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Persons of the Year: Fowler, Crockett receive high honors at 34th MLK Brunch

Each year the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Brunch and Celebration includes moving songs, words of encouragement and an element of surprise.

Gladdie Fowler and Nakia Crockett were the surprised honorees Monday at the 34th annual event in the Bob Bowers Civic Center. Fowler and Crockett were named Woman and Man of the Year by the Martin Luther King Jr. Support Group of Southeast Texas, the organization behind the brunch.

“I just go about my work in the community putting God first,” Fowler said. “I’m very involved in the community, and I just do my regular community work, take care of my husband and family and do what I do unto the Lord.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day performers and honorees include saxophonist Evan Thompson, author Damon West, Jefferson County criminal investigator Marcelo Molfino, the Rev. Donald Bonnie, Port of Beaumont Commissioner Georgine Guillory, scholarship winners Taylor Getwood, My’reaka Maxwell and Giavanna Matthews, Port of Beaumont Commissioner Linda Spears, models Dominique Brannon and Shaylan Simon and Port Arthur ISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20

God 1st is the name of the business Crockett owns — except he thinks of it more as a “total movement.”

“We train teens and at-risk people on jobs,” said Crockett, whose store is located at 2640 Memorial Blvd. in Port Arthur. “You can be strong and we’re going to support you until you’re strong enough to support yourself. Here, we allow them to make mistakes. We show them the things you cannot do when you go into the workplace.”

The Man and Woman of the Year honors haven’t always been a surprise for the recipients at the brunch, event organizer Terry Savoy-Hadley said.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie greets attendees to Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Brunch and Celebration. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20

“About eight years ago, I wanted it to be suspense, just so people can have something to look forward to,” she said.

About 1,000 attended Monday’s brunch, exceeding Savoy-Hadley’s expectation by 200.

Fowler, a retired educator, and Crockett were selected for their work in the community. Fowler “wears many hats” as a volunteer while focusing on students and the elderly, and Crockett helps out in the community by giving away door prizes and food at different events, Savoy-Hadley said.

The MLK Praise Dancers perform on the Bob Bowers Civic Center stage Monday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20

“We give a little service to the elderly because they’re forgotten once they retire,” Crockett said. “We try to serve them and give them a little something.”

The Port Arthur Independent School District received the Spirit Award. The district is celebrating its 120th year of existence.

“Not many people know this, but we were the first district in the state of Texas to have kindergarten and the first district in the state to include 12th grade,” PAISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said. “On May 15 this year, we will graduate the first student in our district’s history with an associate’s degree from Lamar State College [Port Arthur]. You can get your high school diploma here, you can go on to Lamar State College and get your associate’s degree and then go on to Lamar University in Beaumont, all while staying at home with your parents. If you want it, we have it.”

Memorial High School assistant principal Dwight Wagner and Marcus Tezeno performed a song celebrating the Port Arthur ISD’s 120th anniversary Monday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20

Fowler and her husband Eddie each spent more than 44 years as educators and retired as principals in the Port Arthur ISD. She said her life is not based on receiving awards.

“When you put God first and you continue to serve with a made-up committed mind, you don’t get out of the way because you receive an award,” Fowler said.

The MLK Support Group, founded and headed by Savoy-Hadley’s mother Hargie Faye Savoy, also organized a worship service Sunday at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Port Arthur. Local pastors Donald Bonnie, Kevin T. Domingo Sr. and Donald Ray Frank were honored with the Let Freedom Ring awards at that event.

Baton Rouge, La., minister Bishop Rickey T. Washington delivers the keynote address during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Brunch and Celebration. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20

MLK Honorees each gave a short video message Monday about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The honorees included Port of Beaumont Commissioner Georgine Guillory, Ricky Jason, Marcelo Molfino, Amada Perez-Moody, Port of Port Arthur Commissioner Linda Turner Spears, Fred Vernon and Damon West.

Models Dominique Brannon and Shaylan Simon, both of whom performed in New York shows in 2019, were Entertainment Honorees, and high school students Taylor Getwood, Giavanna Matthews and My’Reaka Maxwell received scholarships.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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