Historical church produces long line of educators

Published 6:25 pm Friday, October 7, 2016

It seems like St. Paul United Methodist Church has been a who’s who of African-American educators in Port Arthur.

So it’s no coincidence educators and auxiliary school personnel will be honored at the third Legacy Award Banquet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 29 at the Bob Bowers Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Dr. in Port Arthur. The banquet is part of the church’s 101st anniversary celebration.

Tickets are $50 per adult. This price will include a complimentary souvenir book.

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The church is compiling a souvenir book commemorating the Legacy Award Banquet. St. Paul is asking members, families and friends to purchase a congratulatory advertisement to honor or in memory of the honorees.

The emcee will be Attorney James Payne of the Provost-Umphrey Law Firm. Payne is also a product of educators at St. Paul’s.

“One of our ladies, Laurabeth Hicks, is 96 years old and worked for the U.S. Department of Education,” said Co-Chair Doris Hayes. “St. Paul is noted for its educators. There’s a lot of honorees who were instructors at Lincoln High School.”

“My daughter is a teacher and one of the honorees, Marshan Hadley, taught her.”

For instance, there are many Getwoods on the list to be honored including Russell Getwood, the first African-American truant officer for Port Arthur ISD.

Helen Matthews was principal of a school.

Lamar University was also responsible for opening doors for St. Paul members, Hayes said.

There will be special categories of those being honored such as married couple, family members, oldest living honoree and youngest honoree.

Married couples include Leroy and Willie Mae Arceneaux, Dr. Samuel and Carrie Collins, Dr. George and Lawanda Finney, Dr. Louis and Claudia Reed, and Dr. Lawrence and Thomasene Thomas. In fact, an engineering building at Prairie View A&M University is named after Collins.

Family members include Russell Getwood, Charles Getwood, Dr. Melvin Getwood, Myron Getwood, Michelle Getwood and Sjolander Getwood.

Hayes said most of their offspring are educators.

“A lot of young people have grown up and they’re educators around the State of Texas,” she said.

She added that early on the church members realized the importance of education as the key to a foundation of success.

“Educators lay the foundation for success. The only way to overcome ignorance is to be educated,” she said.

The oldest living honoree will be Dr. Laurabeth Hicks at age 96.

The youngest honoree will be DaVonna Malveaux.

Also being honored at 2016 Legacy Banquet are five men — the Rev. Ellis Allen, Wendell Evans, Fred Gabriel, Stanford Gunner and James Scott — who will be inducted into the Living Legacy Circle – those who have celebrated their 70th birthday since the 2015 Banquet.

During each Legacy Celebration “new” 70 year olds will be inducted.

As a denomination, the United Methodist pastors too have to have an education and continue their education, according to Hayes.

“We want to give credit to all of the pioneers. Fifteen families started St. Paul’s in 1915 and the lineage is still there,” she said.

For more information, contact either Co-Chair Doris Hayes at 409-293-2309, Co-Chair Carolyn Guidry at 409-982-3764 or Secretary Zelma Gabriel at 409-985-9977.

David Ball: 409-721-2427