2003 Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame honorees:

John Clemson Duckworth, Sr. (1907-2001)

John Duckworth, a Tuscaloosa native, graduated from the University of Alabama in 1928 and joined Tuscaloosa Building and Loan Company - later First Federal Savings and Loan Association - as a Loan Officer. He served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. He was with First Federal over 50 years before retiring in 1979.

He joined the Alabama National Guard at a young age and became Commander of his Company. He served in WW II and ended his military career achieving full Colonel and Chief of Staff of the Division, receiving a Bronze Star medal and the Legion of Merit.

In his church, First United Methodist, he served as chairman of the Administrative Board, President of the Board of Trustees and was Chairman of the Building Fund Campaign for the construction of Chitwood Hall. He served on several committees of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Duckworth's commitment to service began early. At the University of Alabama, he was in the College of Commerce and Business Administration, active in Jasons, Quadrangle, Chi Phi Fraternity, Forensic Council, and Pan-Hellenic Council. He also served as an Adjunct Professor for many years, teaching Economics and Insurance.

Duckworth served as President of the City Planning Commission when Tuscaloosa's first zoning ordinance was adopted. He also served as an active member of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Board.

Throughout his life, Duckworth remained active in charitable causes and community organizations. He was in the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, having served as Club President and Governor for the North Alabama District. He was a member of the Druid City Hospital Foundation Board and was active in its fundraising projects.

Duckworth served as Chairman of the Community Chest (United Way) Drive and its President. He served as President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Director and Treasurer of the Building Fund of YMCA, and President of the Tuscaloosa Hotel Company, a community owned corporation, which owned and operated the Stafford Hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa for many years.

Duckworth was honored as Tuscaloosa's 1991 Citizen of the Year by the Tuscaloosa Civitan Club.

John Henry England, Jr. (1947-)

Widely respected as a man of fairness and justice with the ability to forge consensus on difficult issues, Judge John H. England, Jr. has always been viewed as a caring, dedicated citizen that has looked after the welfare of others.

England, a native of Uniontown, graduated from Tuskegee Institute with a B.S. degree from the University of Alabama Law School in 1974. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Tuskegee University in October 1999.

He served 2 years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman. He began practicing law in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1974. In 1985, England was one of the first two African Americans to be elected to the Tuscaloosa City Council since Reconstruction, serving eight years as a council member. He was appointed by Governor Jim Folsom to the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in June 1993 and was elected to a full term in November 1994, where he served until he was appointed by Governor Don Siegelman to the Alabama Supreme Court in September 1999. Judge England served on the Alabama Supreme Court from September 1999 until January 2001. He returned to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama in January 2001 and was re-elected to the Circuit Court in November 2002 and November 2008.

Judge England serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Alabama System, and is Chairman of the Finance Committee and Vice Chairman of the UAB Health System Board Liaison Committee. He is a graduate of the 1996 Leadership Alabama Class. He has also held leadership positions in numerous civic, professional, and social organizations on the local and state level, including Temporary Emergency Services, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Jaycees, Tuscaloosa Exchange Club, Tuscaloosa Civitan Club and the Tuscaloosa Tennis Club. He currently serves or has served in the past on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: Boys and Girls Clubs, Barnes Branch YMCA, Community Services Program of West Alabama, Theatre Tuscaloosa, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Black Warrior Council, Girl Scouts, 21st Century Youth Leadership, the Good Samaritan Health Clinic, Easter Seals West Alabama, Alabama Civil Justice Foundation, West Alabama Aids Outreach, Elizabeth Project Care, Indian Rivers Mental Health Board, A Plus and UAB Health System Board. His professional memberships include Alabama Circuit Judges Association, Tuscaloosa County Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, Alabama Lawyers Association (past state president 1988-89), Inns of Courts and Alabama Judicial Council where he currently serves as President. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Circuit Judges Association and is currently the president elect.

Judge England was inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame in 2006.

James Harris Fitts (1830 - 1912)

A prominent lawyer and banker, James Harris Fitts was the first person admitted to the bar in Tuscaloosa County, and established the first bank in the area. Elected city attorney in 1854, he practiced law until after the Civil War.

Appointed by the Governor as a trustee of The University of Alabama, Fitts is credited for the financial rebuilding of the school following the war. He served as the treasurer of the University for 26 years.

As a banker, he took an active role in the formation of the Alabama Banker's Association, serving as the organization's president.

Fitts was also active in the Episcopal Church, serving as a lay deputy to the convention. He was elected Treasurer of the diocese of Alabama in 1862, and served until 1876.

Verta Barr Meherg (1938-2023)

Few names are as synonymous with Tuscaloosa's automotive industry as that of Verta Barr Meherg. Beginning her automotive career at just seventeen years of age, Meherg has worked in the industry for more than 43 years, distinguishing herself not only in her profession, but also in civic, religious, and community service.

Serving as the business manager for Claude Dent Motors, Dockins Motors, and Holiday Motors in the early days of her career, Meherg became co-owner and secretary/treasurer of Quality Mazda/Jeep/Eagle in 1982, secretary/treasurer of Chrysler-Jeep of Tuscaloosa in January 2000, and president and owner of Quality Mazda/Volkswagen.

Recognized as a trailblazer in her field, Meherg was the first woman to become State President of the Alabama Independent Automobile Dealers Association and the first woman to serve as Chairman of the Alabama New Car Dealers Association. She has received the highest honor in her industry - the State Quality Dealer Award. She has also served as the Tuscaloosa New Automobile Dealers Association's Ambassador of Goodwill, and was Alabama's TIME Magazine Quality Dealer in 1994.

Meherg has been involved in a number of professional and civic organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. She served on the Board of Directors, was the first female Chair in 1993 and was a longtime member of the Women's Division. In 1989, she was presented with a Distinguished Service Award, and in 1990, she was named the Member of the Year.

Meherg was honored by the United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama's Nancy Butler Memorial Award for outstanding service as a board member volunteer in 1995. She was honored by Tuscaloosa Civitan Club as the Citizen of the Year in 1996.

George S. Shirley (1927-2000)

George S. Shirley was a lifelong Tuscaloosa resident, banker, civic leader, and trustee of the University of Alabama system.

A graduate of Tuscaloosa High School and The University of Alabama, Shirley served in the U.S. Navy. After serving in the Navy, Shirley returned to the University and continued his education, then began his banking career in 1949. Recognized throughout the South for his financial insights, Shirley rose through the ranks at First Federal Savings and Loan Association before joining First National Bank - later AmSouth. He would remain at AmSouth until he retired as president and chief executive officer.

Shirley was elected to the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama in April 1987. He was known as a people person with a financial expertise matched only by his passionate love of the university. During his 11-year tenure, Shirley held many key leadership positions, including nine years as chairman of the audit committee.

Shirley and his wife Betty were strong supporters of the University of Alabama's RISE program, a model early-childhood educational facility housed in The Stallings Center on the UA campus. Shirley was involved with many charities and civic endeavors including Tuscaloosa Exchange Club President, Tuscaloosa Jaycees President, Business Council of Alabama Board of Directors and more. Shirley was honored in 1971 as the Tuscaloosa Citizen of the Year and was inducted posthumously into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame in 2003.

Jonathan (Jack) Westervelt Warner (1917-2017)

A native of Decatur, Illinois, Jack Warner moved to Tuscaloosa as a child when his grandfather Herbert E. Westervelt consolidated Gulf States Paper Corporation as Alabama's first modern pulp and paper mill in 1929.

Warner's father, Herbert David Warner served as treasurer, chairman of the board, and chairman, emeritus, of Gulf States Paper Corporation. His mother, Mildred Westervelt Warner, served as president of Gulf States and was the daughter of the company's founder, Herbert Westervelt. Warner himself worked as an apprentice in the company as a young man, prior to joining the corporation full time.

A graduate of Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, Warner attended Washington & Lee University and received a degree in business administration. After college, Warner served in the U.S. Army from 1941-1945. He was a commissioned officer with the Mars Task Force in the Burma Theater of Operations.

Joining Gulf States following World War II, Warner headed production and sales activities of the company before becoming executive vice president in 1950. In 1957, he was elected president, succeeding his mother. Warner became president and chairman of the board in 1959. From 1984 to 1994 he served as Chairman and C.E.O. of Gulf States. Warner retired from day-to-day management of the company on January 1, 1995.

Jack Warner started collecting art in the 1950s with a first acquisition of prints by John James Audubon. Art pieces belonging to the Westervelt Company are displayed in the company headquarters in Tuscaloosa. American art drawn from the personal collection of Jonathan "Jack" Warner and his wife Susan Austin Warner are part of the Warner Foundation collection. The collection makes loans of artwork to museums and universities to further the understanding of American history through American art.

In recognition of a lifetime of support for American art and a generous gift by the Warner Foundation, a gallery of early Hudson River School paintings in the New American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been designated the Jack and Susan Warner Gallery.

Warner was also very active in local community activities and clubs such as the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, the YMCA, and the Druid City Hospital Foundation. He took an active part in professional organizations such as the American Paper Industry, serving as Past Director of the American Paper Institute and Past Director of the Birmingham Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

He has received numerous awards for these activities. Warner has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Chamber, and the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society. He was a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor and has been inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. Warner was inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame in 2003.