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Alabama Democrats honor area supporters

DEMOPOLIS &8212;

For their first political rally, the Marengo County chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference had more on their agenda than talking politics. With U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, to kick off their event, the organization also honored 21 people who make a difference in the community.

William Martin, vice chairman of the Marengo County ADC, described Davis in his introduction as someone who understands the plight of those who need the most help.

Davis, who is only the 10th Alabamian in 188 years to serve on the House Weighs&Means Committee, went on to describe his first attempts at politics before he was elected three terms ago.

From his first efforts in politics to now, Davis said he continues to work person by person to get out a message about the importance of voting and the importance of being involved.

Davis quoted Bobby Kennedy when he ran for president when talking about the hope and drive behind the Democratic Party.

Davis touched on another issue, the current presidential election, saying its historical nature has made it an election that has brought change in the most unlikely places.

He told an anecdote about a person who approached him as he was pumping gas to ask him about a recent vote in Congress. Davis was the only Alabama Congressman that voted to pull troops out of Iraq. The man, who represented himself as a Republican, shook his hand for his decision.

After Davis&8217;s remarks, the ceremony belonged to the 21 honorees chosen by the ADC as people who make a difference in Marengo County.

Eddie W. Ayers is the current chairman of the Marengo County Alabama Democratic Conference. He is known for the work he did in the 1960s to get black Marengo County residents registered to vote. He is a retired educator.

Annye H. Braxton and her husband, Charlie W. Braxton, served in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.&8217;s non-violent movement in the 1960s. She is a retired nurse.

Dr. Walter E. Davis retired from the educational system after 41 years of service as the Superintendent of Education of Linden City Schools. He has served in many community and professional capacities throughout the area.

Camilla Ratliff-Eatmon was instrumental in establishing the Elderly Feeding Program in Marengo County and is the mother of professional basketball player Theo Ratliff.

Emma Jeffries Gibbs has worked in education for 28 years and the arts and crafts recreational program for 37 years. She is known for her volunteerism with the Boy Scouts, receiving the highest award in scouting, the Silver Beaver Award.

Eddie Hardaway Jr. is the current Circuit Court Judge for the 17th Judicial Circuit for the state of Alabama. He has served in this capacity since 1995. He is involved with many professional and civic association and activities.

Mattie Richards-Herd served in the educations system for 33 years retiring as principal of George P. Austin Middle School in Linden. She currently serves as the in-school program coordinator for the Marengo Family Resource Center.

Barrown Douglas Lankster was the first black attorney elected district attorney in the state of Alabama. He is presently the assistant district attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit of Alabama.

Velma A. Lankster-Jones is known for her altruistic efforts as a facilitator and organizer in the political civil rights movement. She was the first to integrate the Linden City School System by enrolling her children in 1970. She was also the first black female to register to vote in Marengo County.

The Rev. Fred D. Moore is an educator, administering as principal at Uniontown Elementary School and a part-time professor at the Birmingham Theological Seminary. He is the pastor of the Christian Chapel Baptist Church, where he has served since 1985.

After working for a local electric company for 18 years, Will Moore Sr. followed his dream to own his own business and opened Pat&8217;s Appliance Service in 1968. He has served Morning Star Baptist Church for 48 years where he is currently a deacon.

Joseph C. Murphy is an educator serving as choir director at U.S. Jones High School for 12 years and as field director for the Alabama Education Association for 18 years. He was instrumental in his community organizing voter registration drives and championing the cause of voter education.

Serving as an educator in Marengo County and as athletic director and coach at Demopolis High School, Rusty Nichols has served the community in various capacities. Nichols currently serves as the Marengo County Circuit Clerk.

Willie Pond was the first chairman of the Marengo County Alabama Democratic Conference. He was instrumental in organizing beats or precincts in Marengo County.

Barbara B. Pritchett served the community while working at the Marengo County Board of Registrars, the 17th Judicial Circuit District Attorney&8217;s office, the Demopolis Public Library and the Demopolis Federal Credit Union. She has been active in many organizations including serving four years on the Marengo County Democratic Executive Committee for four terms.

Emma Ruffin Pritchett was a forerunner in establishing the first licensed daycare program in Marengo County at the Eastern Star Baptist Church.

In addition to becoming a notable professional athlete for the NBA, Theo Ratliff was instrumental in creating the Theo Ratliff Activity Center in Demopolis and has done philanthropic work in every city he has lived in.

Tommie Reese is well-known for his career in the law enforcement community, where he has worked for both the Demopolis Police Department and the Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s Office, but he is also known for his musical talent, which he shared with St. Paul Baptist Church in Demopolis.

Francis &8220;Sister&8221; Webb Strong served her community as an educator and a city leader, teaching at area schools, retiring from Demopolis City Schools and serving as a councilwoman for four years. She has been a strong advocate for equality and justice for all.

Gwendolyn Collins Turner has dedicated her life to the improvement of mankind and the preservation of history locally and statewide. She took a vital role in many organizations throughout the community and has been awarded for her community efforts by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and the Demopolis Rotary Club.

Jesse J. Wheeler is a retired educator, teaching at area schools including John Essex, Marengo and Sweet Water High Schools. He was recognized by his peers in the Jefferson-Saltwell Community as a philanthropist in 2002. He continues to assist the elderly by volunteering at Woodhaven Manor Nursing Home and the Marengo Nursing Home.

Gennie Phillips-Odom contributed to this story.