Quite a large crowd gathered at the Dayton Community Center Tuesday evening for the 44th Annual Awards Banquet of the Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
The theme for this year was Mardi Gras, which was extremely fitting for a Fat Tuesday night. Chamber board members, officers and guests alike were bedazzled in vibrant shades of green, purple, gold and black. The décor was amazing. Once again, Mary Anne Campbell, Sandra Sterling, and other members worked their magic. The tasty meal was catered by Russell Ezer of Ezer Catering. Special thanks goes to Dayton Police Department, City of Dayton, Dayton Community Center Staff, Marine JROTC Color Guard and cadets, Dayton ISD, and Jim and Sandra Sterling (wine sponsors).
The Citizen of the Year Award is a very special honor that began with the Liberty Chamber of Commerce in 1964. When the two chambers merged in 1977, the name became Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc. A recipient was selected from both cities. R.A. Buchanan was the first Liberty recipient and Joe Harris was the first Dayton recipient. The nominee must reside in Liberty, Dayton, or the surrounding area, and must be at least 21 years old. In order to be considered, the nominee should demonstrate strong community involvement and be an avid volunteer.
Dayton Citizen of the Year
The 2019 Dayton Citizen of the Year is Earl L. Randolph. Randolph is a Hardin native, but has resided in Dayton for over 50 years. At age 97, this widower and father of nine still drives and looks after family, friends and community members. Throughout his life, Mr. Randolph has been a man who has worn many hats. He is a lifetime member of the Olive Bethel Baptist Church, Hardin. He still captivates audiences with his melodious voice leading songs of praise.
At the close of the program, the audience was treated to a medley of "America, the Beautiful!" and "God, Bless America!" sang by Mr. Randolph's son, Robert, and his daughter, Ivy Santiago, with his niece, Vera Hebert, accompanying.
Randolph is one of the few WWII veterans living in Liberty County. The Vindicator published an article on his time in the U.S. Coast Guard/Navy aboard the USS Mintaka in 2018, and recently he was interviewed to have his WWII war experience recorded and placed as part of the “Veteran’s History Project” at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
In the community Randolph has served as past president of the Dayton Civic League, Trinity Valley Singing Convention President, Honored Citizen in Hardin, Texas and Honored with Earl Randolph Day in 2012. In his own words, Randolph says he loves everyone as his own children. He adds that he, “will let nothing separate him from the love of God.”
Liberty Citizen of the Year
Diane Huddleston (FLNB) is the 2019 Liberty Citizen of the Year. Diane is a Liberty native who has dedicated her life to improving the quality of life in her hometown. She as served on the Liberty City Council since 2006, over this time she has served on many committees for the city. She has served multiple Board of Director terms on the Liberty Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. She was president in 1999.
Diane has been an active member of Rotary Club for almost 30 years. She was president multiple times. She started the Dictionary Project effort in this area. Diane has been a volunteer for the TVE for many years. She has served on multiple committees including Chairman of the Scholarship Committee from 203-2005. She served as a committee member from 1999-2002 and from 2002-2007.
She was a founding board member for the Liberty County YMCA effort in 2002 which continued for 3 years. She was instrumental in the fundraising effort to brig the YMCA into Liberty County. She also served a term as their finance chairman.
She was past co-chairman of the Liberty Complete County Committee whose primary responsibility was to promote the completion of the census data for the City of Liberty for the 2010 census.
She was on the founding board for Liberty Education Foundation, a non-profit education foundation whose primary purpose is to raise funds and secure resources for the special project needs and programs to enhance the quality of education for LISD students.
Past Chair Brian Reynolds presented plaques to retiring board of directors Eliza Guidry and Barbara Norwood. The gavel was passed to Chair Candy Rucka, and she then presented Reynolds with a plaque.
As Keynote Speaker Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett began to speak, first he thanked the two citizens of the year for their years of contributions. He also brought up some facts about Liberty County that he was surprised he had heard little about. He mentioned the accomplishments of Speaker of the House Price Daniel Jr. and the fact that Bobby Seals, founder of The Black Panther Party, was born in Liberty County. Judge Emmett went on to say that while he would not have used all of the measures that Seals did, it did take some extreme measures to change society and laws.
Judge Emmett urged Liberty County to enjoy the past and prepare or the future. In preparation for the future the wise former legislator advised training a workforce that is “business friendly and has a global presence.” He told the crowd that most every good thing in his life had come from “what someone else did for him,” and encouraged everyone to ask themselves, “What can I do for someone?”
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