Readers are leaders. That was the motto of Ruth Bolden, who helped found a library in West Tuscaloosa and worked for the civil rights movement. She passed away in 2004 at the age of 94 but left a great impression on our community.
Bolden, a native of Bibb County, worked menial jobs to pay for her education at Stillman College. She later attended Atlanta University and earned a master's degree in library sciences.
In 1948, she was able to get county money to start a library in the local community center in West Tuscaloosa. Many donated books to help with the library, which was named after Dr. George weaver, a prominent black citizen who allowed local young people to use his private library.
The library was later forced to move and Bolden approached the city for a new space. She was persistent and able to secure $29,000 in 1961 to build a new library. In 1991, this branch of The Tuscaloosa Public Library was renamed the Weaver-Bolden branch in her honor.
Bolden was also a follower of T.Y. Rogers, a leader in the local civil rights movement. She was a member of the Tuscaloosa Citizens Action Committee and helped register blacks to vote. Bolden was among those who were in First African Baptist Church planning a march when it was tear gassed by local authorities on June 9, 1964, a day known by many as "Black Tuesday."
Bolden was a member of the League of Women Voters, appointed to the Bryce Human Rights Committee and Tuscaloosa County Jury Commission and served as president of the Stillman College National Alumni Association.
Much of Buddy Powell's life was invested in improving the lives of his fellow Tuscaloosans through community service and outreach programs, as well as maintaining a local business centered on neighborhood and family.
As a teenager, Powell became an Eagle Scout, launching a lifetime passion for public service. He later served as the Chairman of the Board for PARA and was instrumental in securing funding for the first of several community centers. With the Tuscaloosa Police and Tuscaloosa Sheriff offices, he helped to create the Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers program. It still exists and thrives today, as do the community centers he passionately supported and worked to build.
Powell was actively engaged with the University of Alabama. He was a member of the President's cabinet and an honorary member of the A-Club, the letterman's association for the Athletics Department. Although he didn't participate in athletics at Alabama, his devotion to the improvement of the department was powerful. He was also a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and was active in fundraising to improve its facilities on campus.
Powell's true passion was for his friends and family business. He grew the business from the ground up, creating a local landmark with his 12 Buddy's Food Mart locations. He valued the needs and demands of the local market, often scoffing at national trends and marketing products based upon input from his customers - his friends and neighbors.
Powell's contributions to the Tuscaloosa area are countless and their impact will be felt for many generations beyond his own. Although he refused credit for most endeavors, those who worked with him recognized the passion he had for civic service. Few have matched his resolve to improve the Tuscaloosa area.
John Pradat has spent most of his life in Tuscaloosa, contributing to our community. Pradat was born in Birmingham but later attended the University of Alabama and officially moved to Tuscaloosa in 1953.
He is best known for helping others get started in business throughout his career in the banking industry, before he retired from The Bank of Tuscaloosa in 2013. He offered financial counseling and support to many in the area that benefited from his judgement.
Pradat was involved in the Rotary Club for a total of 34 years and served as President from 1981-1982. His longtime service of 28 years to the United Way began as a loaned executive in 1963. During this time, he serves as Drive Chairman from 1981-1982 and was named Volunteer of the year in 1983.
He is one of the founders of the Tuscaloosa Black Bears Booster Club and helped to found the Tuscaloosa Tipoff Club promoting University of Alabama Basketball. He also served on the Board for the Boys and Girls Club of Tuscaloosa for 10 years. He served as president of all these organizations over the years.
Pradat was passionate about school PTA at elementary, junior and high school levels, serving most notably as the first President at Arcadia.
His family values service - his brother, Ray Pradat, is also a member of the Civic Hall of Fame.
Since his arrival from Texas twelve years ago, Dr. Robert E Witt has had an undeniable impact on the growth of Tuscaloosa County. During his nine-year tenure as President of The University of Alabama, he spearheaded an ambitious plan for academic excellence and competitive strength that has positioned UA as one of America's fastest growing public research universities. The growth of the student population, coupled with the extraordinary success of its academic and athletic programs, has led to unprecedented economic development in the Tuscaloosa area - millions of dollars of investment have been made in residential and commercial growth.
In 2012, Witt was named Chancellor of The University of Alabama System, which is Alabama's largest higher education enterprise. He is making major strides to strengthen system-wide economic development initiatives.
Witt's impact on the Tuscaloosa County community and State of Alabama has reached far beyond his leadership roles in higher education. He is a past Chairman of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and led the Chamber's Working As One campaign in 2012. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority and the Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts of America. A leading supporting of the United Way, Witt serves on the Executive Committee of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society. He also serves on the Advisory Board for Elizabeth Project Care. Witt was inducted into the prestigious Alabama Academy of Honor in 2011, which is comprised of 100 living Alabamians elected on basis of service to the state.