Atmore Area Hall of Fame inducts 7 into class of 2024 May 19

Published 4:32 pm Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Seven were inducted into the 2024 class of the Atmore Hall of Fame during an induction celebration May 19 at The Club.

Those inducted included Howard H. Patterson Sr., Lavan Martin, Foster Kizer, James McNeil, Dr. Delaine Salter, the Rev. Monroe Tucker and Velma Jackson-Wilkins. The inductees were nominated based on different categories, including business and medical; government and military; education, theater, ministry; and coaches and athletes.

• Patterson’s granddaughter, Kathy, thanked everyone for being at the celebration, and while she didn’t know here grandfather, he is being celebrated by his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great • Martin’s daughter, Pam, spoke about her father’s many accomplishments, especially in the military.

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“We would like to thank the hall of fame committee for inducting my father,” Pam said. “It’s really hard to put al of his accomplishments in a short comment.”

Pam said her father loved where he lived, and loved St. Anna’s Episcopal Church in Poarch.

One cannot talk about Atmore’s early history without not- ing the contributions of Howard H. Patterson Sr.

Mr. Patterson was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, August 26, 1872, son of W.G. Patterson, a Baptist minister. The family lived in Hartford, Connecticut and Windsor, Flori- da.

In 1889, at the age of seventeen, Mr. Patterson returned to Hartford where he took a course in Business College, then returned to F1orida, where he joined his fam- ily. He worked as freight agent on the Seaboard AirLines.

He became acquainted with Miss Harriet Carney, daughter of W.M. Carney, the founder of the sawmill company of Atmore. Soon after his marriage to Miss Carney, his father-in-law proposed that he come to Atmore and join him in the lumber business. The proposition was accepted and from then until 1931, Mr. Patterson was associated with the Carney Mill Company. In fact, he was more closely associated with W.M. Carney than any other citizen.

Perhaps the greatest work Mr. Patterson tendered to the town is the development of the agricultural industry of the area. As head of the W.M. Carney Mill Com- pany from 1911 to 1931, he built up agriculture on the land destroyed by lumber- ing. Realizing that his business was semi-destructive, he felt it was his duty to stimulate agriculture and other industrial pursuits to sustain the countryside. The fact that Atmore grew and prospered, where many mill villages became deserted, is a monument to his far-sightedness.

In June 1936, Mr. Patterson received recognition that few men realize in their lifetime. The citizens of Atmore presented him with a magnificent silver vase as a token of the love and appreciation they had for him. Inscribed on the vase were these words: “H.H. Patterson, Most Valuable Citizen 1895-1936.”

Mr. Patterson’s achievements were exceeded only by those of his father-in-law,

W.M. Carney, and he followed the same pattern of generosity. Mr. Patterson gave unselfishly of time, labor and money to build up schools, churches and civic orga- nizations. His leadership in the Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club and other organizations toward the betterment of the town was unexcelled. He was certainly instrumental in the construction of the Baptist and Methodist churches, Escam- bia County High School, the City Grammar School, and the Training School in Atmore.

When Mr. Patterson became one of Atmore’s older citizens, he lived on Main Street and continued to spend much of his time in civic development.

• Kizer thanked the hall of fame for the honor.

“I love Atmore, and I’ve been trying to bring in more volunteers,” Kizer, a well-known volunteer, said. “We have done a lot of good on Main Street.”

Kizer said he looks forward to volunteering more in the future.

If you look up the word “volunteer” in the dictionary, you

might find a picture of Foster Kizer.

Mr. Kizer is the owner/operator of the Royal Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Atmore, a successful business. But his business seems secondary to his community service which includes the following:

  • Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Director (two terms)
  • Atmore YMCA Board of Directors
  • Atmore Unity in the Community Board of Directors
  • Atmore Historical Society Board of Directors
  • Atmore Area Red Cross Board of Directors
  • Atmore Rotary Club
  • Pride of Atmore Board of Directors (Executive Director)
  • Atmore Community Foundation Board of Directors
  • Atmore Historic Commission

It is perhaps Mr. Kizer’s service as executive director of Pride of Atmore that has had the greatest impact on Atmore. Restoration and renovation of the Strand

Theater and the old Atmore Hardware Store has been a multi-million-dollar project with countless hours of fund-raising and grant writing. Mr. Kizer and the board of directors have successfully renovated these buildings and established new venues on Atmore’s Main Street – The Strand Theater and Encore at The Strand.

Mr. Kizer’s honors include Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year 2015; Concerned Citizens of Atmore Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award 2014; and numerous “Best of the Best” Awards from The Atmore Advance for his business and his community service.

Deeply involved with Atmore’s preservation and restoration, he has written mul- tiple grants supporting the City of Atmore and the Historical Society, in addition to the Pride of Atmore.

In years past, Mr. Kizer has physically improved Atmore by painting the wrought iron on downtown businesses at no charge to the business owners, asking only that they buy the paint.

In 2013, he worked diligently and tirelessly to bring Artmore to Atmore. He pro- moted it, worked it and made it one of the most successful events held in down- town Atmore.

Professionally, Mr. Kizer was Director of Security for classified programs for both

the Lockheed Corporation and the McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Corporation. Upon retirement, Foster returned to his family property in Atmore in 2004 and opened his bed and breakfast.

• McNeil thanked God for bringing him to this point in life.

“The McNeils in Atmore are well known,” he said.

McNeil recalled as a child working at his father’s service station.

“My dad taught me a lot,” he said. “He taught me how to speak to people.”

McNeil thanked the hall of fame for the induction, and encouraged the crowd with a saying he learned a long time ago.

“You can be anything you want in life, but put God first,” he said.

In 2022, James McNeil was the recipient of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is known as an enthusiastic and helpful individual who displays unwavering integrity. His involvement in the com- munity provides an excellent example of his commitment and dedication.

Mr. McNeil has been a pillar in the community for more than 30 years, proving to be a prominent member and

supporter of this community. He has been an inspiration to many and is a man of honor and respect. He adheres to what is right and holds himself to a high standard of conduct.

Mr. McNeil has always had a significant, positive economic impact locally. He is the founder and owner of McNeil Square and McNeil Express. He is a founder of The Concerned Citizens of Atmore, established in 1992, in which he served as treasurer. He was also the treasurer of a local NAACP chapter.

Currently, he is a member of The Small Group of America and Atmore’s Beauti-

fication Committee.

He has contributed his time and efforts by making church signs for local church- es that include Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church of McCullough where he has served on the deacon board for more than 10 years. He was also involved in church renovations at First Baptist Church of McCullough and Liberty Baptist. He also played a role in constructing the gazebo and the first scoreboard in the Little League field at Houston Avery Park.

Most recently, in June 2022, Mr. McNeil saw months of work come to fruition with the dedication of the Cornelia Elmore Library Memorial. It was his dream to honor Mrs. Elmore (1868-1958), a highly respected educator and civic leader in Atmore and elsewhere in South Alabama, who was responsible for establish- ing the first free-standing public library for Atmore’s black population. The memorial was built on the library site.

Mr. McNeil loves his community and has been giving back to the City of At- more constantly through hard work and treating all people fairly.

Mr. McNeil retired from Masland Carpets after working for the company for 38 years. He has been married to his wife, Joanne McNeil, for 48 years and is a proud father of three children and grandfather of 13 grandchildren.

• Salter said she never knew this would happen to her, having no idea she’d be inducted into the hall of fame.

“I was taught as a child to do a good job,” she said, adding her thanks to the hall of fame committee.

Salter showed appreciation to her family, adding that, “without them, I would be nothing.”

Salter said many helped her without event knowing they were helping.

“This is a fine, fine place to be a part of,” she said.

Frances Delaine Bryd (Salter) was born May 24, 1944, to Gladys A. and Lewis M. Byrd at Stablers Hospital in

Greenville, Alabama in Butler County. She is the youngest of four siblings. Her family resided in Monroe County for two years then moved to their farm between Brewton and Flomaton.

She attended Pollard McCall School from first grade to

ninth grade and was active in the 4H Club. She then at-

tended T.R. Miller High School and was in the last graduating class from the two- story building.

Her first employment was Hainje’s Furniture Store in Brewton. After that, she went to D. W. McMillan hospital to work in the front office for eleven years. From there, she worked in surgery, then enrolled in Jefferson Davis Jr. College. She attended from 1976 to 1978 as a Pre-Med and Chemistry student. She was also elected to Who’s Who of American Junior Colleges.

Dr. Salter attended the University of South Alabama from 1978 to 1980 where she was a Pre-Med and Chemistry major. She was a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society.

She was accepted and completed four years of medical school at the University of South Alabama. Her internship and residency were completed at Selma Family Medicine, a division of the University of Alabama. She was chief resident from 1986 to 1987.

She completed her Board Certification in Family Medicine and moved to Atmore, where she purchased Dr. James B. Thomas’ medical facilities and thus began her medical career in Atmore in 1987.

She has attended United Methodist Church in Monroe County, the Brewton Pen- tecostal Holiness Church in Brewton for 54 years and now attends Atmore First Assembly of God.

She was married to Fred S. Salter for 47 years, and they had one son Fred S. Salter Jr. who was a CPA.

Currently she lives at her long-time residence on Alexandra Drive, Atmore with her grandchildren. She still works at the local hospital and medical office, still cooks, does house calls, gardens and swims all summer.

Her great pleasures remain her walk with Christ, her family time, neighbors, medicine and service to country.

• Tucker thanked all in attendance.

“Thank you, I’m very appreciative to the committee for thinking to put my name in the hat,” Tucker said.

Tucker said he was humbled that the committee saw fit to induct him into the hall of fame.

The Rev. Dr. Monroe Tucker Jr. began his Christian journey at the age of 7 and accepted his calling to preach at age 14. He later became a member of Macedonia Mis- sionary Baptist Church of Prichard, Ala., under the lead- ership of the late Dr. Elijah L. White, where Rev. Tucker was inspired and encouraged to advance in his Christian education. He attended the Easonian Baptist Seminary, Birmingham.

Rev. Tucker is one of the founders of the E.L. White Theological Seminary School in Prichard, where he received his theological degrees. He was the second president of the seminary, currently serves on the board of directors, and is an instructor.

At one time, Rev. Tucker had the opportunity to pastor two churches at one time, however, he accepted the call to pastor at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church near Atmore.

Most of his greatest achievements came as a result of being pastor of Mt. Olive. He made two trips to Ghana West Africa; served as a Moderator of the Eastern Shore Progressive District; served as Treasurer and Chairman of the Educational Board of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.;

Christian Watchman United; served as an instructor and mentor with We Care Ministry; taught seminary classes at Fountain Correctional Center; served on the board of the Halfway House as well as a mentor; became a writer for At- more News; was a member of the Atmore Area Christian Care Ministry board; served as a Chairman of the United Fund board and received an award in 2023 for being the longest standing UF board member; participated in the National Day of Prayer; received an award for his unwavering dedication and leader- ship (Pastor Emeritus); and teaches the Word every Sunday at 4 p.m. on local radio station WBZR in Atmore.

From his ministry at Mt. Olive, Rev. Tucker ordained the following ministers: Rev. Charles Johnson, Rev. Allen Johnson, Rev. Brian Johnson, Rev. Michael Jackson, Rev. Donzelle Young, Rev. Gordon Brooks Sr., the late Rev. Nick Hazley, and the late Rev. Jacob Archie.

On Sunday, April 24, 2022, Rev. Tucker retired with 38 years of Pastoral Ser- vice with Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

Rev. Tucker graduated at the top of this class at Lincoln High School. He at- tended Talladega College and served in the Air Force for four years. He also served as a Scout Master at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

Rev. Tucker and his wife Nora live near Atmore.

• Jackson-Wilkins’ sister, Martha Henderson, accepted the award on behalf of the inductee as she’s out of the country.

In an audio recording, Jackson-Wilkins shared her appreciation to the committee.

“This is a huge honor,” she said. “I salute all of this year’s inductees, who contributed so much to the life of Atmore and beyond.”

Born in Little River, Alabama, Velma Jackson-Wilkins grew up in Atmore. She was in her words, “the poorest of the poor.”

She attended Escambia County Training School and gradu- ated from Escambia County High School in 1972. While at- tending high school, she was active in several organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Admin- istration from Alabama State University in Montgomery, and

a Master of Business Administration in Management from Pace University – Lubin School of Business in New York City.

Ms. Jackson-Wilkins had her share of jobs, from American Electric Power Compa- ny as a statistician, to Irving Trust Company as an executive trainee, and to Clairol as a budget analyst.

Her career officially started when she was recruited to work at one of the largest financial institutions in the world – Citibank (currently Citigroup). During her time at Citigroup, she held a variety of positions. After 29.5 years at Citigroup, Ms.

Jackson-Wilkins retired as a Senior Vice President in 2009.

Because Ms. Jackson-Wilkins believes in giving back and serving, she became active in numerous community programs and participated in several mentoring programs.

In addition to having relatives in Atmore, she maintains her ties in other ways. She established two businesses – Velma’s Gift Gallery and The Corner Market in Atmore – and purchased several single-family homes. After retirement, she and her husband started Wilkins Management, LLC, which acquires residential rental properties.

Ms. Jackson-Wilkins has written two books, Too Many, Too Soon in 2013 which chronicles the death of several family members, and A Look Back in 2015 about her upbringing in rural Alabama.

She is a speaker, a leader, and a mentor. Causes important to her are education, so- cial action, homelessness, poverty and children/youth, and she is heavily involved in numerous philanthropic efforts.

In 2017, Ms. Jackson-Wilkins was in Atmore to speak to senior members of the Es- cambia County High School Choir which had been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. She gave the choir a $500 donation, and while they were in New York, she showed them around and took them to dinner.

During her visit, Ms. Jackson-Wilkins talked about some of the people in educa- tion as she was growing up in Atmore – teachers, coaches and administrators who stressed the importance of getting an education, who took a personal interest in students’ future and their success. She has not forgotten.

Ms. Jackson-Wilkins has been married to Guy Wilkins since 1997, and they live in New York City.

Stagecoach Cafe of Stockton catered the event.