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HCC SALUTES LOCAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN HEROES

Honorees include, front from left, Margaret Deloatch accepting on behalf of Dr. Willis McLeod, Judge Alma Hinton, Michele Spruill; second row, Anitra Collins, Dock Brown, Judge Brenda Branch; third row, Sheriff Ellis Squire, Judge Alfred Kwasikpui, Chief Mark Macon; fourth row, Cleopas Mason Jr., Dr. Stanley Edwards; top right, Dr. Ervin V. Griffin Sr. with guest, Seaboard Mayor Melvin Broadnax. Not pictured: James Pierce.

More event photos are here

There was much anticipation on campus as Halifax Community College held its first ever “Saluting Our Local African-American Heroes” celebration. Special honors were bestowed on several community leaders during the Tuesday night ceremony held at The Centre.

Anitra Collins, the first African-American Vice-President of Mill Operations at KapStone Kraft Paper & Packaging Corporation, made comments that were echoed by other recipients.

“You don't know how much it means to be recognized by the folks that live with you and work with you everyday. … I like the saying that says, ‘You don't stand on solid ground. You stand on the shoulders of many, many people that have made it possible for you to be where you are today.' I count you in that number of folks that have supported me in so many ways,” said Collins. “Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders.”

Special recognition was given to Dock Brown and Dr. Stanley Edwards in the form of lifetime service awards.

Dock M. Brown is a graduate of Shaw University and North Carolina Central University. A retired teacher and principal, Brown is also an Army veteran of the Korean War. His community service is unparalleled. He has served as a county commissioner in Halifax County, as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, District 7, as a trustee at Elizabeth City State University, and as an appointee to the Governor's Commission to evaluate superior court judges.

Earning the highest civilian honor the state has to offer, Brown was awarded North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. In May 2007, the Weldon Town Commissioner was presented a plaque by U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield. As a culminating honor, in December 2007, the North Carolina House approved legislation naming Weldon's post office in honor of him for his service and dedication to the community.

“God has really let me live long enough … to see some real progress in this county,” said Brown. “I am really blessed. I don't know anything in my life, that if I had to live over again, that I would do differently.”

Dr. Stanley M. Edwards is currently the chairman of the Halifax Community College Board of Trustees. An educator, Edwards is the retired assistant superintendent of Halifax County Schools. During his tenure, he also served as Director of Programs for Exceptional Children and Student Services, principal, and teacher. Edwards holds degrees from Livingstone College, A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, and Nova Southeastern University.

A believer in strong community involvement, Edwards is also vice-chairman for the Weldon City Board of Education. He is a member and financial secretary for the Weldon First Baptist Church Board of Deacons, a member of the Weldon Day Care Center Board of Directors, and financial secretary for the Weldon-Halifax Community Center Board of Directors. Remaining active in the Roanoke Valley and at HCC, Edwards is also a former member of the Halifax Department of Social Services' Board of Directors.

“I do thank you for this award,” said Edwards. “I can't follow in the steps of Dock Brown. He is one of my role models and I've known Dock for a long time. …With deep appreciation, thank you so much for this honor.”

Other honorees included:

  • Michele Spruill, first African-American Clerk of Superior Court in Northampton County

  • Ellis Squire, first African-American Sheriff in Northampton County

  • Judge Alma Hinton, first African-American Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in Halifax County

  • James Pierce, first African-American Chair of the Halifax County Board of Commissioners

  • Judge Alfred Kwasikpui, first African-American Chief District Court Judge-District 6B

  • Dr. Willis McLeod, first African-American Superintendent of Northampton County Schools

  • Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr., first African-American President of HCC

  • Chief Mark Macon, first African-American Chief of Police for the town of Weldon

  • Judge Brenda Branch, first African-American District Court Judge for Halifax County Judicial Court 6A

Cleopas L. Mason, Jr., president of the Wilson V. Eagleson Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. talked about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, from their beginnings to the significance they had on history. The Tuskegee Airmen consisted of a group of African-American pilots who flew with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Although the program was meant to fail, according to Mason, the Tuskegee Airmen have the honor of being the only group to not lose any aircraft to enemy fighters during the war.

“Many of you have said that you are not heroes, but to me and to us you are heroes,” said Dr. Edwards in closing remarks. “You are very worthy. It's not just by happenstance that you are here tonight. You have persevered, you've made sacrifices and preparations, and when the opportunities came, you stepped into those opportunities and for that we thank you and appreciate you. You have paved the way for many people and you might not realize it.”