Citizen Awards

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BUCKINGHAM – For the last nine years, the Buckingham Chamber of Commerce has used its annual banquet as a time to honor county residents for their service and commitment to this community.

On January 17, the Chamber presented its 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award to Mike Edwards; and, the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Charles White.

Offering an overview of the awards program, Sandra Moss explained to the banquet attendees that the tradition began with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

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“But then we thought about people who have done things year after year after year-that really have given back to the community,” stated Moss. “And that was something we needed to recognize also.” Subsequently, the Chamber initiated the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Moss told the audience, “So we ask people to send in letters from October through December 31 of every year nominating who you think should be either Volunteer of the Year or the Buckingham Lifetime Achievement winner.”

She shared, “We get these wonderful letters and it is really hard to choose who should be the recipients of these awards.”

Encouraging nominations, Moss explained the process simply calls for a one-page letter explaining why the nominee is worthy of the designation.

Volunteer of the Year

The night's first presentation focused on the Volunteer of the Year award.

Connor Christian, a student at Buckingham County High School, shared his letter nominating Mike Edwards, who volunteers with the Buckingham County Youth League.

“Coach Edwards is the best coach I've ever had,” shared Connor. “He tells you to give it 110 percent every play on the field.”

Describing Edwards as a coach who reminds his players to have high expectations for themselves, Connor talked about a coach who encourages the best from his team whether on or off the field.

“Coach always expects us to behave when we're with him and at school. He also wants good grades,” stated Connor.

Extolling Edwards for his patience, Conner said the coach helps his players understand their role on the field. “If you are having trouble on a play, he will help you through it so that you will understand him and what he wants you to do,” he stated.

Continuing, Connor offered, “He always tells you what a good job you did. He makes me feel good about myself.”

Sharing that Edwards expects his players to exercise to help increase their speed and strength, Connor stated, “He also told us that football isn't all about strength-it's also how smart you are on the field.”

With a sincere realization of the time his coach devotes to the team and its players, the young man concluded, “Coach Edwards takes time away from his own family to coach us.”

Accepting the award from his young player, Edwards told Connor and the audience, “I want to thank Connor for this nomination. It will mean a lot to me for a long time.”

Edwards stated, “He is a great kid. We have a lot of great kids.” The Volunteer of the Year talked about young players who show-up at practice wanting to get better, wanting to learn how to play the game. “It has been nothing but a pleasure,” he stated.

He shared that he and his wife Scotty were talking with their son John the other night about enjoying his youth because it was the best time of his life.

“I sat there and thought about it a minute and then I told my wife, 'I had a great childhood, loved every moment of it, loved growing up in Buckingham. But, the last ten years of my life working with these kids have been the best years of my life,” shared Edwards. “I would not take anything for it and I hope it lasts for a long time.”

As he received the slate clock that accompanies the designation, Edwards stated, “I am going to accept this not just for myself but for all coaches in the Buckingham County Youth League.”

Along with coaching BCYL football, Edwards also coaches baseball and serves on the BCYL Board of Directors.

At the conclusion of the first presentation, Moss explained that in the past nomination letters have been from adults. She offered, “This is from a young man…that makes this extra special.”

Lifetime Achievement

Martha Louis, president of Historic Buckingham, Incorporated, nominated Charles White.

She shared that her nominee moved to Buckingham in 1955, after accepting employment as a teacher at Carter G. Woodson High School.

During his 34 years as an educator, White taught in Buckingham, Fluvanna, and Prince Edward.

“It was here that he met and married 'the prettiest woman he'd ever laid eyes on,'” stated Louis.

A year after meeting Margaret Cathleen Booker, the two were married and White, a native of Huntington, West Virginia, began building a remarkable legacy as a leader, advocate, historian, author, editor and publisher.

“Together, they had four children-all successful in their own fields and all over-achievers like their dad,” shared Louis. “Did I mention they have four grandchildren who have Grandpa wrapped around their tiny fingers?”

Continuing, Louis made it clear that her nominee, who had not been identified publically, was Charles White.

It was obvious that White, who is a member of the Chamber and customarily attends the annual banquet, was not anticipating his role as recipient of the award.

“I speak of the Charles White family because not only is Charles a leader and an inspirational example to his own family but in his church and community organizations,” continued Louis.

Sharing from a long list, Louis offered, “He is a member of Jerusalem Baptist Church, he helped us with the Jamestown 2007 Celebration for endless hours, he's active in the Buckingham Voter's League, the NAACP. He's the president of the African American Life and History Society, which was founded by Carter Woodson.

“He helped acquire sites in Buckingham for the Civil Rights in Education Trail. He is part of Historic Buckingham, Incorporated; he helped with the Buckingham Training School Commemoration. He is the proud member and instigator of the Lining Bar Gang.”

She added that White worked with the Boy Scouts of America and organized Explorer Scouts for Buckingham's scouting program. Additionally, Louis said White is a member of the Virginia Press Association.

“This isn't the whole list,” stated Louis. “Charles is a noted historian. When he worked on the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration, he realized that there was no source for information about the contributions of African Americans in Buckingham County. After much research, he published The Hidden and Forgotten, which is a fascinating book. If you haven't read it-it really is a wonderful history.”

Louis shared, “He was on the cutting edge of changing the history books to actually include African Americans and their stories.”

Continuing, Louis stated, “In 1987, Charles started The Informant newspaper-also a wonderful piece of literature. This monthly paper's circulation goes all over the country. The stories range from African American historical characters to current writers, musicians, artists, actors, and their accomplishments.”

Providing more information on the Lining Bar Gang, Louis explained that the group provided re-enactments of the history of railroad building. The educational and entertaining re-enactments included the singing of cadences or ditties the workers used while performing their strenuous tasks.

She shared, “Charles was instrumental in getting a grant awarded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to create the Lining Bar Gang. Most of you have probably seen them-not too many of them are left now but that was a wonderful part of history.”

Louis added, “Many of those folks were connected to the railroad or had family that were connected to the railroad.” She noted that the Lining Bar Gang performed all over the country as good will ambassadors.

“Charles White, for Buckingham County and Central Virginia, has beautifully preserved the history of African Americans for generations to come. Without his research and enthusiasm to discover and tell the stories much of history would be lost,” concluded Louis.

When White went to the podium to accept the award, he thanked Louis and the Chamber and stated, “For once I am at a loss for words”

White shared that after getting dressed for the banquet, his wife told him he might want to change from the sport shirt he had chosen to a dress shirt and tie. “And since we've been married for 54 years I said 'Yes, dear' and went and put on a shirt and tie,” said White, drawing laughter from his audience.

Relating how he called home in 1955 after first arriving in Buckingham and when his father asked how he liked it, he replied, “I don't like it Dad. I am out of here at the end of this school year, if I last that long.”

White shared, “But my dad said you've got to give Buckingham a chance.”

He continued, “About a month or so later I carried this young lady home. My dad called me out back and said, 'You still planning on leaving Buckingham?' Until the day he died, every time he'd see her he'd ask me that question.”

White stated, “If I had to do it all over again, I would certainly chose Buckingham again. I have had a real wonderful life here in Buckingham.” He continued, “To me it is one of the greatest places on earth. I owe Buckingham a lot and I have received a lot. To him who much is given, much is expected.” White offered, “I've tried to give back something.”

Turning to Louis, White said, “Martha, this is one of the biggest surprises I've received.” Then, to Louis and the Chamber, he reiterated, “Thank you again. Thank you so much.”