published Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Fundraisers honor Chattanoogans

Two upcoming fundraisers will honor a total of 11 Chattanoogans for service to the community.

The James Weldon Johnson Awards will raise funds for the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity college scholarship fund. Jim Hill will be the featured honoree, and recognition also will be given seven other Greek sorority and fraternity alumni.

When the Bessie Smith Cultural Center celebrates its 30th anniversary, the luncheon will honor Ruth Holmberg, Rayburn Traughber and Edna Varner as trailblazers for their efforts in building community relations and supporting education.

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON AWARDS

The Epsilon Xi Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. will celebrate its 100th anniversary during the James Weldon Johnson Awards banquet and ball on Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

The occasion will recognize the accomplishments of Phi Beta Sigma member Jim Hill as well as seven other Greek alumni. They are: Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Evelyn Robinson Hardin; Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Mattie McKenzie; Zeta Phi Beta sorority, a posthumous award to Mabel Scruggs; Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Erskine Oglesby; Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Eddy Echols; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, W. S. Hight; and Kappa Alpha Kappa fraternity, Kannatta Cook.

Hill is a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was plant manager at Chattanooga DuPont, president of the Tennessee Aquarium and chief executive officer of the Lupton Co. After retirement, he has worked as a community volunteer serving on numerous local, state, regional and national boards and commissions.

Local board memberships include the Chattanooga Area Urban League, Public Education Foundation, Allied Arts, United Way, UC Foundation, Memorial Hospital, River City Corp., Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and SunTrust Bank.

Hill served two terms on the Tennessee Arts Commission and two terms on the board of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. He served eight years on the board of the National Assembly of State Art Agencies and was a panelist for 10 years for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The gala is a fundraiser for the Sigma College Scholarship Fund. Immediately following dinner, entertainment will be provided by Love, Peace & Happiness Band with guest R&B vocalist Jonathan Jarrett. Tickets are $50 per person and may be reserved by calling 423-757-5889.

BESSIE SMITH CULTURAL CENTER

Judy Smith will be the featured speaker for the 30th anniversary luncheon of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The event will be held Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the DoubleTree Hotel on Chestnut Street.

Smith is co-executive producer of ABC's hit drama "Scandal" and the inspiration for Kerry Washington's character, as well as president of crisis communications firm, Smith & Co.

During the anniversary celebration, three Chattanooga trailblazers will be saluted. Ruth Holmberg, Rayburn Traughber and Edna Varner will be recognized for contributions to enrich black culture, roles in building relationships and significant contributions in education.

Holmberg was publisher of the Chattanooga Times from 1964 to 1992 and chaired The Times Printing Co. from 1992 to 1999. Under her leadership, the Chattanooga Times became a leading voice for civil rights, according to a Bessie Smith Cultural Center news release, becoming one of the only newspapers in the South to editorially support the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in schools.

She has served on boards or committees with the Tennessee Arts Commission, Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association, Public Education Foundation, River City Co. and Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Traughber is one of the chartered board of directors of the Chattanooga African American Museum, now known as the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. He served in various community and public sector leadership roles for more than 40 years, including positions with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, city of Chattanooga, state of Tennessee, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and Chattanooga Community Housing Development Organization. He was the first black to be appointed Tennessee's Commissioner of Employment Security.

Varner is a well-known former Hamilton County teacher and principal, currently working with the Public Education Foundation on two projects resulting from collaborations with the Hamilton County Department of Education and community partners.

After retirement from the school system, she worked for 11 years as a director of leadership and assessment for New York-based Cornerstone Literacy Inc., which funds literacy initiatives across the United States. Her past and present board service includes the Community Foundation, Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute, Chattanooga Girls' Leadership Academy/Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation, The AIM Center, The Ochs Center, Girls Inc., Ballet Tennessee, Siskin Children's Institute, Chattanooga State Foundation and Read 20.

To purchase luncheon tickets or to learn more about corporate sponsorships, including an exclusive meet-and-greet with Judy Smith, call 423-266-8658 or visit www.bessiesmithcc.org.

Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce

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