The City of Tallulah honored six local men Friday in a new program dubbed the "Fruit of the Village" ceremony.
"Our intention was to show the youth in our community that we have a great group of outstanding men who hail from Tallulah who are living fantastic, successful and impactful lives," said Tallulah Mayor Charles Finlayson. "Each of these individuals was influenced by the Tallulah community when they were growing up. This is just our way of awarding these men who were able to take the assistance of everyone who impacted their lives and turn it into success."
The honorees included Anthony Lucas, Quincy Bingham, Devontae Jones, Torriano Wells, Michael Washington and Chief Harold Allen. "Each one of these men has had a great measure of success in their lives and constantly give back to our community," Finlayson continued. "Some of have overcome tremendous obstacles to get where they are. We just wanted to let them know that we see their work and we appreciate what they do."
A video by Bingham started the program off.
"Quincy is a young man from Tallulah who got into a lot of trouble in high school," said city official Yvonne Lewis."He'd be the first to tell you that he was constantly in the principal's office. He did graduate high school and in college, the transformation began. Quincy buckled down and became laser-focused on his education. I'm proud to say he is now in his second year of dental school at Meherry University. To go from a kid always in trouble in high school to a man who obtained two Master's Degrees and then continued his education toward become a dentist, just shows the true amount of determination he has."
Professional photographer Devontae Jones was a member of the Grambling State Tiger Marching Band when he found his life calling. "There wasn't a lot of coverage of the band so I bought a camera and started documenting what was happening," Jones said. "From there things just took off and in 2020 I quit my job to become a full-time photographer." Jones said he has photographed the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team and his photography business has over 200 clients every year who come to him for college and high school graduation photos. "My work has been getting picked up by a good number of magazines recently. I really feel blessed to be doing what I love."
Toriano Wells has completely changed the football landscape of Lake Providence with his presence as head football coach at General Trass High School. Taking the school from 0-22 seasons, he has completely turned the program around and in 2021 produced a team that made it deep into the playoffs, eventually losing in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Amite High School. Wells consistently works with summer sports camps in Tallulah to ensure he is still giving back to his community. Wells will also become a Tallulah City Council member on July 1, 2022 as he was elected to represent District 5 in the election on April 16, 2022.
Madison Parish Sheriff Deputy Michael Washington is well known in the Tallulah community. For law enforcement, every day is about protecting the community and protecting themselves. Washington has gained the respect of practically every individual in Tallulah and his impact with youth over the years has produced a wealth of young people who interact with adults more respectfully due to what they've been taught by Washington. He is legendary with his catch-and-release of wildlife videos showing his encounters with deadly snakes and alligators. While many would simply kill an animal such as a snake or alligator, Washington has a huge respect of nature and ensures the animals get back to the wild safely. Madison Parish Sheriff Sammy Byrd said Washington is a first-class law enforcement officer and he is proud to have him as a part of his department.
Standout McCall High School athlete Anthony Lucas was also on hand to receive an award. Last year, Lucas made history by becoming the first African American head football coach for Pulaski Academy in Arkansas. As an assistant coach at the school, the 5A team won multiple state championships. In 2021, with Lucas finally at the helm as head coach, the team continued their winning streak and handed Lucas his first state championship as head coach. Lucas spends hundreds of hours every year talking to youth about life decisions and helping them make good choices in their lives. A legend at the University of Arkansas, Lucas uses his accolades of being inducted in the school's Wall of Honor and his induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame to show students that hard work and discipline are the standards to a successful life.
"Don't forget to put God first in everything you do," Lucas told the over 100 Madison scholars in attendance at the program. "It is important to allow him to lead you into your greatness."
Lucas also took time out of his schedule to visit with the Madison football team, to talk with them about football and life."I got a chance to go back to my old school and it was great to talk with the kids," Lucas said. "We have to help them in every way possible."
For Fire Chief Harold Allen, the award came as a surprise. "We had to do a bit of fibbing to get him to the program," Lewis said. “In his time as fire chief (appointed 2014) Allen has brought in over $120,000 in grant funds for the department. He has also, more importantly, lowered the fire rating during his first assessment as fire chief. He lowered our fire rating from a five to a four, which is very important because better fire ratings means lower homeowner insurance rates." Lewis told the story during the program of Allen searching for funding to purchase a specific piece of equipment which would help extract individuals from cars involved in serious accidents. "He got the Village of Richmond to buy the equipment in the later part of 2021. In March of 2022, the equipment was used to help save the life of Charles Parson, who was involved in an accident on I-20 and was trapped in the car. "I spoke with Charles Parson and although he couldn't here at the program, he asked us to give his sincere thanks to Chief Allen and the department for saving his life," Lewis said.
The program included entertainment by a dance troupe from Madison High School and Wright Elementary School. Over 100 scholars attended the program, along with honorees' family members and friends.