February 14-- Over 275 people gathered to celebrate the legacy of a great man who directly impacted thousands of college students and indirectly influenced the lives of countless more through those students.
The Warren C. Crawley Sr. Celebration of Heritage Banquet was organized by the descendants of Crawley and the administration of Brewton-Parker College with the sponsorship of Ameris Bank. It was held at First Baptist Church of Vidalia.
Crawley was a man who overcame his early years spent as a slave to become a successful Montgomery County businessman. His generosity helped to found the Warrens Chapel Methodist Church, now known as the Nepsey-Warren United Methodist Church, and the Union Baptist Institute, which is now known as Brewton-Parker College. The latter is especially noteworthy because Crawley donated the five acres required to complete the fifteen-acre tract even when his own children and grandchildren would not be allowed to attend the school due to segregation.
Dr. Steve Echols, President of Brewton-Parker, stated during the banquet: “I think the legacy of Warren C. Crawley is love. A man who had been a slave, who had every right to be bitter…was able to have the kind of love that comes through Jesus Christ.”
In the spirit of Crawley’s legacy of love and Black History Month, nine other influential personages in the Southeast Georgia region were honored at the banquet for their contributions to the community: Samuel Baker, A. Tim Chatham, Johnny Culver, Alice Troup Harvey (posthumously), Erma Wakefield Jenkins, Cora Johnson, Russ Little, Fred Stokes, and James Whitehead.
Stokes - an honoree, Vidalia native, and former NFL player – served as speaker for the event. His message focused on how actions that are done in secret will be rewarded openly. Stokes urged his listeners to follow Crawley’s example: “When you see an opportunity, what are you going to do about it? And yes, this is a great moment to honor a great man. But what opportunities are standing in front of you that you are going to embrace?”
Fred Stokes, former NFL player and a native to Vidalia, with Dr. Steve Echols, president of Brewton-Parker College at the Warren C. Crawley Sr. Celebration of Heritage Banquet on February 3.
The banquet was well-attended by local pastors, Brewton-Parker faculty and staff, and more. The desire to celebrate Crawley’s legacy united people of differing races, ages, and even hometowns.
Before the banquet dismissed, Echols shared his vision for the future of Brewton-Parker. This plan includes permanently honoring Crawley’s legacy by renaming the current Baron Ridge area to the Warren C. Crawley Commons. Echols announced that the Crawley Campaign seeks to raise the necessary $350,000 to complete this area with a fourth male dormitory. “We want to send forth a generation of people who emulate Warren C. Crawley. This day and time needs more than ever to see that kind of love," he said.