It’s hard to believe how fast this new year is going! Tomorrow is the first of February, and for those of you who are regular readers of this column, it has been a while since Mr. “About Town” has been included. Not to worry, Mr. “About Town” Jim Morgan is safe and well and will be woven throughout this column. On a serious note, he has touched every facet of this community with his leadership, expertise and philanthropy. The list of his awards (what award will he win this year?) and accomplishments would take up an entire Sunday’s edition and more. For newcomers, Morgan even served in the North Carolina House of Representatives for three terms (e was responsible for liquor by the drink in N.C.) and considered running for governor. Thank you, Jim Morgan, for all of your service and for your love of our community.

This column is about an organization that Morgan is passionate about, the National Conference for Community and Justice, and the presentation of the prestigious NCCJ Citation Award. In normal times, the Citation Award Dinner “dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion” is attended by about 1,000 NCCJ patrons. However, this isn’t normal times, and like everything else the “dinner” was virtual (I guess the upside is that you could eat pizza or even dress in your jammies). The event was co-chaired by High Pointers Ann and Jim Morgan, a 2010 Citation Award recipient, and Greensboroans Lou Bouvier and Denny Kelly.

The 2020 recipients of the awards were High Pointer the Rev. Frank Thomas of Mount Zion Baptist Church and from Greensboro Mary Humphrey Kendrick, a nationally known diversity and inclusion expert. This column focuses on High Pointers, but a huge congratulations goes to the impressive Kendrick.

The past year has been a difficult one due to the pandemic and also civil unrest. The theme for the dinner was “An Evening of Connection, Compassion, and Community.” Ivan Canada said it best when he commented, “Imagine what we can achieve when we are not bound by bias.” During this past year the needs for the programs offered by NCCJ have increased tremendously.

Videos were presented of both Citation Award recipients. Guilford County Commissioner Carlvena Foster said of Thomas, “He is a modern-day Joseph. He has a heart and a passion for serving others. He believes in justice and equality. He uses his voice outside of the church building. He is embedded in this community. People listen. The end result for him is to do the right thing, to build relationships and to make a difference.”

Jane Liebscher, president of United Way of Greater High Point, said of Thomas, “He’s an influencer, but he also has a way of putting people at ease. He brings a light to whatever or whoever he is working with. He was our campaign chair, and interesting how that happened: A former campaign chair actually circled Frank at our annual meeting and said, ‘Hey, Frank, do you want to be campaign chair for 2018?’ Talk about being put on the spot. His enthusiasm and his eternal optimism helped propel that successful 2018 campaign.”

HPU President Nido Qubein said, “I have a lot of admiration for Frank Thomas. He is always on standby to help whenever and wherever he may be needed. If the school system wants some bonds, there is Frank chairing the committee. He serves everything in our city, everything in our region.”

The Rev. Robert Williams said, “When he goes after something, he sticks to it. He has that stick-to-it-ness that has helped him to overcome barriers, and when people say ‘no’ he continues to go forward until he gets what he wants.”

Patrick Chapin, CEO and president of Business High Point, said, “Frank is humble. However, when you think of someone humble, you think of someone soft-spoken. Frank is not soft-spoken, quiet. He is not soft-spoken or quiet, but he is a humble man. I have never seen him talk down to anybody. He is always upbeat. He is quite remarkable.”

I am just going to take an aside. I am writing all of these wonderful things about my competitor! Yes, my competitor. We are both dancing for Communities in Schools at their Dancing with the High Point Stars fundraiser. I saw him last week during my lesson with Gregory at Fred Astaire Studios, and even his dancing shoes are remarkable! While he was remarkable, he saw me be unremarkable! I plopped on the floor while trying to do a trick. I have known Frank Thomas for years, and everything they say of him is true, and his wife, Mary, is adorable too!

As Thomas accepted the award he said in part, “I thank God for giving me the ability to do all that I do. I’m thankful for my wife, Mary, who allows me to work in the community. I’m thankful that Mount Zion Baptist Church allows me to share in the community. I’m especially thankful for the acknowledgement of NCCJ for honoring me. I’m thankful and congratulate my fellow honoree, Mary Humphrey Kendrick, and I’m thankful for the acceptance of High Point. You see I’m not a native High Pointer, but you have welcomed me with open arms.”

In closing, Morgan thanked the virtual audience for their friendship and support and added, “Remember our community is strong. I know it often seems like we’re more divided than we’ve ever been, but each time we came together to resist inequality. Our community is stronger than the forces threatening to tear us apart. We have what it takes to fix what’s broken and strengthen what’s working so we can ensure that institutions like education, health care and law enforcement are serving all of us, not just some of us. Time and again we’ve proven that we are strongest when we listen to each other carefully and work together.”

Thank you, Jim Morgan, and congratulations, Frank Thomas!