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Celebrating Rosa Parks’ legacy – Honoring those who make a difference

The 11th Annual Rosa Parks Breakfast celebrated Mrs. Parks’ legacy as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, but it was also a celebration of outstanding citizens.

The event was held Saturday, February 4, at Greater Mount Triumph Missionary Baptist Church. As always, Lillie Johnson and the Atmore Family Life Center, members of Lillie’s family, and her “Breakfast Club” (the kitchen crew) were excellent hosts.

James Cox, former assistant superintendent of Baldwin County, served as Master of Ceremonies. Invocation was by Troy Ephriam, former mayor of Prichard, with Welcome by Escambia County Board of Education Chairman Willie J. Grissett, and Occasion by Dr. Zickeyous Byrd, Superintendent of Education, Conecuh County.

Those seated at the head table joined in singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” from left, David Quarker, Willie J. Grissett, Zickeyous Byrd, Mayor Darrio Melton, Troy Ephriam, Mayor Jim Staff.

A special occasion at Greater Mount Triumph always calls for special music by the Rev. Willie Hawthorne, pastor. In addition to singing two solos, he also did the honor of blessing the food.

The Rev. Willie Hawthorne performs a solo at the breakfast.

Following breakfast, Escambia County Commissioner, District 5, David Quarker introduced elected officials in attendance.

Dr. Ullysses McBride introduced the keynote speaker, Selma Mayor Darrio Melton.

He talked about images of courage – often we think of men on the battlefield, men on the gridiron or basketball court, or David before Goliath.

“Think 1955,” he said, “a hundred miles from Atmore … In the underbelly of America, something was brewing. There was an act of courage by a seamstress.”
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus.

“You may never have thought about sitting down as an act of courage,” Mayor Melton said. “Rosa Parks give us what God has already given us – be who you are. Get out of bed and drink a cup of courage … It takes courage being who you are … if you don’t speak for what is right, life remains the same.”

He talked about Joshua 1:9 when God tells Joshua to be courageous, fear not.

“We’re losing a generation,” he said. “Nobody has told this generation they have to fight. You have to fight – have the courage to stand up for what is right. A one-hundred-ten-pound woman sat down and a whole world was changed.”

Mayor Jim Staff presents the key to the city to Selma Mayor Darrio Melton

In his city updates, Mayor Jim Staff recognized former Mayor Howard Shell who was in attendance. Staff credited Shell and others for laying the foundation for the success at Rivercane and at the interstate. A new industry is locating there, in addition to the motels and restaurants already in business.

Staff read a proclamation declaring that this day the City of Atmore joined thousands in honoring and celebrating the life, valor, and accomplishments of Ms. Rosa Parks.

The Rosa Parks Breakfast always includes a time of honoring citizens who make a difference.

Staff read a second proclamation from the City, joining the congregation of of Greater Mount Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in recognizing Alton Watts “for his many years of service in our community.” The proclamation noted that “through his personal demonstration of good character, generosity, and integrity, Alton has served as an exemplary role model for everyone he comes in contact with.” Mr. Watts served on numerous boards and committees, including service for many years on the City of Atmore Board of Zoning Adjustments. Mayor Staff proclaimed that all join in honoring Mr. Watts “for his service to his church, his community and his fellowman. Our community is blessed to a man of his caliber residing in Atmore.”

Alton Watts was honored with a proclamation by the mayor. He is shown here with his wife, Mamie.

Alabama Representative Alan Baker presented two certificates to Voncile Stallworth. One was from Gov. Robert Bentley “for honorable service to her community … Your service is a testament to those who have come before us and to those who hold the keys to our future.”

The second certificate was from Baker and signed by Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, honoring Mrs. Stallworth for “her many years of service and dedication.”

Mrs. Stallworth was totally surprised at the honor.

Rep. Alan Baker presents certificates to Voncile Stallworth

“Talk about a surprise – this is one,” she said. Then she made everyone laugh when she added, “I must be something!”

Monday morning, she added these comments: “ I’m so proud [of the certificates]. This is what you get for being good. My whole life’s desire has been to help people. I hope this will inspire children to work hard.”

Dr. McBride called Dr. Byrd to the podium.

“We don’t know how badly we cared for you until you left,” Dr. McBride said. “ … we miss you and what a great job you did at the middle school and the high school.”

And he presented him with the Rosa Parks Award “In Appreciation for and Recognition of His Service in the Community. Like Mrs. Rosa Parks, Zickeyous Byrd, Is Truly a Man Who Made a Difference.”

Dr. Zickeyous Byrd, left, accepts the Rosa Parks Award from Dr. Ullysses McBride

“Words cannot express how much I appreciate this and how much I miss Atmore,” Dr. Byrd said.

Lillie Johnson recognized those who helped her with the event and thanked all who attended.