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City Council recognizes 2020 Local Legends

Published on November 12, 2020 under RRnews
City Council recognizes 2020 Local Legends

The Historic Preservation Commission announced this year’s Local Legend Award honorees at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Charlie Culpepper, George White, Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft and St. Paul AME Church were recognized for their contributions to the culture, development, and history of the community.

The Local Legend Awards program was established in 1991 and has since honored not only people, but organizations, places and even a book. Award recipients are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Importance to the City’s founding or growth;
  • Association with an historic place or event;
  • Impact of service to the community’s history, development or culture;
  • Achievements that have brought honor and distinction to the City of Round Rock.

Local Legends are awarded a certificate of recognition and recognized on a plaque that lists all past honorees since the program’s inception.

Historic Preservation Commission Chair Sharon Whitaker, Vice-Chair Pamela Anderson and Selection Committee Chair Jen Henderson presented the awards and highlighted some of the accomplishments of each of the award recipients. This year’s award honorees were:

Charlie Culpepper  

Charlie has served the City of Round Rock, the state, and its residents for over 38 years. Charlie moved to Round Rock in 1977 with his wife Kathy after graduating from the University of Texas and serving in the Navy Reserves. At that time, Round Rock had a population of 5,000. He was elected to the City Council in 1989 and then Mayor in 1993. As Mayor Pro-Tem and Mayor, he helped the Legislature work out details of enabling legislation to allow the sales tax arrangement that clinched Round Rock as the new headquarters for Dell Computers. In 1995, he negotiated a partnership agreement to build Mickie Kresbach swimming pool on land owned by the school district. He later led the effort to develop the Round Rock Higher Education Center, which now serves over 12,000 students annually.

In 1996, Reid Ryan contacted Charlie about bringing minor league baseball to Central Texas. Charlie suggested incorporating a conference center to the stadium, allowing both to be built with hotel occupancy taxes instead of property taxes. Voters approved the measure by 74 percent. The first pitch at Dell Diamond was thrown in 2000.

After leaving office, Charlie has served on 15 different boards or community development committees that have served Round Rock. 

George White

For over two decades, George White has led and served in many organizations that have greatly improved the Round Rock community. George and his family moved to Round Rock in 1998 for a position at Abbott Laboratories, where he rose to become Director of Operations for the Austin Area. Before this, he received an MBA from the University of North Carolina and served as a US Army officer in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star.

While serving on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater Williamson County, George became the voice of the Y’s leadership and served as unpaid interim CEO for six months while spearheading the nationwide search for a permanent CEO. He received the Y’s highest award when he was named to its Triangle of Honor.

George’s dedication to our military continued as Commander of the Round Rock Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9078. He was named an All-State and All-American commander for 2010-2011. He serves as committee chairman of the David Hood endowment at the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, whose mission is to support veterans and animal welfare.

In 2016, Congressman John Carter awarded him the Congressional Veterans Commendation Award for his dedication and service.

George served on the Board of Directors for St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center for 10 years, including five as its chairman. He has been the Secretary of the Rural Capital Workforce Development Board, served as President of the Round Rock Noon Rotary Club and as a member of the Round Rock Police/Citizen Review Board. As chairman of the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, he secured a long tern water source for Round Rock. He is a member of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and was named Citizen of the Year in 2005. George served on the City Council of Round Rock for eight years, the last two as Mayor Pro-Tem.

Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft

Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft was a community civil rights leader and community organizer that President Jimmy Carter called a “national treasure” for her leadership in the Texas Civil Rights Movement. 

Juanita was born in Round Rock in 1902 to David and Eliza Shanks, both teachers in local segregated schools. After her mother died of tuberculosis in 1918, Juanita finished high school at Austin’s Anderson High School while her father moved to Columbus for a principalship. She attended Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, then returned to Austin for a teaching certificate from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University). By 1925, she moved to Dallas, where she met and married Johnny Edward Craft in 1937.

Her activism began she joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1935, becoming its membership chairman, and later field organizer. She and Lulu Belle White of Houston traveled the state for 11 years, organizing 182 branches of the Texas NAACP and fundraising for litigation. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once observed that “what the NCAAP accomplished in Texas could not have transpired without her.”

Her work as Youth Council Advisor became a prototype for other NAACP youth groups throughout the country. She led the youth group picketing lunch counters, restaurants, theaters, public transportation, and the State Fair of Texas to protest segregation and discriminatory admission policies. Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, she worked to integrate the Dallas Independent School District, North Texas State College and The University of Texas Law School.

Her service has been recognized with many awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award in 1984. In 1969, she received Dallas’ highest civic award for helping end fraudulent recruiting by Dallas trade schools. The Dallas Parks Department dedicated the Craft Recreation Center to celebrate her 72nd birthday in 1974.

She was elected to the Dallas City Council in 1975, championing measures to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, obtain fair housing and strengthen code enforcement and historic preservation. After her death in 1985, her foundation donated her home to the Dallas Parks Department to become the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House Museum. She is quoted as saying, “I had no children, so I adopted the world.”

St. Paul AME Church

St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1885 as the first African American church in Round Rock and the second in Williamson County. It was operated and attended by residents of Round Rock and surrounding communities.

The church was founded by the Sauls, Mays, Dixon, Washington, Wheeler, Freeman and Earl families. The original location of the church was just south of the original Old Settlers Park, which at the time was located at the southwest corner of RM 620 and Interstate 35, where Sprouts and McDonald’s are currently located. The original church was constructed of wood from an old barn donated by a local farmer.

When Interstate 35 was built, the church had to relocate to its present location on North Sheppard Street. The Sauls brothers secured a $500 loan with Farmers State Bank to purchase the land from a sister to build the new church, and the new building was completed in June 1958. The church members were able to re-use some of the original church’s lumber, the windows, lightning rods, pews, altar, pulpit and piano in the new building.  A large iron bell was stolen by local teenagers during the move, so it was not re-installed in the new steeple.

The congregation of St. Paul A.M.E. has served the Round Rock community and dealt with adversity and obstacles throughout the 135 years it has existed. St. Paul has had a number of notable ministers, including Reverend Mrs. Johnnie Mae Fulton from 1940-1965, who was the one and only female ordained minister in Central Texas at the time.

The church has regularly scheduled Sunday services, prayer services and opens its doors for community meetings and prayer vigils. St. Paul A.M.E.’s mission is to “provide spiritual and religious teachings and fellowship to the community and all who enter.”

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission are: Chair Sharon Whitaker, Vice-Chair Pamela Anderson, Adrian Neely, Patti Jordan, Shirley Marquardt,  Richard Parson and Andrew Wolfe.

The 2020 Local Legends Selection Committee includes: Chair Jen Henderson and committee members Brently Brinegar, Chris Cantu, Jesus Franco, Ella Sauls Morrison,  Richard Parson, Sherry Richards, Audrey Simmons, and Tracie Storie. 

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Source: City of Round Rock