Chamber holds annual celebration

Demopolis honored its own Thursday when the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce held its 100th annual celebration at the Civic Center.

T.M. Culpepper III was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award. His son, T.M. Culpepper IV, in introducing his dad, said, “To run a small business in a small Southern town takes a special person.”

He must have character and honesty, be trustworthy and optimistic, said the younger Culpepper.

After serving a tour in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955, Culpepper came back to his hometown to work in the family business, Culpepper Electric. He also gave back to his city by serving on the boards of directors of Robertson Banking Company and the Industrial Development Board. He was active in his church and with the Housing Authority.

The honoree, in accepting the award, praised Demopolis and the people who live in it.

Westside Elementary School principal Tony Pittman received the Citizen of the Year honors. The Rev. Fred Moore cited Pittman’s commitment to coaching the winning Demopolis High School Girls’ basketball team.

“He continues to coach to the end of the game,” said Moore, who went on to describe Pittman as a “fisherman, awesome friend and man of God.”

Receiving the Community Spirit Award was Katie Echols Windham, and Jason Windham earned the honor of Chamber Volunteer of the Year.

Named Business of the Year was Personal Touch. Started in 1997 by J.R. Rivas as a local landscaping firm, it now does general contracting work throughout the country. Accepting the award for Rivas, who could not attend the event, was Debbie Murray.

Chamber executive director Ashley Coplin reviewed the history and shared anecdotes of the organization. It started as the Commercial Club but changed its name a few years later.

In all of her research and interviews, said Coplin, what became clear throughout the life of the group is “the love the Chamber has for this community.”

At the close of the program Chamber president Aretha Muhammad turned the gavel of office over to Jacob Kerby as her successor.