steve Raper, John Jesso, Skip Carney, and Mike Frye. Of course, it is the talented women of the board that keep these gentlemen straight. Tiffney Delano-Treasurer, Amanda Bell, Jane Finch, Mae Parker, Haven Weston, Mary Wells, Mary Perry, Maria Newcomb, Stepheny Houghtlin.
In Part 2 we will get to the heart of the matter- the ten inductees. Don’t miss it. ALL photos except the final two are the wonderful work of Gerry Hodges.
“When we hear what God has done with others, it inspires us and expands our hearts with greater faith, vision, and purpose. ” Matt Brown, Awakening
I have remembered the Yellow Brick Road song from the Wizard of Oz since I was a child. I used to sing it to my grandchildren when heading out in the car for an adventure. “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.” I never dreamed I would find it applicable, transpose and lift the lyrics, to describe where Rocky Mount’s City Government is trying to lead us now. In your imagination, you can assign any face you like to the characters, Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, The Lion, and The Wizard of Oz. The good or bad witches.
Perhaps you remember that The Wizard, who has not fulfilled his promises, is exposed when Toto pulls back a curtain, revealing that the “Wizard” is a middle-aged man operating machinery and speaking into a microphone. Play around with this for a minute and you will agree that our Wizard of Oz, who has various identities, is not fulfilling promises to the taxpayers of Rocky Mount, NC. either.
PARKING: Let us not lose sight of the February 14, 2019 Telegram article by Lindell Kay on the Downtown Parking Study. The goal of the study is to determine how best to use parking in support of downtown development, redevelopment, and revitalization. People have been in a dither about parking for The Event Center all along. How was the project allowed to be built in the first place without adequate parking in the plan? Parking on Tarboro Street became part of the answer, sited on property deemed a state environmental brownfield not safe for housing given that it was the site of a dry cleaner and was investigated by state environmental officials. The site has been reviewed and determined to be OK, but wells would not be allowed. Environmentalists question the safety of former industrial sites in connection with housing. On the Yellow Brick Road, we now find out that low-income housing would replace the Tarboro Street parking plan.
“Plans Change,” is what we’ve been told. “Parking on Tarboro was never set in concrete.” but it was the intent sold to ECC for the use of this property. Now we’ve got a proposed project map that includes two large parking garages. Titled the Douglas Entertainment and Business District, the maps show plans by Tennessee-based developer David Hunt to construct two parking decks, two hotels, a retail area, condos, a splash pad and a pedestrian bridge over busy train tracks. A five-level, 500-space parking deck is planned for behind the Event Center along Atlantic Avenue where St. John’s A.M.E. Zion Church is now. A second parking garage with 450 spaces is planned behind a retail and residential area where Tri-Faith now sits.
These new projects set off alarm bells. The current trend of graft and corruption by our own version of ‘the Wizard of Oz’ highlights new possibilities for further skullduggery. That is why nothing can go forward until the investigation of malfeasance is concluded. We must resolve the identities of those involved, and the extent of corruption by the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.
UNDERSTAND: no one is against low-income housing! We agree on the need for parking. (Who isn’t for minimizing housing costs.) But cluster housing built on Tarboro street is the wrong solution. More on housing tomorrow – because, because, because.
SCROLL DOWN FOR COMMENTS
The overall #1 seed team in the tournament WINS! Well, that’s what the ladies in my story would say. Some years ago, I drove from Chapel Hill to Durham to the beauty shop. Waiting my turn during the NCAA Tournament, I listened to four ladies talk Duke basketball. It was a Norman Rockwell moment. In their seventies, caped and facing forward, this discussion took place as they looked at each other in the mirror before them. I doubt any Duke player could have imagined this scene. These beauty shop coaches were worthy of a Post magazine cover. Fast forward to the Road to the Final Four, 2019. It isn’t only basketball on people’s minds this week, but the necessity for new leadership for Team Rocky Mount and resistance to a few City Council members propelling us into the real estate business again.
From my end of the bench, the answer to this proposed Tarboro housing is – – absolutely not! The information meeting on April 2, which I encourage everyone to go, is theater, the outcome already known to insiders. Despite denials, the kind of corruption which prompted demands for investigation and change in the first place is more insider dealing with a favored non-profit and them taking us to the cleaners again.
Ms. Miller asked at the City Council meeting whether the housing would be private and property tax-paying, or public and non-taxpaying. KEY in all this is that the entire premise of the event center was to use public expenditure to prompt private investment and thus raise the downtown’s tax base. With an increased tax base, the taxpayers would (theoretically, hopefully, eventually) recoup their investment. Otherwise, the spending is mere redistribution from taxpayers to recipients – – that is, welfare. The requirement for private ownership and tax-paying must be a firm part of any plan going forward with any project. Let us not forget that the city’s plan depicts that part of Tarboro St for needed parking for the Event Center and other downtown needs.
The Event Center is fabulous. Contrary to social media hyperbole, from people who have probably never darkened the door, events continue to be booked, the interior is first class. Have there been some screw-ups? Yep. If some of the members of the City Council keep their noses out of it and let professional people run the place, it will succeed. To deliberately, knowingly, sabotage that needed parking to line more pockets, is not happening.
The folks that have been bouncing the basketball down the court creating this newest scheme that takes advantage of taxpayers, couldn’t care less about these people they claim it will help. This is not the way to go about it in the first place and has been proven. We want diverse housing, that has been soundly built, offering various square footage for different needs of a family, a single occupant, first-time buyer, retired people, not plunking people down on Tarboro street distanced from what can be a restored safe neighborhood that offers affordable opportunities for home ownership. Privately purchased by investors deteriorating houses are being turned into homes again. If this type of housing is so important why don’t some of our Wards reflect that priority? Instead, they look the same or worse than they did ten years ago? Rocky Mount needs to get out of the real estate business, enforce the ordinances and codes we have, help assist private investors by streamlining the policies and procedures regarding permits. There are people laboring in the field like Lea Henry. She gets it as well as others trying to save our housing stock and put people in safe houses they can be proud of with neighbors looking out for one another once again. As Main Street continues to come back, we will need that parking and that’s what we shall have.
Good Luck with your favorite team this weekend
Sunday, November 25, 2018 – Rocky Mount Telegram From Contributed Reports
Twin County Hall of Fame Welcomes New Inductees
Lanny Shuff left, and Sam Toler hold Toler’s portrait during the Twin County Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Rocky Mount Event Center.
The 15th annual Twin County Hall of Fame Induction Banquet was many things this year — not only a celebration of 12 new inductees but a revival meeting, a fashion show, a reunion of friends, family and supporters and a remembering of those gone before us that helped form who we have become — our parents, mentors, coaches, educators and friends.
The banquet was a first at the new, spectacular Rocky Mount Event Center where rooms Edgecombe 1, 2 and 3 can be opened to seat a large gathering. Everyone was appreciative of the chef back in the kitchen preparing food for a small, intimate dinner party of 500 people, who were served a delicious meal of salad, steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and small cheesecake desserts.
This was a history-making occasion with an audience filled to capacity since the Induction Banquets began and the first catered event in the Event Center. Golden Platter Milton Bulluck, a 2006 inductee, entertained the audience with several signature songs.
Framed portraits honoring the lives, leadership and careers of the class of 2018 Inductees were presented in honor of Dr. Robert and Rev. Carolyn Barbe, Dr. Newsom Pittman Battle and Dr. Margaret White Battle, James Erastus Batts, Dr. Charles Marshall Coats, Janice Beavon Gravely, Janice Bryant Howroyd, Robert ‘Bob’ Melton, Lt. Col. James A. Mercer. Betsy Buckley, and Samuel A. “Sam” Toler. In addition, Kimberly Kyser accepted on behalf of her father, musician Kay Kyser, who was inducted in the class of 2004.
A life of service and leadership with the underpinnings of education, discipline, responsibility, perseverance and strong parenting was the reoccurring theme throughout the inductees’ stories. The acknowledgment that faith, prayer and the church strengthened the lives of these outstanding citizens was evident.
No one in attendance will soon forget the quiet, sweet voice of inductee Janice Bryant Howroyd when accepting her award while singing the hymn her mother taught her: “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. I know his eye is on the sparrow, I know he watches over me.”
At the end of the evening, there was a collaborative sigh of thanksgiving for the inductees, the success of the occasion and the amazing guests. There was even a shout from within the Event Center: “We Did it!”
They certainly did.
SFH with an additional Comment: When I went off to the University of Kentucky, I intended to major in Journalism, but my Freshman Advisor was the head of the Sociology Department and one thing led to another. The closest I got to0 that original dream was selling advertising for a weekly newspaper called The Country Gentleman in Crestwood Ky. When Lanny Shuff asked me to write this piece for the Telegram it brought a smile. You know the expression having your day in court, well, I had my day writing for a newspaper. It was fun.
I took myself to the Event Center yesterday and oh, my, it is really something. It is an amazing venue for sports events and future Rocky Mount activities. I can’t name my favorite part, but in the beginning, it was the sports area for sure. But then I thought the meeting spaces were wonderful and I can’t wait to have a hot dog in the snack area.
You will be pleased. In spite of the disagreements, the concerns, the bah humbug, things believed wrong, what has been created is a first-class public building. I will let the photographs I took wet your appetite for more.
A meaningful thing happened as I was leaving the center when I stopped to talk with a young black man. I asked him if he was working on the project and he said, “Yes, Ma’am, but inside.” “I bet it makes you proud to have been a part of this project.” His face lite up and he repeated, “Yes, Ma’am.” That was the moment the Event Center opened for me.
Mark my words, just like the controversial ballpark that got built in downtown Greenville, SC, this Event Center is a winner and a destination. You know what my admonition to everyone is – – CLAP YOUR HANDS AND BELIEVE!