McCurley, Wyatt will be inducted into Opp Hall of Fame during annual banquet on June 13

Published 11:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

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The Opp and Covington County Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Opp Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday, June 13.

During the event, the chamber will induct two Opp citizens into the Hall of Fame and will present other awards, including Business of the Year, the Spirit of Opportunity Award, One of Opp’s Own Award, and the Dr. Jason Cain Memorial Award.

Those being inducted into the Hall of Fame are Carrel Wyatt and James Edward McCurley.

The 2024 Opp Business of the Year will be presented to Grit + Grind Coffee.

Other award recipients include Dr. Brock Kelley who will receive the One of Opp’s Own Award and will serve as guest speaker for the event; Ben Cooper will be recognized with the Spirit of Opportunity Award; and Ashley Kelley will be the recipient of the annual Dr. Jason Cain Memorial Award.

The event will be held at the First Baptist Church of Opp’s fellowshop hall, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are available for $40 for chamber members or $50 for non-camber members. Tables for eight people can be reserved for $280.

Following is information on this year’s Hall of Fame inductees. To see details about the award recipients, click here.

Opp Hall of Fame Inductees

James Edward McCurley
James Edward McCurley was born in Opp, Alabama, in 1944. His father served as a local pastor and farmer, while his mother worked as a homemaker and textile worker. He grew up on a family farm, learning the value of hard work alongside his five siblings in the Blue Springs area. In 1962, he

graduated from Covington County High School with honors. He joined the US Army shortly afterward, entering Flight School and becoming the youngest Warrant Officer and helicopter pilot at 19. He served his first tour of duty in Germany and was later called to the Vietnam War.

Returning from Vietnam, James worked as a civilian flight instructor at Fort Rucker, commuting from Opp to be with his family. He and his wife, Diann, became active members of the Opp community, joining the Opp Country Club and the First Baptist Church. James taught the Royal Ambassadors every Wednesday night, guiding the youth through faith and character-building activities.

In 1973, James joined Air America Airlines, Inc., operated by the CIA. He flew combat and reconnaissance missions across Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Air America pilots were instrumental in search-and-rescue operations. James’ family accompanied him to Southeast Asia, where they resided in Udorn, Thailand, and Saigon, Vietnam.

After returning to Opp, James earned an MS degree from Troy State University. He was hired as a supervisor for Zippy Mart, Inc., overseeing 13 convenience stores across three states. His community engagement flourished through corporate philanthropy, leading to the organization of the Special Olympics in Covington County. He secured sponsorships from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Golden Flake, among others, and organized a charity golf tournament at LBW Community College. He raised $9,000 for special-needs children and was named Supervisor of the Year in 1986.

Following a career change after Zippy Mart’s acquisition, James pursued a master’s in education. Allen Miller, superintendent of Opp City Schools, encouraged him to teach parenting classes for young mothers. He provided daily instruction on course work and essential life skills, helping the women with budgeting and meal preparation. When the Micolas Mills closed, James taught night classes for displaced workers seeking their GEDs, preparing for college exams, or learning to read.

James then joined Covington County Schools full-time, supervising Adult Education, Community Education, and the New & Related Services section of the JTPA (Jobs Training Program of Alabama). He aided teenagers in job placement, offered resume help, and arranged interviews, earning the Outstanding JTPA Program award in 1995-1996. His Adult Education program won statewide recognition as Alabama’s best in 2001.

After adult education programs transitioned to colleges, James taught at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. In 2005, he partnered with Crossover Recovery Ministry to start its first GED classes and persuaded the college to collaborate. He volunteered many hours at Crossover, sharing his resources generously.

James left an indelible mark on disadvantaged community members, offering hope and confidence to countless individuals in Opp, Alabama. His commitment to education and community development transformed lives through his compassionate guidance.

Carrel D. Wyatt
Carrel D. Wyatt always knew his calling in life: to serve people during their darkest times as they buried their loved ones. His journey began in 1966 when he graduated from John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, TN. Upon graduation, Carrel returned home to Opp and started working at Ranier Funeral Home with Mr. Sam Ranier, who instilled in Carrel a sense of professionalism and attention to detail that has defined his career. During his tenure at Ranier Funeral Home (1966-1977), he served as mortician, manager, and a stakeholder in Dixie Investments, a local business group that owned Ranier Funeral Home and Peaceful Acres Memorial Gardens and Monument Company.

In 1997, Carrel and his wife Mary, along with partners George and Neva Pierce, co-founded Wyatt-Pierce, Inc. A year later, they opened Wyatt Funeral Home on Florala Highway/331 South in Opp, where it continues to provide dignified services to this day. In 1999, Wyatt-Pierce, Inc. acquired Peaceful Acres Memorial Gardens and Monument Company. In recognition of their dedication, Wyatt Funeral Home was named Business of the Year in 2021 by the Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce, celebrating their reputation for compassion and professionalism.

Carrel has spent over 57 years in the funeral business in Opp, with more than 55 of those years as a licensed mortician. Before earning his license, he worked unlicensed under the guidance of a family friend who was a mortician and in Nashville while attending mortuary school. In those days, he worked on an ambulance service and even delivered a baby. His dedication and extensive experience in the profession earned him statewide recognition, particularly through his service to the Alabama Funeral Directors Association. Carrel spent seven years as an officer in the AFDA, beginning as District Governor in 1993 and culminating as Immediate Past President in 1999.

Beyond the funeral profession, Carrel has consistently given back to his community through numerous civic and professional organizations. He is a charter member and Vice-President of the Opp Kiwanis Club and has served on the boards of a local bank, the Opp Chamber of Commerce, and the Opp Co-Op in the late 1970s. He has also been awarded his 50-year pin at Opp Masonic Lodge 605, reflecting his long-standing commitment to the principles of the Masons.

Carrel is an unwavering supporter of Opp City Schools, contributing generously to their band programs, booster clubs, fundraisers, and yearbooks. His contributions extend to the City of Opp, where he has supported various events and projects. He takes great pride in supporting those who have supported him and his business.

Carrel has served the people of Opp and the surrounding area with unwavering compassion, loyalty, and professionalism. He believes that being a mortician is a calling and serves families with love and support. He’s proud to call Opp home, always willing to help anyone in need without seeking recognition. As he often says, “Being a mortician isn’t just a job; it’s a calling.” He continues to find immense fulfillment in his profession, providing a vital service to his community with unwavering dedication.