COVINGTON — The Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce honored several businesses and individuals at the Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner held Thursday night at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.

The evening’s celebration started with a standing ovation as Louise Adams presented the R.O. Arnold Award posthumously to the late Almond James Turner, who died in November. The Arnold Award is considered to be the most prestigious award given in Newton County.

“It is an honor to present the R.O. Arnold Award to the most deserving Newton County citizen,” said Adams. “A representation of a lifetime of community involvement and achievement ... My husband and I started our teaching career at R.L. Cousins Elementary and High School in 1959. I was a fourth-grade teacher and my husband, T.K. Adams Sr., was the music and band teacher. The R.O. Arnold Award recipient was a student in my first class of energetic, respectful, cute and smart fourth-graders. They helped me on my journey to becoming a master teacher. The students challenged me as a first year teacher, and I definitely challenged them to do their best.

“The award recipient took my challenge seriously. After graduating high school in 1968, he continued his education by attending Fort Valley College as a music major in the fall. He didn’t become a band director, but his love for music kept him playing his trumpet through the years for the joy of playing. His love for music and support of the arts led him to the Newton County Community Band in its first year in 1993, under the leadership of his first band teacher in the fourth grade.

“Like R.O. Arnold, our recipient served on many boards in the community for decades in different capacities. He was the city’s longest tenured employee with 45 years of service when he retired in 2016. He has served as assistant chief of police since 1997. Our recipient was a leader in our community and our school system. He was elected to the school board in 1996 and served as chairman in 2017. He was also a deacon at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers... Tonight we honor Mr. Arnold’s memory by presenting the R.O. Arnold Award to the family of an individual who displayed extraordinary community service, the late Almond Turner.”

Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Executive Pastor at Springfield Baptist Church Dr. Eric Lee and Turner’s son Dwahn Turner all spoke on Turner’s behalf.

“For many years Almond protected and led this community,” said Cotton. “Probably his greatest asset, in my mind, was watching him serve as a husband and a father to his family. He was a leader at work, in the community as an elected official, leader at church, he was a leader as a father and a husband. I am so grateful to have been by his side.”

“Tonight we honor a man who loved God, who loved his church, his family, his wife of 49 years; his three children and 10 grandchildren,” said Lee. “We are here honoring a man who loved his community. Almond Turner loved Newton County. He loved the schools, the police department and he loved each of you. In the final month of his life, he brought back 160 guns off the streets of Rockdale and Newton County and got them out of the hands of children. That couldn’t have been done without Almond Turner ... The fact that his entire life, even in death, brought us together. As 2020 is upon us, and electoral politics looms, remember what brought us together, remember Almond Turner.”

“Our family thanks the Chamber and Wendell Crowe and his family for just thinking of my father to receive such a prestigious award,” said Dwahn Turner. “As our family stands here, our hearts are still healing, but we express the joy and pride of what my father has accomplished in his rich life. It is even more gratifying that the community and his friends are gathered here today to acknowledge what he meant to this county and the community surrounding us. As we’ve learned in the last two months, his reach extended beyond Newton County. His love, kindness, mentoring and serving spirit were not contained by a city or even a state boundaries; it’s nationwide. I’ve told you how great of a man he was, and he is great, something in my spirit brought back a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and I want to graciously share that with you today: ‘Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace; a soul generated by love.’ My father loved this community, his friends and family, and if you ever got the opportunity to know him, you know he loved you, too. That’s what made him great; his love.”

Following presentation of the R.O. Arnold Award, there were several other recognitions:

♦ Dr. Eric Bour, M.D. at Piedmont Newton, was announced as incoming Chamber chairman.

♦ The Oaks Golf Course, owned my Nancy and Dick Schulz, was honored as the Dick James Small Business of the Year.

♦ The Spirit of Excellence Award was presented to Brenda Landers, Sales and Community Relations director of High Priority Plumbing. Landers was unable to attend due to illness.

♦ The Emerging Business of the Year Award was given to Maddie Mae’s Children’s Store owners Melissa Kitchens and Amber Foster.

♦ Lastly, the 2019 Deal of the Year went to Facebook’s Covington Data Center.

To learn more about the Chamber and its members, visit gocovington.com/chamber.

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