Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Dr. Thurman Echols, the pastor of Moral Hill Baptist Church in Axton, was the keynote speaker at the 14th annual Warren Street breakfast Saturday morning at the American Legion Post 6 building in Rocky Mount.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
The importance of women and youth's involvement in local government was the focus of keynote speaker Dr. Thurman Echols' words to those attending the 14th annual Warren Street breakfast Saturday morning at the American Legion Post 6 building.
"Beside every good man is a good woman," said Echols, using the two grand marshals of this year's Warren Street Festival parade as examples -- Sadie Wade Tuning and Ann Lee Alexander Cook.
Tuning and Cook both served on Rocky Mount Town Council and helped shape the council's 203-year history.
Echols, a veteran of the United States Army and pastor of Moral Hill Baptist Church in Axton, not only spoke of the importance of women in history, but also of the importance of getting county youth involved in community events and politics.
"Franklin County is a great community," said Echols. "As we intersect past and present, we have a lot going for us in the world we live in. Young people need to vote, and vote for people who will represent them."
"We need both peacemakers and agitators in our local governments," said Echols, who also encouraged young people to get their education.
"Education is a tool and passport to the future," said Echols. "Get all that you can in this technological society in which we live."
Echols received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Virginia Union University and his Masters of Divinity from Shaw Divinity School. He also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Richmond Virginia Seminary and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia University of Lynchburg.
He is the recipient of keys to the cities of Roanoke, Danville and Daytona Beach, Fla.
Echols is also past president and member of the Martinsville and Henry County United Way, chairman of the Henry County Social Services Board, and has a host of other civic and volunteer experiences and religious affiliations.
He was married to the late Diana T. Echols, and the couple had two children, Cicely and Phillip, and one granddaughter, Olivia Washington.
The grand marshals, Tuning and Cook, were also on hand for Saturday's breakfast.
Tuning, a lifelong resident of Franklin County, graduated from the former Franklin County Training School (now Lee M. Waid Elementary) in 1952 and was one of the first African-American students to graduate after the Virginia Board of Education made it a requirement that a student complete 12 years of school before receiving a diploma.
"Being the first to write history is no stranger to Mrs. Tuning," said Darlene Swain, president of the Warren Street Society.
In August 2001, Tuning became the second African-American woman appointed to Rocky Mount Town Council after being asked by John Lester to finish his term.
Dorothy Phelps was the first African-American woman appointed to council when she finished her husband Wade's term after his death in the 1970's.
Tuning later ran for council and became the first African-American woman elected to council. She served two more consecutive terms.
"I feel that all people should have a voice on town council," Tuning said.
Tuning is the daughter of Taft and Della Tyree Wade.
She was married to the late Robert Tuning of West Virginia, and the couple had three children, Lucas, Nathan and Judy. Tuning also has three grandchildren, Crecka, Lucas II and Zaraly; and one great-grandson.
A 1958 graduate of Franklin County High School, Cook earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Mary Baldwin College in 1962.
After teaching English in the Franklin County school system, she received a master's degree in counseling from Radford University in 1966. At that time, no employment in the field of guidance was available in Franklin County, so Cook moved to Yorktown and worked as a counselor at York High School for six years.
She was also director of guidance at Tabb High School in Yorktown until she retired from that position in 1991.
Cook has 27 years of teaching experience, including two years at the elementary level, four years at the secondary level and 21 years in guidance.
After Cook's husband, Rod, retired in 1997, the couple moved back to Rocky Mount, where they currently reside.
"We live in the same home I grew up in, and we love it," Cook said.
Cook served a four-year term on the Rocky Mount Town Council, becoming the second Caucasian woman to be elected to council.
The late Peggy S. Love was the first female to be elected, in 1990.
The Cooks have two daughters, Elizabeth and Lee Ann; and two grandchildren, Rachel and Libby, all living in Franklin County.
"The Warren Street Society thanks these two inspiring ladies who have joined in breaking down barriers and making history in the town of Rocky Mount," said Swain.
Tuning and Cook were both presented with keys to the town by Mayor Steve Angle.
"Sadie was always there, working tirelessly, and often in the background, for Rocky Mount," said Angle. "Ann was always out front and speaking out. We need people speaking out about what's right and wrong."
They were also given plaques from the Warren Street Society in recognition of their service to the Town of Rocky Mount and council.
Saturday's breakfast also featured performances by the Warren Street Dancers and music from Cynthia Houston and back-up singers, Renee Tindell and Lorraine Sprout.
The Warren Street Festival is an annual celebration of Warren Street and its history. It takes place along Warren Street and the farmers' market with music, food a car show, parade, business expo and other activities.