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2007 Inductees


Dr. Ada M. Fisher

Dr. Fisher became the first black woman and only the 6th African American to attend and graduate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison Medical School. She has been an outspoken member of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, particularly as it relates to at-risk students, equity in offerings and opportunities, and protecting the health and safety of students as a primary motivator in decision making. Dr. Fisher has endowed eight scholarships at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, authored several books, and been a gifted poet and tireless mentor for young people


Robert L. Holloman (deceased)

In addition to being a State Senator representing eight northeastern North Carolina counties, Mr. Holloman was a member of the Choanoke Area Development Association Board of Directors from 1994-1999. At his untimely death in 2004, he had won his third term in the North Carolina Senate. “His experience as a county commissioner made him one of the Senate’s most effective voices on behalf of local government,” said Gov. Mike Easley.


Howard J. Hunter, Jr. (deceased)

Mr. Hunter was a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the state’s fifth House District, including constituents in Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Perquimans counties. A funeral director from Ahoskie, North Carolina, he served nine full terms in the state House of Representatives. “Howard Hunter established himself as a leader of the legislative black caucus. Even as his health was failing, he was an untiring and devoted advocate for young people and families as chair of the House Children, Youth and Families Committee, a post he held for several years,” according to Gov. Mike Easley.

Board of Directors

Thurman Askew (deceased)

Mr. Askew was a graduate of the International Accountants School of Chicago, Illinois. A longtime community leader and businessman, he served as a board member and President of the Choanoke Area Development Association. His community and civic involvement was extensive, for Mr. Askew was voted as Roanoke Rapids’ Jaycee’s Boss of the Year. He was employed at Newsom Oil Company for 54 years and was an influential citizen of Halifax County.


Cleveland Blount, Jr.

Mr. Blount is the current President of the Choanoke Area Development Association Board of Directors and has served nine consecutive terms representing the “public” population of Hertford County. He has held a number of positions during a span of 31 years at Roanoke Chowan Community College, such as Director of Sheltered Workshops, counselor for the Student Support Services, Human Resource Manager and Basketball Coach. He retired from RCCC in 2004 and is now an Assistant Basketball Coach at Elizabeth City University.


Joyce Bohannon

Mrs. Bohannon graduated from William R. Davie High School in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina as valedictorian. She earned a degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida and served as an educator in Halifax County for over forty years. Mrs. Bohannon has been a board member for Choanoke Area Development Association for over 21 years and is currently serving as its First Vice-President. She has been involved in community service since her youth and continues to serve in a number of capacities.


Ralph F. Bolden

Mr. Bolden is the Chairman of the Board of Director’s for the Union County Community Action, Inc. In his 25 years of service, he helps lead the way to serve the needs of Head Start children in Union, Anson, and Richmond counties. He always has a vision for the success of the agency and has been there to see that vision come to fruition. Mr. Bolden is a marvel and wonder because he seems to have unending energy for his work and loves what community action stands for.

Executive Directors

Dorothy M. Gill-Smith

Mrs. Gill-Smith is a graduate of Virginia Seminary and College. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies. Mrs. Smith has served as the District President of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society for twenty years. She has served approximately ten years on the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council, the Board of Directors for Zion Hills Apartments, the American Correctional Association, and is a former Board Member of Rowan Helping Ministries. She is also a member of the Salisbury Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


James E. Johnson (deceased)

Mr. Johnson served the citizens of Burke and Caldwell Counties on the Blue Ridge Community Action, Inc. Board of Directors for 25 years. In addition, he delivered Meals on Wheels for fifteen years. He was formerly an advisor for the North Carolina State Employee’s Credit Union, a former 4-H Leader, former member of the National Teacher’s Association, and the Burke County NAACP. He was very involved and dedicated to his family, community and friends.


William Pete Kennedy

Mr. Kennedy served as a public educator, coach, and guidance counselor for twenty-eight years. As an educator, he served as a delegate to numerous state and national conventions which passed by-laws and regulations governing the teaching profession. As the owner of William R. Kennedy Realty, he provided jobs for many employees and subcontractors. He was the past treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Salisbury-Rowan Realtors, along with many other notable accomplishments.


Charles M. Schlein

Mr. Schlein is a speech/ language pathologist and has served on the Blue Ridge Community Action, Inc. Board of Directors for the past 25 years. He began his involvement with BRCA as an agency representative of the Health Advisory Committee for the Head Start Program. He is currently the Chair of the Planning Committee, a member of the Personnel Committee, and the Executive Committee. “Chuck” was instrumental in identifying the property where the Generations Child and Adult Care Programs are located, as well as the administrative offices of the program. He takes every opportunity to relay information about various programs in the community.grandchildren.


James Wright (deceased)

Mr. Wright served on the Board of Directors for the Choanoke Area Development Association for many years. He began his career as a Vocational Agriculture Educator in 1951 and retired as one of the first African American Agriculture Extension Directors in North Carolina. His wisdom, compassion and love for people was the thrust in planning and developing excellent community development/ community action programs to help eliminate poverty and to contribute toward the progress of people becoming self-sufficient.

Dorothy Nixon Allen-Freeman

Mrs. Allen-Freeman began her work with Wake Opportunity as an outreach worker. After three years, she became its third Executive Director. Mrs. Allen-Freeman initiated programs such as Economic Development and other Housing Programs. She advocated from the State House to the White House to make life better for those least able to help themselves. She says her greatest honor during her career was the naming of the low-income elderly, handicapped apartments as the “Dorothy Allen Nixon Manor.”


James A. Bailey (deceased)

Mr. Bailey was the third executive director for Johnston-Lee Community Action. He was instrumental in computerizing the Fiscal Department. In 1979, Mr. Bailey was “Jaycee of the Year” and voted “Rescue Man of the Year.” He appeared in “Outstanding Young Men of America” and in 1975 showed up in “Outstanding Personalities of the South.” He was the former mayor of Clayton, NC.


Fred Cooper

Mr. Cooper spearheaded an effort to submit an application to the North Carolina Fund while serving as President of the Choanoke Area Development Association that was initially rejected. He was not about to accept rejection with officials saying, “This four-county area was too difficult.” It was a personal telephone call to Gov. Terry Sanford and a New Year’s Eve meeting at the Governor’s mansion that led to the eventual funding of the agency.


Kenneth L. Cox (deceased)

“As Executive Director of Blue Ridge Community Action, Inc., Ken Cox worked diligently to provide a better life for children through the child development programs which helped with nutritional, health and educational needs. He understood that by working together, much could be accomplished, whether it was housing needs, employment training or providing transportation to the elderly, disabled and handicapped. When the history of community action is finally written, a prominent place will be given to this man who will be missed, but forever loved by so many (excerpts from a statement provided by Congressman Richard Burr).


Elizabeth Fields

Mrs. Fields received a Master’s Degree in Education Administration from the University of Chapel Hill. She has served as Executive Director of the Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency, Inc. since 2001. During her thirty year tenure, she has been responsible for establishing services within five counties -Davidson, Rowan, Stanly, Montgomery, and Moore. She has also provided guidance and stability to the Weatherization, Welfare to Work, WIA and Head Start/ Early Head Start programs.


Paul Keller (deceased)

Mr. Keller held a Master’s Degree in Business from Harvard University. He was employed as the first Executive Director of Johnston County from 1966-1977. Mr. Keller created many programs: the Nutrition Program for the Elderly, the first out-of-county transportation program, first alcoholic recovery program, first home health nursing program.


Jo Ann Posey Larkins

Mrs. Larkins came to work for Yadkin Valley Economic Development District, Inc. in 1967 as a secretary and bookkeeper. She later worked as Summer Head Start Director. For over thirty years, she was Director of the Neighborhood Youth Corp Program; a job she says was the most rewarding aspect of her career. While she was contemplating retirement, former Executive Director, Jimmie Hutchens, died and Mrs. Larkins was appointed as his successor. She recently celebrated her 40th anniversary year with YVEDDI. Her words of advice: “Never stop looking ahead to what you want to do next.”


Leon Mann (deceased)

Mr. Mann served as Executive Director of Coastal Community Action, Inc. from 1966 until his death in 1996. He has been identified by many in Carteret County as the “consummate humanitarian; an individual who comes along once in a lifetime.” One of his biggest loves was the Family Planning Program which began in 1966 under his tutelage. He was instrumental in establishing the Bogue Field water system and the county’s first 911 Rescue Squad. Mr. Mann devoted his life to fighting for the underdog, the underprivileged, and the uneducated.


Leon J. Penny (deceased)

Mr. Penny was named Executive Director in 1977 after the retirement of Paul Keller in Johnston County. He was a U.S. Army Colonel in World War II. He was a strong community leader and a pastor. He expanded the economic development program to build homes for low-income people. Mr. Penny was a true leader in the community, a strong man of conviction, and an avid believer in his Creator.


John W. Taylor, Sr. (deceased)

Mr. Taylor served as Executive Director of Choanoke Area Development Association from 1965-1973. Under his leadership, the agency experienced tremendous growth and opportunity. We remember him as a great leader at the agency and in the Weldon community.


E. Marie Watson

Ms. Watson is the current Executive Director of Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action. She has expanded the agency through grants and collaborations totaling approximately $6 million. Under her leadership, numerous programs have been developed or expanded. Although she holds both state and regional offices of leadership, she is never too busy to personally help someone in need.


Louise G. Wilson (deceased)

She served as Executive Director of Experiment in Self-Reliance from 1968-1985. Mrs. Wilson was a former educator in the local schools and Winston-Salem State. In 1976, she was honored with three prestigious awards- Kiwanis Club Distinguished Service Award, the NAACP Humanitarian Award, and the Winston-Salem Chapter of the Council of Negro Women’s Award. She was a legendary advocate for the poor.


Connie Davis

Ms. Davis has worked in the Head Start/ Early Head Start Program at Coastal Community Action since 1980. During her 27 years of service, she has served as assistant teacher, teacher, assistant center manager and center manager. Although Ms. Davis has a “passion for people,” she most often works behind the scenes. She is a wonderful mentor and trainer and a no-nonsense administrator who runs a tight ship. She epitomizes what community action is all about—helping people and changing lives

Wendell Edwards

Mr. Edwards received his BS degree from Shaw University and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in conjunction with the North Carolina Fund. He served Choanoke Area Development Association for seventeen years in a number of capacities. In 1983, he became Executive Director of Choanoke Public Transportation Authority—a position held until his retirement in 2007. He has been honored with the Governor’s Transportation Award, the Federal Transit Administration’s Outstanding Service Award, the North Carolina Leadership Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.


Dianne L. Lloyd

Mrs. Lloyd has worked at Blue Ridge Community Action, Inc. since she was 16 years old. Having begun this career under the Neighborhood Youth Corp Program, she worked every summer and evening until graduating from high school. This job enabled her to have money for school clothes, school supplies, lunch money and field trips. She has now been employed with BRCA for 39 years as an accounting technician in the Finance Department.


Kay McCathen

Ms. McCathen has been employed at Gaston Community Action, Inc. for the past 37 years as an outreach worker, Director of Senior Citizens for ten years, and the Director of the Neighborhood Service System. She is responsible for setting up 16 clubs throughout Gaston County and is currently the Director of Weatherization of Gaston and Stanly Counties. Ms. McCathen has inspired many with her inspirational poetry and her book entitled “Inspired by GOD.”


Bessie Mitchell

Ms. Mitchell has served the community for 34 years at the Choanoke Area Development Association first as a community service secretary and then as Manager of Community Services for Bertie County. She is actively involved with activities sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Askewville Fire Department. She is currently the chairman of the Family Ministry Community Development Association. Ms. Mitchell is also a founding member of West Chowan Baptist Association Toy Store Committee which has had great success in providing affordable toys to low income families at Christmas.


Brenda Outlaw

Ms. Outlaw is currently the Director of the CSBG Program, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer and the Agency Deputy Director at Greene Lamp, Inc. She was the Neuse River Private Industry Council Outstanding Professional of the Year in 1990. She has an excellent public image and rapport with community leaders that has been instrumental in strengthening the agency. She is well known for her uncanny gift of working with employees or program participants. Ms. Outlaw has the ability of getting to the heart of a problem and telling it like it is.


Alice Sharpe

Ms. Sharpe has worked tirelessly with Choanoke Area Development Association for 34 years as a Manager of a Community Service Center. She continues to assist low-income residents today by serving on the Dominion Resources Advisory Board for the Energy Share Program. Her current interests include the Area Agency on Aging, North Carolina Senior Tarheel Legislature Alternate, President of the Cofield Senior Club, member of the NAACO, and a founder of Harrellsville Churches United.

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