Chamber to honor Air Force pilot as its own

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Opp Chamber of Commerce will honor a ltt. colonel in the U.S. Air Force, who has traveled more than 2 million miles, a retired educator who now gives all his time to the beautification of a local treasure and a hobby turned business that is now the largest parts department in Covington County, on Thursday night at its annual banquet.

Those attending the banquet will hear from Opp’s Own Lt. Col. Jim Lawrence, who graduated from Opp High School in 1965 and has had an astounding career in the Air Force as a command pilot for nearly 27 years.

He has set world record time for transcontinental flights, flew in a mission to attempt rescue on American hostages in Iran, was handpicked for a highly-classified organization to deal with response to international terrorism in the U.S., and now works part-time as a subcontractor at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. He and his wife now reside in Pike Road.

The Spirit of Opportunity award will go to Kenneth Short, who is an Opp native, who was an educator for 36 years in which 31 of those he spent as a principal in area schools. Now, he spends the majority of his days active in a local civic organization – the Trailmasters.

“This group of citizens are unique to the state of Alabama in that they supply time, money and sweat equity for the betterment and improvements at Opp’s own Lake Frank Jackson,” he said. “It is not unusual to see 30 to 40 Trailmaster members at the lake planting flowers, clearing trails and building outbuildings, and all for no pay.”

J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop has been named the Opp Business of the Year.

Joe Richburg opened his own business in his backyard as a hobby in 1986, but unbeknownst to him, it would pave the way for a successful career path.

From 1986 to 1992, Joe and his father, Troy Richburg, would work all day and be greeted by a line of customers waiting.

In 1992, they purchased property and built a building, and after 19 years of working at J.M. Jackson, Joe left his job to focus on his “hobby.”

Since then, the business has evolved into the largest parts department in the county, complete with a 25,000 square foot mechanic’s shop and a recent acquisition – a nearby warehouse to grow the business even more.

J.R.’s has also expanded its business well beyond Opp and Covington County, and now includes Florida and Georgia.

Tickets are still on sale for the banquet, which will be Thurs., May 10, at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Cost is $15.

For more info, call 493-3070.