GALLERY: Opp inducts Burgess, Griffin into Hall of Fame at annual banquet

Published 9:15 am Saturday, June 17, 2023

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The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce recognized seven individuals and a local business with awards at its annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Tuesday, June 13.

The event took place at the First Baptist Church of Opp’s Fellowship Center and was catered by Wheelhouse.

“On behalf of the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce, I would like to welcome you to the Hall of Fame Banquet. We appreciate you all being here and are proud to have this opportunity. This is our 44th year, and the board is full of people who have had a positive impact in Opp, Alabama,” said Opp Chamber President Jay Mikel.

Opp Hall of Fame 2023 Inductees
Dr. Charles Monroe Burgess Jr. and Joseph Randolph “Randy” Griffin were inducted into the city’s Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame recipients were first awarded in 1978 to nine individuals and have been awarded annually with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic.

Dr. Burgess is a lifelong resident of Opp and 1969 graduate of Opp High School, where he was salutatorian of his class. His love for Opp brought him back home after graduating from dental school in 1977 when he took over his father’s dental practice. He served the community through dentistry for the next 40 years before retiring in 2017 and leaving the third-generation business to his son, Dr. Walter H. Burgess. During his tenure, Dr. Burgess provided dental service to the Opp Headstart Program and served on the board of trustees of the Alabama Dental Association. He and his wife Renee are active members of Opp’s First Baptist Church where he has served as a deacon and taught Sunday school for 44 years.

“The first person I want to thank is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I feel blessed because I’m here, and I would like to congratulate all the award winners. I love you, God bless you, and go Bobcats,” Burgess said.

Griffin got his start in athletics as an Opp Bobcat and earned 12 varsity letters as an OHS athlete: four in baseball, three each in basketball and track, and two in football as the quarterback. He was selected to the South Alabama Conference All-Star Team for football in 1962 and basketball in 1963. After graduation, he attended Troy University and went into coaching. His first head-coaching job came at Elba in 1972. He then returned home and coached at Opp from 1973 to 1981 and finished with a 64-27 record. After retiring from coaching, he continued to teach at his alma mater until 1996.

He started the Bobcat Booster Banquet over 30 years ago and Bobcat Booster Golf Tournament, raising over $300,000 for the Opp Booster Club between the two. A scholarship is awarded to an Opp High School multi-sport athlete each year that is involved in the community and shows good character both on and off the field. Coach Griffin was inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2022, and the football field at Channell-Lee Stadium is now named after him. Each year, he recruits sponsors for the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo. He is married to his wife, Jackie.

“To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor. This is the biggest honor one person could ever have. Your hometown is a place you love. I love this town and will do anything in the world I can for it. I want all of you to know it’s a Bobcat town, and go Bobcats,” Griffin said.

Dr. Jason Cain Memorial Award
Dr. Jason Cain was the Director of Student Services at LBW’s MacArthur campus. He also served as a director and past president of the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Cain passed away on April 18, 2020. The Chamber established this award to pay tribute to him and recognize an individual who makes a difference in the lives of many. The 2023 recipient is Lori McLeod.

McLeod is a farmer’s wife, a mother to two boys, a nurse, and a student in the Associate Degree Nursing Program at LBWCC. She grew up in Opp and faced drug addiction in her teenage years. She has worked full-time at Andalusia Manor since 2018 and is currently working toward her Registered Nursing degree.

“I was very humbled to have been nominated for this award and consider it a great honor to have been chosen. Thank you so much,” McLeod said.

Trail Master of the Year Award
Danny and Brenda Bass were selected as the 2023 Trail Master of the Year by their fellow Lake Frank Jackson Trail Masters based on their commitment and dedication to the organization and Frank Jackson State Park. They joined Trail Masters in 2005 and have been actively involved in several of the organization’s projects over the years. Danny currently serves as the treasurer.

Danny and Brenda Bess were married in 1968 and are the parents of three children: Becky, Randall, and John. Danny began his career in 1968 as an employee of First National Bank of Opp and spent the next 38 years at that job until he retired in 2005. Brenda was a stay-at-home mother and church secretary for many years. They have four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Danny and Brenda are members of Southside Baptist Church in Opp, where both have taught Sunday school for many years. He is a deacon, while she is actively involved in several ministries.

“Danny and Brenda are two of the finest people you will meet. You are always greeted with a very good reception. They enjoy working with their hands, minds, and hearts and always look forward to doing great things in their community,” Trail Masters President William Schofield said.

Spirit of Opportunity Award
This award is presented to a person, group, or organization “applauding community involvement and optimistic spirit for the City of Opportunity.” This person, group, or organization is actively involved in the community through community service, exhibits a sincere love and respect for the City of Opp, and extols the City. The award has been presented annually since 2008 except for 2020. The 2023 recipient is Pam Potter.

Potter was born and raised in Opp and has called Opp home her entire life. She graduated from Opp High School and finished as one of the top students in her class in LBW’s Emergency Medical Program. She obtained her EMT license in 2019 and works part-time for a local EM service in addition to her full-time job as the director of the Opp Adult Activity Center. Potter is also the event coordinator for the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, Opp Fest, and July 4th celebrations and runs the City of Opp’s Facebook page. She is a 2021 graduate of the Covington County Program of Leadership.

She is the daughter of John and Joyce Granger with one sister, Kelly Mitchell, and brother-in-law Johnny Mitchell. She is the mother of Opp Chamber Executive Administrator Joni Lolley Ishmael (Sebastian Ishmael) and Clay Lolley (Cary Morris). Her surrogate son Joseph Taylor is married to Laura Hutto Taylor, and her grandchildren are Ava, Draven, Everest, and Jackson.

“I’d like to say congratulations to all the winners. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I see a lot of sweet familiar faces. Growing up, my family always told me I liked to be the center of attention, and this feels pretty good. My dad taught my sister and I to stand up straight, shoulders back, head up, don’t look at your feet when walking, and walk with a purpose. Our mom taught us to respect others. They both instilled in us the Golden Rule to treat others how you want to be treated. I never thought I would be honored with this award, but those principles that were taught got me where I am today. It’s an honor, and I will try my very best to live up to this award’s name,” Potter said.

Business of the Year Award
This award is presented to a business that through its actions has provided service to the community, had a positive economic impact on the City of Opp, and has been actively involved with the Chamber. It was first awarded in 2012, and the 2023 recipient is Southern Style.

Southern Style opened its doors for business in Opp in 2009 at 512 North Main Street. Savanna Jackson Bruce opened the shop offering gifts for all ages with a focus on personalization. In 2012, she and her new business partner, Julie Moody, relocated the shop to the historic Dean’s Pharmacy building at 101 South Main Street. The shop offers baby gifts, bridal gifts, and a welcoming brick and mortar experience for local customers and those passing through the city. Southern Style provides free delivery to local schools, dance recitals, and pageants.

“Even before 2009, I had a dream of opening a gift shop where I would offer all types of personalization. We came to life to offer the citizens of Opp and surrounding areas an opportunity to shop local for their retail and personalization needs. Although it has been difficult to compete with large retailers and online businesses, our customers have made us glad we opened our doors. We thank those who have supported our vision and efforts and are thankful for our many Southern Style employees. We love being part of our town’s Main Street and are honored to be selected as the 2023 Business of the Year,” Bruce said.

One of Opp’s Own Award
Since 1994, this award has been presented to a person with deep roots in Opp and has made Opp proud through his or her success. The honored individual each year serves as the keynote speaker at the Chamber’s annual banquet. The 2023 recipient is Southeast Gas President and CEO Greg Henderson.

Henderson is a 1979 graduate of Opp High School, an alumnus of LBWCC, and a 1983 graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Business Administration/Accounting. He is a certified public accountant licensed in Alabama. Prior to joining Southeast Gas in 1998, he was employed by PowerSouth for 12 years and PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP in Birmingham for three years.

He is the son of Jake and Peggy Henderson of the Cedar Grove community and married to Doty Henderson. They have two children, Anna and Daniel. He and his wife are members of Bethany Baptist Church, where he leads adult classes.

“I would like to thank everybody who had a part in me being here. It’s an honor to receive this award and was easy to prepare but also extremely hard because I can’t get all the people who have impacted my life in the time limit allotted. One thing I love about Opp that has never changed is about helping people and helping others. That is a theme I have followed for a long time and was taught to me,” Henderson said.

Banquet sponsors were LBW Community College, SIB, the JReed Agency, AllIn Credit Union, Covington Electric Cooperative, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, CCB Community Bank, Covington Eye Care, Mayor Becky Bracke, and Southeast Gas.

The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce is located at the Opp Depot on 200 South Main Street in Opp. For more information e-mail or call 334-493-3070.