Nine Local African-American Heroes saluted at HCC
second year, Halifax Community College held its
“Saluting Our Local African-American Heroes” celebration.
Special honors were bestowed on seven community leaders and
two HCC students during the Feb. 24 ceremony held at The
were chosen based on their commitment and contributions to
the community, unselfish devotion to others, initiative,
innovation and leadership, and willingness to share time and
wisdom through community service. HCC student heroes were
chosen based on their commitment and contributions to the
HCC community, initiative, innovation and leadership, and
demonstration of academic promise.
“American society often celebrates those
who have obtained levels of greatness in the sports arena. A
person who can run faster or throw farther can expect to be
awarded multi-million dollar performing contracts and
product endorsements,” said HCC President, Dr. Ervin V.
Griffin, Sr. “The people we celebrate are all great in this
way. They have chartered new courses and burnt new paths
through the wilderness of fear and prejudice so that others
could follow in relative comfort. For us, each of these
persons has achieved greatness.”
of Plant Operations,
Halifax Regional Medical Center)
is currently the longest serving
employee at HRMC. His passion for life safety can be seen in
the projects that he has been involved in at the hospital,
including significant upgrades that have been made to the
sprinkler system as well as other safety systems. His team
is also responsible for the setting up of the mass
decontamination station at the hospital in the event of a
major disaster affecting the community and he conducts walk-throughs
of the hospital and training for area first responders to
ensure their preparedness and the community’s safety.
Ausby is the fire chief for the Garysburg
Fire Department, and was a founding member of the fire
department in 1979. He is also a member of the Northampton
Fire Association and serves on the steering committee for
the emergency 911 system. Ausby serves as a deacon at
Roanoke Salem Baptist Church, teaches Sunday School and
participates in the church choir.
(Judicial District Manager of Community Corrections District
6A) has been a public servant in the state of North Carolina
for 27 years and a community leader all of his adult life.
with youth in Halifax and surrounding counties is well noted
through his service with several youth programs as well as
schools. Bryant has volunteered to coach basketball and
soccer for 12 years, working mostly with at-risk youth who
live in rural areas. In 1991, he co-founded Exodus for
Youth, Inc., which is a volunteer non-profit organization
that serves to mentor approximately 75 at-risk youth per
year in a four-county area. In 1997, Bryant made history in
Halifax County when he became the first African-American to
serve on the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of
In addition, he has
served as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for Halifax
Regional Medical Center, past chairman of the State
Employees Credit Union Advisory Board, member of the Roanoke
Rapids Board of Realtors, and the Roanoke Rapids Recreation
Department Advisory Board.
He was recently recognized in
Raleigh as a finalist for the Dr. John R. Larkins Legacy
Award for human service and commitment to human and race
relations. Bryant is a graduate of both Fayetteville State
University and the Correctional Leadership Development
(Owner/Head Trainer, Jasard’s Boxing Club), Halifax County
native and former professional boxer, is the owner of
Jasard’s Boxing Club in Weldon. One goal of the club is to
teach youth and adults the ideals and importance of
dedication, preparation, hard work, and discipline. As a
former professional boxer, Edmonds can impart to members the
knowledge he has gained through participating in the sport,
especially those who have professional aspirations.
He promotes a healthy and moral lifestyle, and
instills traits such as confidence and self-discipline.
Jasard’s Boxing Club is a member of the
North Carolina branch of USA Boxing, which is the national
governing body of amateur, Olympic-style boxing, and is the
United States’ member organization of the International
Amateur Boxing Association. Many of his members have already
participated in boxing exhibitions throughout the state.
Edmonds plans to have members participate in future Olympic
James E. Mills
(Mayor, Scotland Neck) was born in 1949, in Nash County. At
the age of six, his father died, and he and his two sisters
and brother went to Tillery to live with his mother’s
parents. In 1968, Mills graduated from Brawley High School.
He then attended Edgecombe Community College, and from
there, went on to attend the N.C. Justice Academy. Mills
continued his education at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn,
N.Y. In 1984, he led a group of black Halifax residents in a
historic law suit, which broke up the at-large voting system
that denied Blacks the ability to elect black county
commissioners. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In
1985, he was elected president of the Halifax Black Caucus.
In 1986, Mills began working in the
manufactured housing business. During the years that
followed, he won many awards for sales. In 1989, Mills
became the manager of Family Housing in Roanoke Rapids. He
was honored by the president of the company with the
presidential award for two consecutive years. Mills opened
his own manufactured housing dealership in 1997, the first
African-American to open a dealership in Rocky Mount. In
1999, he sold his manufactured housing dealership to Palm
Harbor Homes and became the first African-American manager
for the company in the state.
In 2007, he ran for mayor of Scotland Neck, winning
the election to become the first African-American mayor of
(Lead Teacher, Murfreesboro Head Start) is not only the
mother of two children, she is the “mother” of many kids in
She volunteers her time by driving the Northampton
County-East football J.V. and Varsity teams to all of their
While at the games, she videotapes the game for the entire
Neal-Harry also drives the bus every Sunday morning to pick
up kids in her community for church services that are held
at Branch Chapel Baptist Church.
She is also the youth choir director for Branch
Chapel and sits on the youth department board.
Neal-Harry has opened her home to many
youth in the community. She is also a full-time student at
Shaw University Cape in Ahoskie, where she is in her senior
year and maintains a 3.1 GPA. She is majoring in education.
She also holds an associate degree from Roanoke
Chowan Community College.
Rev. Robert E. Sessoms
(Church Pastor, Roanoke Salem Missionary Baptist Church) is
affectionately known in the community as a leading voice in
the Roanoke Valley and surrounding area.
He has served and
continues to provide leadership for programs and initiatives
that impact all aspects of the community and the region.
He is affiliated with the
following civic organizations:
past first vice president of the
Northampton County NAACP; past chairman of the Roanoke
Valley Adult Day Center; chairman of the Northampton County
Ministers Council for Education; former trustee of Roanoke
Chowan Community College; past chairman of the CADA Board of
Directors; president of United Community Connections, Inc.;
president of United Faith Coalition; and member of the Union
Mission Board of Directors.
Sessoms’ religious affiliations include
past moderator of the West Roanoke Association; moderator of
the Northampton County Association; member of the General
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; and pastor of
Roanoke Salem Missionary Baptist Church. He is also a
retired educator, having been employed as a teacher at
Bertie County Jr. High School, an instructor at Roanoke
Chowan Community College, and dean of students at Roanoke
Chowan Community College.
(Director, Halifax County Board of Elections) is a native of
Halifax County. She graduated from Eastman High School and
afterwards attended North Carolina Central University in
Durham, N.C., receiving a BA degree in history.
After marriage, she moved to the Washington
D.C./Northern Virginia area and worked for Allegheny
Airlines (Crystal City, Va.) in accounting for several
Taylor returned to Halifax County in the
late 1970’s. She
was employed with the Department of Social Services as a
Social Worker in 1980, and worked with the department until
becoming Director of the Board of Elections in March 2000.
She is a member of White Oak Baptist Church in
Enfield. She is
also a member of the Halifax Black Caucus, Concerned
Citizens of Tillery, and Hollister REACH Organizations.
Taylor loves to read and travel and is a sports fanatic. Her
greatest love is for children, and especially the children
of Halifax County.
(HCC Associate in Arts Student) obtained an Associate in
Applied Science in Accounting at Halifax Community College,
and is now working toward her Associate in Arts degree.
In her past three years at HCC, she has held an
officer’s position on the Student Government Executive
Board, as well as tutoring other students through the
Student Support Services program.
At the same time, she is employed at Belk’s
Department Store and is the mother of four children.
In 2006, Gee was
chosen to attend the North Carolina Community College
Student Leadership Institute, where she helped to create
numerous workshops, and lobbied the state legislators on
behalf of the community college budget.
She has since graduated from the
NCCSLI and now holds a seat on the North Carolina
Comprehensive Community College Student Government
Association Executive Board as the Eastern Division Chair.
She is also the current vice
president of the HCC Student Government Association. Gee has
maintained more than a 3.0 GPA during her studies, and
currently stands at 3.3 GPA.
(HCC Advertising & Graphic Design Student) is an
exceptionally conscientious individual who delivers without
fail when asked to do something.
academically, and currently holds a GPA of 3.94.
During the 2008-2009 academic
year, she was the recipient of three scholarships with a
strong merit component.
She is well organized, studious,
and very personable.
For the past 14 months, Price has
volunteered with the HCC Print Shop, the Office of
Institutional Advancement, and the Cosmetology department.
During this time, she has proven to have a remarkable work
ethic and strong sense of responsibility. Her family and
church are also important parts of her life. She currently
attends St. Luke Baptist Church.
Heroes from left, Jacqueline Taylor, Rev. Robert Sessoms,
Ayesha Neal-Harry, James Mills, Roy Edmonds, Vernon Bryant,
and Nathaniel Ausby
Student heroes from left, Spinosa Gee and Lagolia Price