Historic Union Valley Baptist was the setting last Sunday (Jan. 8) for the 30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Awards presentation, which was dedicated to Union Valley’s longest-serving pastor, Dr. Herbert O. Kneeland.
“Pastor Kneeland was always so supportive of everything we tried to do for the community,” said Johnnie Mosley, founding chairman of Citizens For Better Services (CFBS), sponsor of the awards program. “It was only right that we remember his contributions to the community. The doors of Union Valley were always open to us.”
Mosley also paid tribute to the late State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who often acted as advisor for (CFBS).
“Rep. Cooper has supported Citizens For Better Services from the very beginning,” said Mosley. “We honor her also for supporting our work, not only with her constituents, but also for families in need all over this city.”
The milestone event featured a stellar line-up of speakers and musical guests as “the year’s best” were recognized for contributions to their community and the city of Memphis.
“I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since we started,” said Mosley. “My father was one of the sanitation workers who went on strike back in 1968. Dr. King came here to stand with the workers. This is the city where Dr. King was assassinated. I always wanted to do something to honor his spirit and his memory.”
There is never an admission for the annual awards program and salute to Dr. King.
“I wanted ours to be free and for everyone to be welcome. Featured groups and singers come here and donate their time and talent so we can keep the program free of charge. We are very proud of that.”
Student of the Year awardee Tyler Lewellen said it was an honor to be recognized.
“I have worked hard to keep my grades up,” said Lewellen. “But it’s great to be recognized for working hard in school.
“I have also been consistent in piano practice, as well as playing baseball. I feel being at Overton High has helped me to be a well-rounded person. I want to thank my parents for always supporting me, and I want to thank Mr. Mosley for this honor.”
Other students received certificates for their academic accomplishments and citizenship.
Gospel singer Elizabeth King received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It was such a surprise to get that call,” said King. “I stopped recording back in 1972. I thought raising my children and grandchildren was more important. Now, everybody is grown, and I’m back in the studio working on my third LP. They called me back after 50 years. And I thank God for it.”
Kenon Walker, Duck Master at the Peabody Hotel, was honored as “Inspirational Person of the Year.”
“I have always wanted to inspire people,” said Walker. “I try to encourage and inspire others with my testimony of all the Lord has done for me.
“I started acting when I was 13. I worked as a tour guide at the National Civil Rights Museum for seven years and at Stax Museum for six years. The duck march allows me to use my talents as an actor and historian. I am so grateful for that.”
The full list of honorees:
* Principal of the Year – Kevin Meeks, Mitchell High School.
* Teacher of the Year – Elicia Garcia Curry, Snowden School.
* Student of the Year – Tyler Lewellen, Overton High School.
* Choir of the Year – First Congregational Choir.
* Rosa Parks Award – Shay Bader-Wallace, former executive director, Miss Memphis-Shelby County Scholarship Organization.
* Missionary Cleola Mosley Humanitarian Award – Vickye Ford, community development director, Methodist South Hospital.
* Lifetime Achievement – Elizabeth King, legendary gospel recording artist and Bishop Dickerson Wells, pastor, Bethel Church of God in Christ.
* Dr. H.O. Kneeland Jr. Pastor of the Year – Bishop Brandon Porter, pastor, Greater Community Temple Church of God in Christ .
* Community Leader of the Year – Chief Dale Lane, Collierville Police Department.
* Golden Voice Award – Amir Lanfair, recording artist, student, Germantown High School.
* Inspirational Person of the Year – Kenon Walker, duck master, Peabody Hotel.