Born April 27, 1944 in Birmingham, Carl Albright, Jr. was raised in Tuscaloosa. He graduated from Tuscaloosa High School, the University of Alabama with a degree in aerospace engineering, and from the University of Alabama Law School with his juris doctorate.
An effective attorney, Albright earned his business reputation and influence as an outstanding banker, serving in various capacities with First National Bank of Tuscaloosa, rising to the office of president of AmSouth Bank. His impact in banking was also seen across the state as a strong leader in the Alabama Banker's Association.
It was his model of civic responsibility and leadership in the economic arena that earned Albright community-wide respect. He served in virtually all of the key civic and community leadership roles during his lifetime, including serving as chairman or president of Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, DCH foundation, Stillman College's board of trustees and the Stillman Foundation, United Way, the Tuscaloosa Port Authority, the University of Alabama Law School Alumni Association and President's Cabinet, Tuscaloosa Bar Association, and many other key roles.
Albright's economic leadership was crucial to Tuscaloosa's development during the 1980s and 1990s, as Tuscaloosa became an economic leader. His strategic thinking, vision, and determination contributed directly to successes such as JVC America, Tuscaloosa Steel (now Nucor), and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International. He also played an important role in the establishment of Tuscaloosa's sister city partnership with Narashino City, Japan.
A compassionate leader, Albright also left a legacy of service through many other community agencies and service organizations, such as family counseling services, Indian Rivers Mental Health Center, YMCA, boy scouts, and the American Heart Association. A dedicated leader of First Presbyterian Church, Albright was an elder and chairman of the board of deacons, and at the time of his death in 1997, he was providing essential leadership for the renovation of his church.
Charles Steele Jr. was born in Tuscaloosa on August 3, 1946. A graduate of Druid City High School, he received his bachelor's degree from American International University at Paramaribo, Suriname. He also holds honorary degrees from Stillman College, Bozeman School of Ministry, and Global Evangelical College of Louisiana and American University.
Charles is co-owner, with his brother Danny, of the Van Hoose & Steele Funeral Home and also serves as president of the Steele Group consulting firm. He serves as national president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Steele has passionately served as a public servant and elected leader in Tuscaloosa County since 1985. After a change to a mayor-council form of government, Steele was elected to the Tuscaloosa City Council, where he served two terms, and was one of the first of two African Americans to serve in that capacity. In 1994, he was the first African American elected to the Alabama State Senate.
As an elected public servant, Steele has worked to improve economic opportunities, the quality of life, and livability for his constituents. Results include improved housing, including a first-time homebuyer's ownership program; increased support and funding to address drug issues, including the Bernice Washing ton Insight Center, Partners for a Drug Free Tuscaloosa County, and Police Athletic League; as well as serving in a leadership role in initiatives and community service programs across West Alabama.
During his third term in the Alabama Senate, Steele was called on to serve as national vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In November 2004, following his resignation from the Alabama State Senate, he was named president and CEO of SCLC, and began immediately to revitalize, redirect, and rebuild the organization.
Chester Fredd personified dedication and determination, and focused on education from an early age. The Sawyerville native, who received his early education in Hale County schools, passed the teacher's exam in just ninth grade. He began teaching in 1927, just after receiving his high school diploma, and became a junior high school principal. After a year, he entered college. Fredd received B.S. and Master's degrees from Alabama State University, completed doctoral studies at Fisk University and New York University, and later received an honorary doctorate from Selma University.
After working as the of the Morgan County Training School, Fredd returned to Hale County to serve as principal of Hale County Training School in 1947. In 1965, he was appointed the first president of Tuscaloosa State Technical College, which was later named C.A. Fredd Technical College in his honor. In 1994, the college merged with Shelton State Community College.
While at C.A. Fredd State Technical College, Dr. Fredd served as president, but was also a voice for higher education. He traveled to neighboring counties to speak to young people, encouraging them to seek education beyond high school. As a mentor, he not only provided emotional support, but would also provide financial assistance.
Fredd also served in a variety of leadership roles, including in the Alabama State Teachers Association, Alabama Retired Teachers Association, Alabama Leadership Study Council, Alabama Baptist State Convention, Benjamin Barnes Branch of the YMCA, Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts, Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action, Board of Trustees of Selma University, West Alabama Planning and Development Council, and the West Alabama Mental Health Association, among others.
Fredd had received numerous awards including Doctor of Letters from Selma University; the Centennial Anniversary Award from Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, and many other citations and awards.
Doris Leapard was born in Middletown, NJ, on May 3, 1919 and grew up near New York City. She graduated cum laude with a music degree from New York University.
She and her husband, Tuscaloosan Bill Leapard, opened Leapard's Interiors on University Boulevard.
An accomplished pianist and singer, Doris used her gifts to establish a link to the community through the arts. When a national council on the arts was being formed in Washington, D.C., she worked with the Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority to create an arts council in Tuscaloosa, which was achieved in 1970. Doris ran the Arts Council as a volunteer for many years.
The Tuscaloosa Community Singers is another arts organization that owes its birth to Leapard. Along with Dr. Fred Prentice, she founded the group in 1966 with fifteen singers. She was an active member of the Episcopal Church where she was choir director for many years.
In the segregated lifestyle of the 1960s, Doris displayed her character and courage to lead in making music education available to young black children through the Tuscaloosa city schools as well as at Christ Episcopal Church, where she brought together white and black children's choirs.
Leapard was active in forming the Tuscaloosa chapter of PRIDE, which stands for Parent's Resource Institute for Drug Education. She supported many civic groups and community organizations, including the West Alabama Humane Society.
March 25, 1999 was declared Doris Leapard Day by Tuscaloosa Mayor Al DuPont.
Born January 23, 1923 in Columbia, South Carolina, Frances Allison Alexander was a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. And from the time of her arrival in Tuscaloosa in 1966, with her beloved husband, Syd, Frances was an active, involved community servant.
Alexander's most prominent legacy is the Children's Hands-On Museum. As a founding member of CHOM, along with friends Helene Hibbard, Jane Ingram, and others, Alexander was at the leadership center and was behind a vision in children's education and enrichment to make CHOM a reality. She served on CHOM's board until her death in 2003.
A true community servant, Alexander served numerous civic and religious initiatives. A longtime teacher, she tutored at Alberta Elementary School for 20 years after she retired. An early volunteer in the Adopt-A-School program, she saw the need for encouraging retired teachers, business people and others to volunteer, thus beginning the Alberta Pals Program, which has touched the lives of literally thousands of young people.
Another recipient of Alexander's talent for initiating big ideas and inspiring excellence was her work with the family of Christ Episcopal Church. She was a leader in the Episcopal Church women - an early leader in the Cursillo Lay Renewal Movement of the Episcopal church statewide, helping hundreds to grow in their faith. Alexander also spearheaded the formation of senior ministries at Christ Church, touching people daily with her caring and giving spirit.
Alexander's tireless efforts resulted in many tangible, lasting contributions in a variety of civic, educational, and religious areas of our community. Perhaps even more significant were the qualities she demonstrated and encouraged as a mentor and role model to a generation of young community leaders.
Dr. J. Barry Mason, born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 24, 1941, and raised in Louisiana, was the seventh dean of The University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.
He earned his Bachelor's degree from Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in 1963, and his Master's and PhD degrees from the University of Alabama in 1964 and 1967.
His campus experience spanned more than 40 years, 22 of those as dean. In addition, he served as interim president of the University for a brief period. And he has played a major role in moving the state's economy forward through his work in preventing the closure of the Rochester Carburetor plant and setting the foundation for the state's thriving automobile manufacturing industry.
His scholarship and research is nationally known and recognized for excellence, receiving virtually every major award available from the University of Alabama and marketing and management institutes and organizations. Among these are: one of the top 100 marketing scholars in America over the past twenty years - Academy of Marketing Science Educator of the Year - Alabama National Alumni Association Outstanding Commitment to Teaching - Algernon Sydney Sullivan award - and many others. In 1998, he was recognized by the American Marketing Association for his 'uncommon leadership' that resulted in turning around the 40,000 plus member national association.
He is a co-founder of the Alabama Productivity Center; and while serving as interim president of the University of Alabama, he led the economic revitalization of 'The Strip,' the creation of the "Healthy Campus" initiative and expanded enrollment at the University.
Mason has been active in the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts and is a past president of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. He was on the board of directors of the DCH Regional Healthcare Authority from 1986 to 2007 and served as chairman of the board of the Healthcare Authority for eight years. He serves on the DCH Healthcare Foundation board of directors and is a past Fellow. He also is past president of Challenge 21, a local community initiative established to enhance a program of deliberative dialogue on issues crucial to the future of the Tuscaloosa County area, is past president of Junior Achievement and a past member of the board of the Jack Warner Foundation.
In 2006 he was recognized as a Pillar of West Alabama by the West Alabama Community Foundation for sustained contributions to the betterment of the West Alabama area. In 2008, Mason was selected as the Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year by the Civitan Club. He was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2013.
Jerry Belk, a Tuscaloosa native, was a graduate of Tuscaloosa High School, and earned his B.S. degree in 1954 from The University of Alabama where he played third baseman for the Crimson Tide's baseball team from 1952 to 1954. He earned his master's degree in 1958 from the University, and then joined the United States Army, serving for two years as an infantry platoon leader.
Returning to Tuscaloosa after serving in the army, Belk became a teacher and coach at Holt High School, and then joined the Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority. Belk served as Director of PARA from 1966-1997, transforming it into a county-wide parks and recreation program. In 1979, Belk was named Professional of the Year by the Alabama Recreation and Parks Society. PARA also honored him by naming the Jerry Belk Activity Center at Bowers Park in his honor.
Belk distinguished himself as a leader, providing effective guidance for many area organizations throughout his lifetime. Those organizations include the Tuscaloosa Public Library Board, Tuscaloosa County Department of Human Resources Board, Salvation Army, Tuscaloosa County Heart Association, and Veteran's Memorial Park Board, First Baptist Church, American Legion baseball, and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. He was a past president of the Exchange Club, the Alabama Recreation and Parks Society, Alabama Recreation and Parks Association, "A" Club Alumni Association of the University of Alabama, and a host of other civic and service organizations.