The Angelina County Citizens Chamber of Commerce is celebrating 66 years of service and community to the community. Part of the formal celebration was the Chamber's annual banquet held Friday night at the Hope Center in Lufkin.
Chamber organizers say the banquet is an opportunity for citizens of Angelina County to not only fellowship, but also to plan and share their vision for the community.
Dr. Hansel Burley, who is a graduate of Lufkin High School and currently works as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Educational Psychology at Texas Tech University, emphasized the importance of education saying don't believe every statistic that skews to the ineffectiveness of our education system. He encouraged the community to rally together to support educators. And just as importantly, Dr. Burley said families, schools and the community must join together to provide students with the support they need to succeed. Dr. Burley was introduced by his mother, Willie Mae Burley, who is a longtime Lufkin Independent School District educator and school board member.
The Citizens Chamber also presented several awards. The Eagle Award was given to Dr. Odis D. Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes was born in Nacogdoches County in 1932. He and his family moved to Lufkin in the summer of 1945. In 1950, he graduated from Dunbar High School and enrolled in Wiley College in the fall of that year. In 1954, he graduated from Wiley College with a major in biology and physical education. He entered the Armed Forces where he served two years tour of duty, including 18 months in Korea. He was honorably discharged form the Army in 1956 with a rank of staff sergeant. With the aid of the GI Bill, Dr. Rhodes pursed an educational career. He has taught at every level of education. He received his master's degree from Texas Southern University in 1963 with a major in elementary education. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state universities desegregate, Dr. Rhodes enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Houston in 1964. In 1967, he became one of the first three blacks to receive a doctorate from the University of Houston. In January 1968, he became the first black professor to join the faculty at Stephen F. Austin State University. Dr. Rhodes is a recognized authority in the area of reading and language arts. He is co-author of a widely used college reading textbook entitled Reading: How and Why and he has authored a number of other publications. He has served his community in many capacities including his service as a member of the Lufkin Independent School District Board from 1987 to 1996. He is currently serving as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Lufkin. In April 1995, Dr. Rhodes became the first black professor to receive the status of professor emeritus at SFA, that's the highest honor that can be awarded a retired professor.
Mr. Wade D. Johnson was one of two recipients of the Pinnacle Award. His presenter was Kenneth Timmons, Angelina County Commissioner Precinct Two. Mr. Johnson is described as a quiet man whose lifetime of action and community service speak volumes of his devotion and love for his community. He spent many years working with the Citizens Chamber, as well as working with the youth of the community. In accepting his award, he said he was humbled and appreciated very much the Chamber's recognition of his unselfish works. Presenter Demetress Harrell described the Pinnacle Award this way, "The Pinnacle Award is defined by individuals who volunteer their time, service, knowledge, leadership, professionalism and sustained effort made worthy by their contributions to Angelina County."
Ms. Harrell presented the second Pinnacle Award to her mother in law, Mrs. Margie Harrell. Mrs. Harrell was appointed as Executive Director of the Diboll Housing Authority in May 1975 being employed there since 1968. Ms. Harrell said of her mother in law, "Her praise is heard by children and elderly alike because she gives her best to ensure their success." She gave as examples of her hard work Senior Citizens luncheons, birthday parties, weddings, showers and more. Mrs. Harrell is a longtime member of First Missionary Baptist Church. A recipient of KTRE's Nine Who Make A Difference Award. Last March she received one of the highest honors from Texas Governor Rick Perry as a Yellow Rose Of Texas. She actively participates as a board member to numerous organizations including the Angelina County Salvation Army, Diboll Booster Club, Katherine Temple Sage Day Care, Angelina Health District, Angelina Senior Citizens, Operation Clean Sweeps and a list of many more. Margie Harrell has been married for 43 years to Mr. Ornett Harrell. They have a son and daughter, Demetrius and Tamara.
KTRE News Director Tina Alexander Sellers was the Mistress of Ceremony. Music to dine by was provided by The Shades of Blue Jazz Quartet under the direction of Larry Greer, Director of Music at Angelina College. Barnhill's Steaks & Buffet catered the event with Lufkin High School Student Council officers and members volunteering as servers under the direction of Advisor Patricia White. Soloist Tina Webber led the song "Lift Every Voice." Reverend Lonnie Williams, Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, gave the invocation. Alex Alexander, Jr. gave the President's Remarks and Reverend Valencia Edner, Collins Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal, gave the benediction.