The brainchild of the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and a former FAMU trustee, the banquet was a fundraising initiative to assist FAMU Athletics. He defined the event in his opening statement, saying “Thank you for your love and thank you for your support of our great institution.”
When all the fanfare subsided, the net result was $225,000 for the department. Clearly it was one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the university. The banquet honored 15 special Rattlers and was financially supported by several dedicated businesses and individuals.
Based at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, where Holmes is the pastor, the Legacy Committee, who guided the affair, put on the event in a uniquely decorated Al Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium. The capacity crowd was entertained by music, a great meal and a focused ceremony.
One of the largest supporters of the event was the Bethel AME Church. The Rev. Dr. Julius McAllister Jr., pastor of the church, delivered the opening prayer and remarks. The show of unity of Tallahassee’s two largest black churches was not lost on the event
A pleasant surprise at the event was the presence of former FAMU basketball great Alfred “Al” Lawson Jr., who is a newly elected member of the U.S. Congress. Lawson was in Washington, D.C. earlier in the day and appeared to be caught in the city. But he was able to make a last minute flight and attend the banquet. As a former athlete, Lawson was all too familiar with the importance of making history.
“Who would have ever thought, Mr. AD, 40 years ago that I would be up here in the Lawson Center? Who would have ever thought that? When you reach out and help someone pull themselves up, you never know what position they are going to be in one day to help others. I’m so proud of the people being honored here tonight because they possess those same qualities,” Lawson said.
The greeting was followed by music and dinner. The elite performers who entertained the crowd during dinner were Aaron Hayden and his band, David Self on harmonica, Anthony Williams on keyboard, Dr. Cassandra Poole and the Marching “100” started things off by escorting all of the event sponsors into the arena.
Additional greetings were offered by Dr. Malinda Jackson James, FAMU Student Government Association (SGA) President Justin Bruno and Dr. Bettye Grable, president of the FAMU Faculty Senate.
Following dinner, all of the honorees were presented on stage. The honorees were Former FAMU Faculty Senate Presidents Mary Diallo, Ph.D and Narayan Persaud, Ph.D; former FAMU SGA Presidents Tonette Graham, Monique Gillum, James Mathews and Larry O. Rivers, Ph.D; former FAMU National Alumni Association Presidents Carolyn Collins, Ph.D and Tommy Mitchell; FAMU Supporters Elaine Bryant, Ph.D, Stephanie Clarke and Eddie Jackson; Former Miss FAMUs Denise Barrett, Ph.D and Trenice Seniors; Former FAMU Board of Trustees Members Spurgeon McWilliams, M.D. and Rufus Montgomery.
After the celebration of the honorees, Larry Robinson Ph.D., interim President of Florida A&M University offered special remarks. Gayle Andrews and Lenita Joe recognized local officials and gave special remarks. The Rev. Dr. Isaac Manning offered the closing prayer before Tommy Mitchell ended the event leading the alma mater.
Milton Overton Jr., FAMU Director of Athletics, felt honored that the FAMU community had embraced the event.
“First, it is amazing to have someone like Rev. (R.B.) Holmes to visualize a support effort in this manner,” Overton said. “Second, it took a lot of work to pull this off and we thank each and every person who contributed to this project. With the challenges in our athletics department’s finances, it is crucial that supporters are developed and this event did exactly that. I would like to congratulate every great Rattler that was honored and personally thank every individual who contributed every single dollar to this campaign. Without your support, FAMU Athletics can’t perform our strategy of building champions in the classroom, on the field and in life.”