On Wednesday more than 50 women and men gathered to honor five new inductees during the 4th annual Tipton County’s Awesome Women Luncheon, held at the Tipton County Museum, Veteran Memorial and Nature Center in Covington.
The annual event began in 2017 and is officially known as the Hattye T. Yarbrough Women’s Appreciation Luncheon and is sponsored by the Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture in Tipton County (APAAHC-TC). The event, the idea of APAAHC-TC chairwoman and former Covington alderwoman Minnie Bommer, is a fundraiser to help raise money to preserve, recognize and honor the history and contributions of African Americans in Tipton County.
This week’s event, held Wednesday, Aug. 18, was also a birthday celebration for the luncheon’s namesake, Hattye M. Thomas Yarbrough, in honor of her 100th birthday.
The afternoon luncheon recognizes and celebrates women in Tipton County who uplift, honor and who make a positive difference in Tipton County. Previous honorees include Hattye T. Yarbrough, Minnie Bommer, Margaret Fleming, Louise McBride, Dr. Charlotte Fisher, Marianne Dunavant, Ellen Weedman and numerous others.
The 2020 Awesome Women’s Luncheon was cancelled due to the pandemic, but this year’s event was well-attended.
The 2021 honorees were Billie Davis, Regina Watson Jefferson, Belinda Fayne Rozell, Gloria Burnett Talison and Clarissa Williamson.
Louise McBride, a 2019 Awesome Woman inductee, nominated Belinda Fayne Rozell and told those in attendance the three words she uses to describe Rozell.
“She is amazing with a servant’s attitude,” McBride explained. “She’s wise – a woman of work and an example, she is an excellent example of Christian womanhood.”
McBride also nominated her sister, Gloria Burnett Talison, who could not attend the luncheon due to illness, but she spoke to the crowd of the stand her sister took as one of the first Black students in Tipton County to attend Byars-Hall High School in the 1965-1966 school year before Tipton County schools integrated.
“I love and respect her very much and I am so very proud of her of what she did at that time in our lives,” McBride said. “We would not probably be where we are today if people like her had not made that move to integrate the schools.”
The Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr. also attended the luncheon to recognize and honor Yarbrough on her special day.
“I am here to salute one of the most awesome women in American history,” said the bishop, who is also the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Lane College. “Tipton County, you have a treasure here in Mrs. Hattye Yarbrough. She’s a WOW woman. When I think of this great lady, a woman of the word, a woman of wisdom and a woman of great works – WOW!”
State Representative Debra Moody (R-81) also attended the luncheon, herself an inductee during the first luncheon in 2017, and presented Yarbrough with a state proclamation signed by the 112th Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Cameron Sexton in honor of her milestone birthday.
“Happy birthday and it is an honor for me to bring this proclamation from Tennessee,” said Rep. Moody. “It is fitting that we should pay tribute to those citizens who are celebrating special occasions and estimable lives. As Hattye Yarbrough enters her 11th decade of life, she is still an active and productive member of society who is admired for her wisdom, guidance, and generosity. We wish to grasp this golden opportunity to recognize one of Tennessee’s most outstanding citizens on this very special occasion.”
This year’s event also included several special awards. Barrie Foster was given the “A Step Above” award for going above and beyond what is asked of her, Sandra Jones Bradley received the “Quietness Kept” award for always doing for others without asking for recognition, and Sarita Alston received the “Shooting Star” award for caring, encouraging and helping others to be the best they can be.
“These women are considered AWESOME (Accomplished, Welcoming, Elegant, Splendid, Optimistic, Magnificent and Enthusiastic) because they make other people feel special, uplifted and needed without expecting anything in return,” said Bommer. “Each in her own way has shown all these traits to people they come in contact with, most of them never realizing the positive impact they make each day, by simply being herself.
At the end of the event, APAAHC-TC Chairwoman Minnie Bommer presented Tipton County Museum Director Katherine Markley with a check for $1,000 in honor of Hattye Yarbrough and asked that it be used to establish a permanent exhibit on Yarbrough’s life and her contributions to Tipton County.
“I am completely honored,” Markley said. “Ms. Hattye is a very important part of this community, and she has a rightful place here at the museum. We have work to do!”
Another celebration honoring Yarbrough will take place in Frazier Park on Saturday, Aug. 28 where a marker in her honor will be unveiled.
Yarbrough is a former teacher, librarian and community educator who has spent her life preserving African American history.