2017 Honorees

(Aug 12, 2017)

The Brenham Community Festival honored seven Washington County citizens during its 14th annual “Celebrate Our Seniors” program on Saturday, August 12th.  The seven included Clarence Wesley Johnson, Dr. Floyd Edward Bentley, Rev. (Dr.) John D. and Helen Harris, Dave Hubbard, Gloria Smith, and Tommie Sullivan.  Each of these individuals worked tirelessly for their respective communities.  They have unselfishly made long-lasting contributions to Washington County and Texas.  More importantly, they inspire and motivate others to create better environments for subsequent generations. 

Dr. Floyd Edward Bentley

Floyd Bentley has been synonymous with Chappell Hill for over 35 years.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to serve others, soon after establishing a home in Chappell Hill in 1978, he volunteered to serve on its Water Supply Corporation. Soon thereafter, he became president of the Water Supply Corporation Board of Directors, a position he held for 32 years. 

 

Water was not Bentley’s only passion in the community, however.  He has an extensive record of service with the Chappell Hill Historical Society, the Atkinson Cemetery Association, and the Chappell Hill Chamber of Commerce.  Over the years, he has served as president of each of these organizations.  He has also been selected as the Chappell Hill “Man of the Year” several times by the Chamber of Commerce.  Thus, he is known by virtually everyone in town, and he is recognized as a man who treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Bentley exhibited that same degree of dedication and professionalism in his chosen avocation.  He grew up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and graduated with honors from Randolph-Macon College with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry.  He continued his education by obtaining advanced degrees in organic chemistry - a Master of Science from Case Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Florida at Gainesville.

 

Given his educational background, Bentley began a long and varied career in the chemical production industry.  He has served as a research chemist, field services supervisor, and senior coordinator with E.I. DuPont Company, Jefferson Chemical Company, and Texaco Chemical Company.  Initially, he was based in Wilmington, Delaware, but was soon reassigned to company divisions in Austin and Houston.  He retired from Texaco in 1991 and he and his wife Virginia became full-time residents of Chappell Hill.   (Virginia passed away in 2013 and Floyd now lives in Kruse Village in Brenham.)

Helen Harris

Helen Harris is often described as an educator, a business woman, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  More than any of those, however, she is a woman of God.  Her love of God has led her to a life devoted to bettering the lives of others.  Knowing that one can do all things through God, she follows and leads by example.

 

A product of Wills Point, Texas, Helen Harris was valedictorian of her senior class.  Afterwards, she matriculated at Texas A&M University at Commerce, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1971.  Then she moved to Maryland and taught in the Baltimore City Schools district, while also earning a Master of Education from Townsend State University in Baltimore.

Collegiate level teaching became her focus for the next 30+ years.  The first such assignment involved teaching college mathematics and reading at El Centro College in Dallas.  Eventually, she and her family relocated to Brenham and she began teaching mathematics at Blinn College.  Like elsewhere, she became a trailblazer at Blinn College, becoming its first African American professor. 

 

While at Blinn College (and still today), Helen Harris was a dedicated role model and mentor to countless students.  She served as the formal advisor for the Blinn College’s Ebony and Ivory Club, and as an informal advisor to a host of others, on and off campus.  All the while, she continued to advance professionally and spiritually.  Those who know Helen Harris, know that she is a natural born leader and communicator, who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and is exacting in setting standards.

 

Today, Helen Harris serves as administrator for Golden Years Home Care Specialist II, a home healthcare company she co-founded.  Her passion and dedication to helping others has enabled the company to grow to a staff of 30, who diligently care for twice as many patients.  She is also actively involved with numerous other civic organizations.

Rev. (Dr.) John D. Harris

John Harris is a semi-retired educator and educational administrator.  He is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and the Senior Pastor of the Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Brenham.  Currently, he is an academic advisor with Blinn College in Brenham, where he previously served 26 years in student services administration, the last 17 years as Vice President for Student Services.  He was the first African American to serve as Vice President (executive-level management) at Blinn College.

 

A product of Hamilton Park High School in the Dallas area, Rev Harris earned an Associate in Arts degree in music education from Henderson County Junior College.  Subsequently, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education, a Master of Science in student personnel and guidance, and a Doctorate in Education, all from East Texas State University. 

Rev Harris began his professional career as a professional counselor and later as Associate Dean of Student Services at Towson State University in Maryland.  A few years later, he accepted a position as a professional counselor with the Dallas County Community College District, followed by an appointment as Dean of Students for Bishop College in Dallas, and then as area program coordinator for the Dallas Independent School District.

 

Beginning in 1981 Rev Harris accepted several positions with Prairie View A&M University, first as Director of Counseling Services and Assistant Professor, and then as Dean of Students.  From there, he returned to the town of his birth, Brenham, and began an historic career with Blinn College.

Clarence Wesley Johnson

Clarence Johnson has helped countless men and women find suitable employment.  His career path demonstrates the twists and turns one goes through in that search.  Growing up on his family’s cotton plantation in East Texas, Johnson soon discovered that working in the cotton fields was not for him.  Nor was laboring in the lumber mills. 

 

So in 1944 Johnson joined the Navy and found himself aboard the USS Panamint, where he witnessed the surrender of northern Japanese forces on September 2, 1945. After the Navy he enrolled in Prairie View A&M University, from whence he graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture.  Armed with a newly minted college degree, Johnson ultimately found himself employed as a chef at a Houston hospital, followed by being an orderly, before moving on to a possible career with the U.S. Postal Service.  Knowing that this neither was the niche for him, Johnson continued to search for better opportunities.

Clarence Wesley Johnson

Clarence Johnson has helped countless men and women find suitable employment.  His career path demonstrates the twists and turns one goes through in that search.  Growing up on his family’s cotton plantation in East Texas, Johnson soon discovered that working in the cotton fields was not for him.  Nor was laboring in the lumber mills. 

 

So in 1944 Johnson joined the Navy and found himself aboard the USS Panamint, where he witnessed the surrender of northern Japanese forces on September 2, 1945. After the Navy he enrolled in Prairie View A&M University, from whence he graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture.  Armed with a newly minted college degree, Johnson ultimately found himself employed as a chef at a Houston hospital, followed by being an orderly, before moving on to a possible career with the U.S. Postal Service.  Knowing that this neither was the niche for him, Johnson continued to search for better opportunities.

He found it as a jobs counselor with the Texas Employment Commission (TEC).  While studying psychology and sociology through extension courses with the University of Utah, Johnson oversaw the TEC’s Kenney/Johnson jobs program known as Cause II.   As such he used the numerous resources at his disposal to help applicants find gainful employment.  He also motivated and encouraged many of his clients to enter skilled job training programs, like that offered by the national Job Corps program.  Boxer, entertainer, and entrepreneur George Foreman was probably the most notable placement Johnson made for Job Corps.

 

Johnson truly loved the direct contact he had with those whom he served.  He knew this was his calling in life.  And it was his calling for 29 years.  During that time he has literally helped thousands of young men and women obtain job skills and technical training that enabled them to have successful careers.  Although now retired, he continues to motivate and inspire the youth of Washington County to seek fulfilling careers based on interests, not personal gain.

Dave Hubbard

Dave Hubbard’s philosophy of life can be summed up in “I could dig a ditch, but I didn’t want my sister to dig a ditch.”  He knows that education is the key to success, and he willingly sacrifices his comforts to ensure that his family and others have the opportunity to succeed, not just at the professional level, but also at the personal level.  Thus, before pursuing his own education beyond high school, he worked to send his sister to college.  When his sister graduated from Prairie View A&M University, he was as proud of her and her accomplishments as she or anyone else was.

 

Hubbard, a native of Brenham, graduated from A.R. Pickard High School in 1961.  He went on to serve in the U.S. Army, with a tour of duty in Germany.  After military service, he studied accounting at Durham Business College in Houston, and then professional sewing and tailoring at Long Beach (California) City College.  In the long run, his path led to a career with the U.S. Postal Service.  A multi-talented and conscientious leader, Hubbard has served as commander of the Tommy Harris American Legion Post #814 in Brenham.  He has also served as constable for Washington County Commissioners Precinct One.

Throughout it all, Hubbard maintained his focus on education, specifically mentoring and encouraging young people to take advantage of the educational opportunities afforded to them, and in advocating for strong education policies by community and state leaders.  He has maintained a constant presence in Brenham public schools, volunteering for varying roles and projects.

 

In 1997 and again in 2001, Hubbard received commendations from the Brenham Independent School District for his community service and volunteerism.  Also in 2001 he received a “Heroes for Children Award” from the Texas State Board of Education for his significant contributions to public education and outstanding contributions to the success of the Texas Public Education system.  Most recently, in 2016 Hubbard received yet another award from the Brenham ISD, the “You Make A Difference” award.

Gloria Smith

The common thread though each of the honorees is unselfish service to others.  The life of Gloria Smith epitomizes that service.  She was born in Brenham, graduated from A.R. Pickard High School, and has called Brenham home for most of her life.  While many of her contemporaries have decided that they have given back enough to their community, Smith continues working just as hard as ever.

 

She loves people, and due to her infectious personality, she is loved by them.  She was born with a fierce attitude, but is compassionate and full of life.  So naturally, her personal and professional goals in life have revolved around caring and helping others.   In that regard she maintains a regular regimen of caring for several of Brenham’s leading families.  An entrepreneur and self-starter, she has been serving in similar capacities for 50 years.

Smith is just as dedicated to the A.R. Pickard High School Reunion Association and her church, Independent Missionary Baptist Church.  She is actively involved in virtually every program those institutions undertake.  An extrovert of extraordinary proportions, she is rarely without a project or an event to support.  When she does have ‘free’ time, Smith enjoys playing Bingo, watching sports, and like most women, shopping.

Tommie Sullivan

Tommie Sullivan has served Brenham and Washington County in many capacities – sports coach, classroom teacher, school administrator, staff director, and school board member.  Unquestionably, his greatest and long lasting role is that of mentor and role model for our youth -- in the county and beyond.

 

Some say his status as a role model began on the athletic field, or more appropriately the basketball court, where his record of 41 points in a single game stood for over 30 years.  However, he was just as talented in baseball.  Others point to him not letting his athletic abilities overshadow his academic potential.  In either case Sullivan’s quest for excellence in the classroom enabled him to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). 

Returning to Brenham and the Brenham Independent School District (ISD) after college, Sullivan coached basketball, football, and baseball - becoming the first African American head baseball coach at Brenham High School.   Focusing more and more on academics, Sullivan eventually transitioned from coaching to teaching fulltime in the classroom.  During his teaching tenure at Brenham Intermediate School (now Krause Elementary), Sullivan earned a Master of Education degree from PVAMU, and was subsequently promoted to assistant principal and then principal of Brenham Elementary.  During his ten year tenure as principal, his school received exemplary or recognized status a total of seven times.  For these and other accomplishments, Sullivan was recognized as a Brenham ISD Distinguished Alumni in 2007.

 

After 35 years of service in public education, Sullivan retired in 2009.  Although now retired from daily, direct involvement in public education, Sullivan continues to work with and serve the youth of Washington County.  Currently, he is serving his second three-year term on the Brenham ISD School Board.  He has been and is active with several civic, professional, and religious organizations, including the Brenham Rotary Club, the Washington County Boys and Girls Club, the Brenham Chamber of Commerce, the City of Brenham Planning Committee, the Brenham Faith Mission and Help Center, and Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church.