Growth Alliance Banquet recognizes local citizens for contributions to the community

Bud Bowen and Shelton Deanes were named to the West Point Hall of Fame during the Growth Alliance Banquet. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

For 94 years the West Point Chamber of Commerce, now the Growth Alliance, has been recognizing outstanding citizens for their work to make West Point and Clay County a better place.

During the 1980s, Daily Times Leader newspaper editor Spanky Bruce initiated the West Point Hall of Fame, which is also part of the Growth Alliance event.

"Every year Renasant Bank partners with The Growth Alliance to recognize outstanding leadership and involvement in the community," Tim O’Brien, vice president of Renasant Bank, said. "And on behalf of Renasant Bank we are proud to be part of this recognition every year. Since 1984 individuals who have made a significant contribution to West Point and Clay County have been inducted into The West Point Hall of Fame, and large plaques hang on the wall at City Hall in recognition of these recipients. Through an established history of distinguished service they have earned the honor of being inducted into The West Point Hall of Fame, Shelton Louis Deanes and Woodie Howard "Bud" Bowen."

Michael Williamson was named Citizen of the Year.

Brandon and Jessie McLaren were presented with the President's Choice Award for their work with the Magnolia Film Festival.

The Clay County Board of Supervisors were the recipients of the Best Downtown Revitalization Project for the Justice Complex.

Kendall and Judy Davis accepted the Best Downtown Beautification Award for Hometown Realty.

Volunteer of the Year for a business went to Graham Roofing, with Christee Holbrook and Suzanne Richardson accepting the award.

Bob and Joni Seitz were named Volunteer of the Year. They were unable to attend the banquet.

"We added a new award this year," Lisa Klutts, director of the Growth Alliance, said. "With this year's theme being ‘West Point You're a Star,’ we wanted to have an award in memory of a star that burned so brightly. We added the Donna Harris Community Service Award."
The Harris family has been a pillar of the community since Edgar and Beulah Harris came to West Point in 1928. They started two newspapers, the West Point Leader and the Times-Herald, and combined them to become the West Point Times Leader. Years later it was renamed The Daily Times Leader, as we know it today.

"While Mr. Edgar Harris was widely respected as a journalist in the state, it was Mrs. Edgar Harris, or Sister Beulah as she was known, who became the face of the newspaper," Klutts said. "Sister Beulah pounded the pavement, doggedly selling advertising, while fighting for progress in her hometown. She not only worked for her newspaper, she worked for her beloved community. Sound like anyone you know?"

Klutts said it was 50 years after Beulah Harris' death when another Mrs. Edgar Harris once again sold advertising for the Daily Times Leader — Donna Harris. Much like Beulah, Donna Harris wasn’t just in the business of selling ads.

"She was in the West Point business," Klutts said. "She stopped by your office, bringing last year’s ad, and then stayed to tell you what she heard on the street, and events happening in town. She knew everybody. Donna wasn’t going to miss a social event, fundraiser, or any opportunity to be involved."

For all that Donna did in the community, all originating from her work at the newspaper and as the last member of the Harris family at The Daily Times Leader, a community award has been named in her honor. Donna’s husband Edgar Harris and her daughter Kelly Harris Clark presented the first Donna Harris Community Service Award to Lewise Jackson.

"It was a complete surprise for Lewise Jackson. She can be seen in so many capacities all over town," Klutts said. "She volunteers to run the farmers market, work at the food pantry, and paint props for Arts Council plays. She is completely in charge of the Prairie Arts Festival student art competition, from taking forms to the schools, scheduling the judge, to hanging artwork and coordinating awards. She embodies the volunteer spirit of the award."