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.
The 2015 honorees will be inducted in downtown Tuscaloosa's Government Plaza on October 15 at 3pm. In case of inclement weather, the event will be held at First Baptist Church, located nearby at 721 Greensboro Avenue. Light refreshments will be served. There is no cost to attend the event.
Dr. John Woodruff Robinson was a long-time Tuscaloosa physician and civic worker. Most notably, he served as a physician at Stillman College for more than 36 years for nominal rates and sometimes at no cost at all. He was a leading booster and benefactor of Stillman and received an honorary doctorate from the school.
Dr. Robinson was born in Barbados, West Indies before moving to New York with parents in search of a better education. He was one of the first blacks to graduate from Towns and Harris High School and the city college of New York. He graduated from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. He served as a physician in World War II, stationed in this country and in Europe.
After coming to Tuscaloosa in 1949, he served as chairman of the original board of directors for the Benjamin Barnes branch of the YMCA and was president of the Century Club. He served on the board of the United Way, Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of American and American Red Cross.
Dr. Robinson was also an involved leader of Hunters Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church for many years and later joined Canterbury Episcopal Chapel.
He is remembered for his citizenship and concern for his fellow man, especially in regard to youth and education.
Randy C. Skagen is a mechanical engineer by trade, earning his degree in 1980 from Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology in his hometown in Canada. Upon graduation, he launched what would become a very accomplished career in the steel industry.
In 2004, he was selected as the general manager of Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, Inc. and was elected vice president in 2005. Upon his arrival in Tuscaloosa ten years ago, Randy immediately immersed himself in a wide variety of civic and charitable activities. He quickly advanced to leadership positions and gained a reputation as a "go to" person...if a non-profit is going through a difficult time and needs a strong leader, go to Randy; if a worthwhile fundraiser needs a chairman to accept the challenge and reach the goal, go to Randy; if a board or group needs wise counsel, go to Randy. He has always accepted these assignments with enthusiasm and a smile. He has successfully guided the operations of Nucor while oftentimes serving in multiple leadership roles in the community.
Randy has frequently rallied his troops at Nucor to help with community projects, including the construction of a playground at United Cerebral Palsy and outreach to families in need in the aftermath of the April 2011 tornadoes.
Randy has served as chairman of the United Way, the Chamber, and the Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts. He currently serves on the board of directors of the DCH Foundation, the Chamber and Black Warrior Council of Boy Scouts. He also serves on the Leadership Advisory Board for the Dean of the College of Engineering and the Advisory Board for the Metallurgical Engineering Department at the University of Alabama. He has also been involved with Easter Seals, the Caring Days capital campaign and Tuscaloosa County Industrial Authority.
He has stepped forward many times when his community was in need of his leadership and service.
Throughout his career in the banking industry and since his retirement, Chuck Sittason has been a leader.
In 1980, he was appointed by the City of Tuscaloosa to serve on the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development board, where he served until 2001. He was chairman for two years and vice chairman for two years. He was the TCIDA negotiator when JCV chose to locate in Tuscaloosa and made numerous trips to Japan in pursuit of the manufacturer. He also worked with the IDA's Foundation, serving several terms as president when the Tuscaloosa County Airport Industrial Park was created.
Chuck served as campaign chairman and then president of the United Way in the 1980s and several board terms for the Chamber as a division vice president for three terms. He also served on the board of the DCH Foundation from 1988 to 1996.
His commitment to the University of Alabama has been significant. He has been a member of the President's Cabinet since 1988 and served as co-chair of the Crimson promenade campaign from 1998-2000. He was also a role model and advisor for the Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity from 1986-2008.
He served on the Alabama Commission for Higher Education from 1986-1993 as vice chair and chair of the Financial Affairs committee. During his tenure, legislation to improve the quality and management of higher education was passed and a technology scholarship for K-12 teachers was created. In 2003, he reactivated and served as president for Junior Achievement, which had been dormant for many years.
After retirement from Regions Bank in in 2005, at the request of the Chamber, he initiated the development of the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation and served as the founding president from 2005-2010. This brought numerous sports events to Tuscaloosa, including the Super Six High School Football Championship. In 2010, the TSF merged with the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau to form the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, on whose board he still serves as chairman.
Chuck also played a key role in the capital campaign to build the inpatient facility for Hospice of West Alabama, served as founding president of the Red Elephant Club from 2007-2009 and has served on the Progress Committee of Tuscaloosa since 1986.
He has demonstrated his ability to propel programs resulting in economic prosperity, strong education and youth programs and a robust health care system-facets he believes are cornerstones for quality of life in the community.