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Afro-American Leadership Council Presents First Annual Oliphant Award

By Joe Starkey



The first annual Thomas G. Oliphant Award was presented Thursday afternoon at Frontier Texas. This award recognizes individuals whose leadership has made a significant impact in the African American community of Abilene. This work may confront societal or civic issues, address health or environmental concerns, or promote parts and humanities. The award {{more}} showcases the individual excellence in leadership as demonstrated by outstanding initiative, impact of work and inspiration of others. It only took about three of this year’s award recipient’s accomplishments and impacts on the community, not just of the African Americans in Abilene, but Abilene as a whole for all present to recognize Mr. Petty Hunter as the person to receive the award. The award is very fittingly on a board of mesquite. It has some jagged edges, some knotholes and is one of the very strong woods that symbolize Texas. A recipient must have those very qualities to produce excellence in today’s world. Part of the ceremony was a presentation of the history of Rev. Oliphant by his son. He told us that after being denied her hand in marriage twice by her father, she left town in one direction and his father left town in another. They returned together and married. Of course, this was before his calling as a minister. Rev. Oliphant raised a family while working 40 hours a week, and at one time, pastured two churches in separate towns. One got a sermon the first and third Sunday and the other a sermon on the second and fourth Sunday. He became minister at Macedonia Baptist Church in 1965 and stayed there for 31 years. During all his life, Rev. Oliphant encouraged all in the community to be the very best they could be. He was unafraid to face controversy as shown by his going to the manager of the Abilene JC Penny and asking him “Why if my members can shop here, can’t they work here?” The manager weaseled out saying “that is decided by the store in Brownwood”, so Rev. Oliphant went to see them. Councilman Anthony Williams stated that the award is intended to affect children yet unborn. He also stated that we have not fully appreciated the history of Black Abilene. He also stated that the AALC has presented $11,500 for seed money to create scholarships. Mr. Petty Hunter in receiving the award noted that he calls himself the “first black Eagle” as he was the first black to start for the Abilene High School football team. He deeply appreciates those that went before him and made this possible. He has worked his life to make Abilene a better place and to create a legacy in Abilene for Black Americans to be embraced in Abilene. “We should remember tomorrow for we are all making history today.” The first year of this award sets high standards for those recipients who will follow. Nominations are available at 701 Mesquite St. and are due December 31, 2008 for the 2009 Award.

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