Some believe that ‘13’ is an unlucky number. The 13th annual “Celebrate Our Seniors” program on Saturday, August 13th, disspelled that notion. It was one of the most successful programs to date. Over 300 people attended the program to honor this years awardees for their innumerable contributions to Washington County communities.
The honorees included Mrs. Billie Blackshire, Ms. Lottie Brooks, Mr. Jake Milam, Mrs. Dorothy Morgan, and Mrs. Viola Rogers. (Due to a death in the family, Mr. Jake Milam was unable to attend, but was represented by Mr. Lewis Houser, who accepted the award on his behalf.)
Each honoree was presented with a plaque in commemoration of their service.
(Individuals in photo, left to right: Lewis Houser, accepting for Jake Milam; Viola Rogers; Dorothy Morgan; Lottie Brooks; and Billie Blackshire)
Mrs. Billie Blackshire, a native of Washington County and a graduate of A.R. Pickard High School in Brenham, has repeatedly demonstrated outstanding performance in various capacities with the Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) of Prairie View A&M University. But even before her long term tenure with the CEP, she had demonstrated a willingness to serve her community in whatever capacity was needed.
Knowing that early childhood development was important, Mrs. Blackshire began her career through service with child care centers in Furth, Germany and Fort Lewis, Washington. She also served citizens at the other end of the spectrum, serving patients in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers (Sweetbriar Nursing Home in Brenham).
Recognizing that she had even more to offer, Mrs. Blackshire transitioned to the CEP in 1976 and continued with the program through retirement in 2011. The goal of the program and her skills in quality of life management were ideally suited for each other. Using her exemplary teaching style to motivate and enrich the lives of families with limited resources, she was adept in outreaching to and assisting families in understanding the intricacies of food safety, health and wellness, parenting, and family resource management. More importantly, she showed these families how to employ the techniques she taught to protect and care for the families.
As a result of her professionalism, expertise and dedication, Mrs. Blackshire was constantly sought after as a guest speaker for outside groups, and to represent the CEP in interactions with other organizations. These included the Brenham Activist Association, the Washington County Credit Union, the Rural African-American Church Initiative, the 4-H program, Youth Leadership Lab, and others.
Mrs. Blackshire had extensive practical experience in each of the areas in which she was responsible for teaching families. This practical experience was continually supplemented with extensive research and classroom curriculum. Thus, her resume is replete with professional development courses in lifecycle nutrition, community health, childhood disorders, child growth, and family relationships. Through coursework at Blinn College and Prairie View A&M University, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in human science, with a major in family and community service.
Although retired from professional life, Mrs. Blackshire continues to volunteer with various organizations focused on helping families. She is also active in her church, Mt. Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Brenham, as a trustee and Sunday school teacher. She is married, and has two daughters and eight grandchildren.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Those verses represent the life of Ms. Lottie B. Brooks, better known to most as “L.B.”
Ms. Brooks was born in Washington County and graduated from Brenham High School. She was always interested in books – reading and caring for them. That explains her chosen career path. After attending the University of North Texas in Denton, she married a soldier and they moved to Frankfort, Germany. During her five years in Germany, she put her education and love of books to use by working in library sciences in the Frankfort Public Library.
The fact that most of the books were in German and that her language skills were not ideal was not daunting to her. She was joyful and thankful of the opportunity that God had presented to her. She was again thankful and joyful when she moved to San Antonio, Texas and was able to apply those same library sciences skills for eight years with the San Antonio Public Library. In 1988 Ms. Brooks returned to Brenham and became employed by the Blinn College Library, where she served for another 23 years in library sciences.
During 30+ years of service in library sciences, Ms. Brooks continually shared her love of books with children in particular, and people of all ages in general. She recognized that reading is a critical component of learning and being successful in life. She also knew that, unfortunately, too many children and adults do not read enough. That is what she hoped to change. Thus, she assisted, mentored, guided, and encouraged students of all ages to increase their knowledge by becoming avid readers.
Ms. Brooks applied that same methodology to studying the Bible. Although her vision is impaired, she is always eager for the Word of God. And she is joyful and thankful that He has enabled her to serve others on His behalf. Her lifetime of service and dedication, without the expectation of an earthly reward, sets a standard many are unable (or desire) to emulate.
It is often said that you can tell a man by the company he keeps and the image he projects. That is certainly true with Mr. Jake Milam. Lifelong service to God and his country are hallmarks of his career.
A native of Washington County, Mr. Milam excels in every endeavor he undertakes. He excels because he orders his steps, gives his best, and he doesn’t quit. His best started during his matriculation at A.R. Pickard High School in Brenham, where he was the valedictorian of his 1956 graduating class.
Subsequently, he entered the U.S. Army as a private and went on to attain the highest possible rank for a non-commissioned officer, that of Command Sergeants Major.
Through it all, he trained, led, and supervised hundreds and thousands of soldiers during some of this country’s most dangerous national security missions. Forever embedded in his mind are the three tours he served in Vietnam, in addition to places like Germany, Korea, and Hawaii. Or military posts like Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, TX; Fort Sill, OK; Fort Bragg, NC; and Fort Campbell, KY.
Command Sergeants Major Milam’s success did not happen by chance however. Just as he worked hard academically at Pickard High School, he did the same while in the Army. If not enrolled in personal and professional development courses during off-duty hours, he was taking military correspondence courses by mail, or college courses on-line. Ultimately, his perseverance, demonstrated leadership, and academic prowess was rewarded by the U.S. Army through his promotion to Command Sergeants Major, the highest possible rank for a non-commissioned officer.
After 30 years of active military service, Command Sergeants Major Milam retired from the U.S. Army. But his commitment and service did not stop when he pulled off the military uniform. Upon returning to Washington County, Mr. Milam has been just as involved in his community and his church, while establishing a fencing business in the farming profession. Most notably, he has been a very active member of Goodwill Baptist Church in the Washington community, serving as deacon, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, and church treasurer.
From a personal perspective, Mr. Milam’s family includes his wife, Mrs. Catha Milam; eight children; 18 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
A life of service to the Washington County community describes the life of Dorothy Morgan. Born into a farming community in Bleiblerville (Austin County), she grew up picking cotton and corn, and learning all about farm and ranch operations. This culminated with her being the first girl to have a Grand Champion Steer in the Austin County Fair. But farming was not for her.
Instead, Mrs. Morgan attended Texas State University (then known as Southwest Texas) and earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies. She then returned ‘home’ and taught school in Brenham for 18 years, a profession she thoroughly enjoyed.
Not seeing the Brenham city government focusing on and preparing for future growth, Mrs. Morgan had the option of passively complaining or actively steering the outcome she desired to see. Being an active type of person, she ran for mayor in 1982. And won, not once but 4 times, serving as mayor for eight years. She also had the distinction of being the first woman to serve as Brenham mayor. She is extremely proud of the direction in which she led the city during her tenure. However, she saw the same lack of leadership and direction in county government. Thus, Mrs. Morgan launched a campaign for county judge.
Overcoming seemingly impossible odds, Mrs. Morgan was elected county judge in 1990, along with another first for her -- the first woman county judge. She ultimately served five terms (20 years) as such. Like her tenure as Brenham mayor, she is extremely proud of her tenure as county judge in that she helped to prepare and steer the county into the 21st century, while maintaining focus on a balanced budget.
Throughout her tenure as mayor and county judge she was very appreciative of the support of the community, the city council, and the county commissioners’ courts. Although her service through elective office ended in 2011, Mrs. Morgan continued to serve her community through work with the Lower Colorado River Authority. Although semi-retired, she remains active in the community through involvement with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Brazos Valley, the Texas Council Risk Management Insurance Fund, the Strategic Task Force for the State Supported Living Center, and the State 911 Commission. In addition Mrs. Morgan operates a business focus on marrying couples.
Mr. Morgan is forever indebted to her parents, husband, family, friends, community, and God for allowing her to give back to a community who has given so much to her.
At 100 years of age, Mrs. Viola Rogers is quite self-sufficient and is a living testimony of the goodness of God. Life has not been easy for her, but despite any hardships she may have encountered, her trust and faith in God never wavered. Born in 1916 to the parentage of Will and Hanna Garrett on Hews place in Washington County, she attended schools in places unheard of by many today – places like Coupling Spring, Antioch, and Petersville.
Then began a long arduous career of toiling in the fields, particularly chopping and picking cotton. It was hot, back-breaking work that she seemed to handle with ease. She also served as a domestic engineer through cleaning and taking care of others’ homes.
Regardless of the line of work she may have undertaken, she recognized it was a means to an end -- not necessarily for herself, but for others who look to her for guidance, leadership, and stewardship.
Part of what attracted others to her was her inner strength. This was a gift from God that she received at an early age. She used that strength to uplift and glorify God’s name at churches she has been intimately involved with over the years, including John Daniels AME Church in the John Daniels community, at St. John’s Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, and at her current church, New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church in Brenham. Although she has served in just about every church ministry open to her over the years, Mrs. Rogers has been particularly fond of her service with the Mission Ministry (where she served as president), the Sunday School Department (where she led as its superintendent), and the choir (where she could be counted on for soloes).
Mrs. Rogers has been justly recognized for her service and role model status, receiving a Mother of the Year award at the age of 83, a Gospel Train Productions Music Award at the age of 93 years, as well as several walk-a-thon fitness awards.
This is not the whole story, however; and it certainly is not complete. In 1937 she married the love of her life, Henry Rogers. They had 4 children together; she was also the step-mother to two others. Her support of and to these children has been uncompromising. Even at 100 years of age, she provides daily support to her 71 year old daughter, who is with her today. When she is not caring for her daughter, she can usually be found in the kitchen cooking, or coloring in her favorite coloring books. So her vigil as an unheralded role model continues and she is most deserving of this 2016 Celebrate Our Seniors recognition.