Opp Chamber to celebrate with Hall of Fame Banquet

Published 2:10 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce will proceed with its annual Hall of Fame Banquet, set for Thursday, May 13.

During the event, Preston Hugh Boutwell Sr. and Hinton Durwood Edgar will be inducted as the newest members of the Hall of Fame. Other awardees will include Merrill Culverhouse, Chuck Burgess, Jane Ricks Wallace, and Business of the Year recipient, Wyatt Funeral Home.

Tickets for the event, which will be held at Opp Middle School, beginning at 6:30 p.m., can be purchased for $25 at the Opp Chamber of Commerce office, 200 S. Main St., within the Opp Depot.

Following is information provided by the chamber on each award recipient.

Preston Boutwell

Preston Hugh Boutwell Sr. has been a devoted businessman and community leader in Opp for 58 years. He has invested his entire life to establishing a reputable business that, would not only provide a full service gas and wrecker service, but also provide employment opportunities and job security for the citizens of Opp.

Preston was born April 16, 1941, to Clemmie Rosco and Ethel Stinson Boutwell of Coffee County.  The Boutwell Family transitioned to Covington County and settled in Opp in 1946.  Preston has remained in Opp since that time, choosing to make city his “home.” He truly loves his city and his community.

As a young man, Preston worked his way through high school and college. He was Senior Class President of the 1960 graduating class of Opp High School.  After graduation, he attended Troy State College where he studied business. He married Shirley Alford in 1963 and the couple now have three children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. The three children, Leigh Hall; Carol Blair (Mitch); and Preston H. Boutwell, Jr. (Jan), currently reside in Opp and serve the community as teachers and business owners.

The Opp Exxon and Wrecker Service began in 1963 as the Opp Esso Station. Adding one wrecker to the service in 1971, Preston expanded his total fleet of wreckers to five, both large and small with the capacity to assist the local trucking company.

Preston is not only an established businessman but also served the community in similar appointments.  He served for 25 years as a member of the Opp City School Board. He is a deacon and member of Southside Baptist Church.  Additionally,  Preston coached and still supports Opp Parks and Recreation Services and has served as a member of the Emergency Service in Opp, having been nominated as the Rescue Person of the Year.

Boutwell has a generous nature and a true concern for human welfare. He is a local hero who does not ask for recognition, but who should be applauded for his contributions to the City of Opp, the church he serves, and the family he loves.  Preston is a man who has spent his life working in Opp, working for the betterment of his city and community.  If you should ask him today how he is doing, he will tell you, “I’ve never had a bad day in my life.”

Hinton Durwood Edgar

Hinton Durwood Edgar was born August 16, 1941, to Ida and Arthur Casey Edgar in Poley, Alabama.  Edgar married the former Martha Petty Edgar in 2000 and is father to Melanie Edgar, Emily Edgar, Mindell Edgar Glisson, Macie Edgar Taylor, Angus Edgar, and Garrett Smith.  He is the proud grandfather of Ali Taylor Goins, Maggie Taylor, Sara Rebekah Glisson Moulton, Thomas Glisson, Sarah Beth Smith, Sadie Claire Smith, and Daxton Edgar, and great-grandfather to Sailor Goins. 

Born at a time when the American economy was just beginning to escape the effects of the Great Depression, his father, Casey Edgar was in the Air Force and his absence necessitated that the family’s “growing up years” be spent living with his grandparents on their farm in Poley and later at the country store in Green Bay, Alabama.  Durwood (or Buck as he was nicknamed) spent many hours at his grandfather’s feet, both in the Poley home and later at the farm, absorbing the lessons of life that would serve him well in later life.  Durwood often speaks of “selling trips” into the mill village with his grandfather with produce and counts it as some of the happiest days of his life. “We were poor, but everyone else was too, so we didn’t know the difference.”  H.D. credits his paternal grandparents, James Lewis and Francis Dolly Edgar, for providing many happy memories of growing up in Covington County.  His maternal grandparents were Dudley and Lela Mae Knight.

After his graduation from Opp High School in 1959, Durwood began a search-for-work odyssey that required leaving Alabama and joining his parents at Kincheloe Air Force Base in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He found employment at a local power company and also worked at the Air Force base service station. After two years of Michigan winters, he decided to return to Alabama where he tried his hand at various jobs before settling in on what was to be his job for life.  “When my father got out of the Air Force, he went into the trucking business, and I decided that I would try it too,” he said. “I bought my first truck and trailer in 1965, and we began to grow into the company we are today.”  That single truck was the beginnings of one of the largest employers in Opp.  Hauling fresh flowers from California was the beginning “seed” which now includes short- and long-haul delivering of goods.

While the trucking company was growing, so was Durwood’s contribution to the city he loves.  Believing that education is the answer to the problems facing the city and country, he began to focus his time and energy into the education of our youth, both as a member of the Opp City School Board of Education for 12 years and as a two-term mayor of Opp.  As chairman of the Board of Education and then as Opp mayor, H. D. forged a closer relationship between the school system and the City of Opp. “Two entities working together can accomplish much more than one alone,” he said, and he put that thought into action by coupling his personal resources, the Opp Board of Education resources, and the City of Opp resources into what he considers as one of his most rewarding endeavors—the replacement of antiquated South Highland Elementary School with a new and state-of-the art Opp Elementary School.  His administration was also able to save the last (and newest) South Highland addition from demolition.  It was transformed into a safe place for mothers and fathers to take their young preschool children and subsequently turned over to the Opp Head Start program.

While serving eight years as mayor, Edgar was instrumental in finding funding for the transit system that transports the majority of children to school each day.  He was also instrumental in finding funds for the old National Guard Armory and revamping it for a school bus garage, and as mayor, partnered with the Opp Board of  Education to renovate Channell-Lee Stadium, making it a modern facility with complete handicap accessibility, a press box, and updated restrooms and concession stands.  Always keeping the children in mind, Edgar worked to improve and rejuvenate the City of Opp Recreation Center by adding a t-ball field and adding modern restrooms and a concession stand.  He again worked in partnership with the Opp Board of Education by aiding in the reclamation of the girls’ softball field behind Opp Middle School.

The Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo had languished for a couple years before it was moved to Andalusia, and as a hallmark of his first year in office, Edgar returned the rodeo to its original home — the City of Opp.  Edgar vowed to make the rodeo successful, to bring big-name entertainers in, make money for the city and to keep it affordable for the average citizens.  He and the council achieved these goals in the first year and in eight years added $200,000 back into the city’s general fund, after paying expenses.

Edgar’s accomplishments during his tenure as mayor are many and varied. He partnered with the Opp Masonic Lodge and the late Ben Reynolds to institute the annual Memorial Day Observation. He was instrumental in bringing new manufacturing to Opp, while encouraging the growth of “already-in-place” businesses.

Always willing to go above and beyond for his city, in 2010, in an effort to draw attention and publicity for an upcoming airport air show, Edgar became the only elected official to make a tandem parachute jump prior to the show. “Jumping out of a plane at over 10,000 feet in the air doesn’t seem like a sane decision,” he said at the time. “But it got us a lot of publicity and the air show was a huge success.”

In addition to serving as mayor, Edgar was involved in the formation of the Opp Saddle Club and served as its first president. He also served as president of the Opp Kiwanis Club, Opp Country Club, and the Covington County Rodeo Association. He was the co-promoter of the Opp Professional Cowboy Association and the Opp Championship Rodeo and served as director of the Alabama High School Rodeo Association. Edgar is also a member of the Alabama Trucking Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Alabama Traffic Organization, a member of the Masonic Lodge 605, and served as Chairman of Southeast Alabama Gas District board. As a member of Memorial United Methodist Church and a trustee, Edgar implemented a van ministry, served as a lay speaker, and played a role on the parish-parson relations committee.

Merrill Culverhouse

Merrill Culverhouse, a native of Opp, is the son of the late Vernon and Nell Culverhouse. He is a 1988 graduate of Opp High School and a 1993 graduate of Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy. Merrill is married to Susan Davis Culverhouse, and they have one daughter, Merrill Ann, who is a junior at Auburn University. Merrill and his family are members of the First Baptist Church of Opp.                                                                                                                                               Merrill serves on the Opp City Schools Board of Education, is a member of the Covington County Pharmaceutical Association, Opp Rotary Club, Opp Chamber of Commerce, Opp Bobcat Booster Club, and a lifetime member of the Auburn Alumni Association. He previously served on the Douglas McArthur State Technical College Foundation Board of Directors. 

He and his wife, Susan, own and operate Crenshaw Drugs in Luverne. Merrill also serves as president of SDC Investments, LLC and VMC Group, LLC. dba Wheelhouse.

Merrill is a colon and kidney cancer survivor and a Colon Cancer Awareness advocate. He has attended Fight CRC’s call on Congress multiple times in Washington D.C. to petition Congress for funding research and to remove barriers for screenings for Medicare patients. Merrill also helped his daughter, along with Rumpshaker 5K from Birmingham, to secure Alabama’s first Colon Cancer Awareness car tag, which is only the second in the nation, and the monies raised are used to help to promote colon cancer awareness and help colon cancer patients and their families.

In his spare time, Merrill enjoys spending time with his family, watching and attending Auburn sporting events, and he can frequently be found at Wheelhouse. The City of Opp has certainly felt the positive impact of having Merrill and Susan’s vision for Wheelhouse come to fruition on the corner of East Hart and Main Street. Furthermore, the City of Opp is proud to call Merrill “One of Opp’s Own” because he has truly revealed through his actions that Opp is his home, the place where his roots are firmly planted and the place he intends to support as it grows, prospers, and thrives. 

Church Burgess Jr.

Dr. Charles M. (Chuck) Burgess, Jr. is a native of Opp and a 1969 graduate of Opp High School. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1972.  Dr. Burgess met his wife Renee while in    Birmingham, where she taught kindergarten while he  attended dental school.  Upon graduation, the young couple moved “back home” to the bustling community of Opp.

It was here they reared their three sons: Trey, Walt, and Allen. They will both tell you they are very fortunate because all three of their sons have chosen to return to Opp to begin their careers and rear their families. Trey, an attorney, and wife Taina have one son, Charlie, and another one “on the way.”  Walt and wife Jan have four children: Bethany, Parker, Brooke, and Joel. Walt joined his dad’s dental practice and is now sole owner, and Allen is a loan officer at CCB.

Chuck joined his dad’s, Dr. Charles (Charlie) Burgess Sr., dental practice in 1977.  After working two weeks, the elder Dr. Burgess decided to take a two-week vacation.  After week one, he called to say he had decided to retire and wasn’t coming back to work.

Except for his time being educated, Dr. Burgess has lived his entire life in Opp and is deeply rooted here.  He has served Opp through Rotary for 42 years, including two terms as president. He has served on the board of trustees of the Alabama Dental Association and as president of the Third District (southeast Alabama) Dental Society.  He was a founding member and past president of the In Office Aid Group, an association of dentists in south Alabama who volunteer their time working for fellow dentists who find themselves unable to work.  He was also a founding member of the Opp City Schools Foundation and is a Bobcat Booster. He currently serves on the board of the South Alabama Regional Airport and on the Opp Chamber board, serving many years as chairman of the transportation committee. He is a member and past chairman of the Crenshaw County Treasure Forest Association. Chuck and Renee are both active members of First Baptist Church where he serves as a Sunday School teacher and deacon, among many other roles.

Since his retirement from the active practice of dentistry in 2017, Dr. Burgess keeps himself busy tree farming and playing with his grandchildren. He is a very passionate and vocal advocate for the city of Opp.

Wyatt Funeral Home

Carrel D. Wyatt, co-owner and co-founder of Wyatt Funeral Home, graduated from John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, Tennessee in 1966 and spent 32 years in the funeral profession before opening the doors of his own funeral home.

In 1997, Wyatt-Pierce, Incorporated was formed by Carrel and Mary Wyatt, along with their partners George and Neva Pierce.  It was from this corporation that Wyatt Funeral Home was established with the grand opening being held May 3, 1998. 

In addition to opening Wyatt Funeral Home, Wyatt-Pierce purchased Peaceful Acres Memorial Gardens 15 months later. Twenty-two years later, Wyatt Funeral Home has a staff of three, with a combined 100 years of experience. The staff includes Carrel, Daron Wilson, and Carrel Ann Wyatt Spears (daughter of Carrel and Mary Wyatt) who serve Opp and the surrounding communities.

Carrel, Daron, and Carrel Ann pride themselves in taking care of the families they serve with the same compassion and loyalty they would want their families to receive in their time of need. Wyatt Funeral Home has provided an essential service to the City of Opp and Covington County for many years.  This business has proven itself to be not only trustworthy and compassionate, but also generous with its time and money.

Jane Wallace

Jane Ricks Wallace, the 2021 Trail Master of the Year, has lived in Opp most of her life. She was married to Felton Wallace for 59 years, and they have two daughters: Lori (Ricky) Messick and Keri (Rickey) Johns.

Jane is a graduate of Opp High School and Troy State University of Dothan. She is a member of Southside Baptist Church and works with the Prayer Quilt Ministry. While working with the Trail Masters keeps her busy, Jane still finds time to be an active member of the Opp Quilters Guild and the Covington County Quilt Guild.

Trail Masters’ President Mr. Charles Willis provided multiple reasons for Jane being selected for the Trail Master of the Year award. 

“She organizes all the preparations for the meals at the monthly meetings.  Jane is always available to assist with the Trail Masters’ annual Scarecrows in the Park event. Behind the scenes, Jane contacts sick members of the Trail Masters’ organization to see if they are in need of anything.  Whatever Jane Wallace does for Trail Masters, she does well and without fanfare. She has a humble spirit and a compassionate heart.”