Madison County recognized three individuals Wednesday night as “Living Legends” for their contributions in community service.
Chairman Kurt Prenzler, along with County Board member Gussie Glasper of Venice and Michael “Doc” Holliday of Alton presented the annual Madison County Living Legends Community Service Award to Vera Gray of Alton and Bishop John Henry Williams, and his wife, Linda Faye Williams. The County Board honors residents during Black History Month for their service to the community.
“These individuals go above and beyond to do things for the people in their communities,” Prenzler said.
Holliday said the award is given to people who have done great things and they care about what they are doing. He said often people start off doing small things, but even things need to be recognized
“Often times these things lead to larger things down the road,” Holliday said.
Holliday said both 2020 recipients started doing small things.
Gray’s son, Steve Gray, accepted the award on behalf of his mother. He said his mother was still recuperating from a surgery, but would be back on the banquet circuit soon.
“A lot of people think they have the best mom in the world, unfortunately I’m here to tell you ‘I do,’” he said. “Mom is excited and privileged by this honor bestowed upon her.”
He said Gray never expects anything in return for what she does; she is appreciative that the County Board feels she deserves the honor. Through the years, the community has shown their appreciation.
Gray serves her community in various clubs and organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women, The Zonta Club of Alton-Wood River, Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Alton and St. Mary’s Alter Society.
Gray was born in Caruthersville, Mo., but in 1950 moved to Alton. She is the mother of seven children and retired from Olin Corp. in 2001 after working for the manufacturing company for 35 years.
Glasper said the definition of a legend is someone of extraordinary accomplishments. She believes both Williams’ are such people.
“They are often thanking others for what they do, but I think at this time credit should be given to you,” Glasper said. “I know it’s done from your heart because I see the effort that you put into it.”
The Williamses, who grew up in Venice are the parents of six children. The couple believes in giving back and are both ordained ministers and founders of the New Shining Light Holiness Deliverance Church in Venice.
The couple sponsors various programs in the community to include: feeding the hungry, which includes hosting an annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner; presenting children with toys at Christmas; working with ex-offenders and ministering prisoners, as well as helping probationers with their community service; hosting the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unsung Humanitarian Awards Program; and by providing prayer and testimony through a radio broadcast on KSTL Jubilee 690 AM.
Throughout the years they received various awards and recognitions to include: Madison and Venice Branch of NAACP Outstanding Dedication and Unselfish Service to the People Award; Carol Kimmel Community Service Award in recognition of Outstanding Leadership in Southwestern Illinois from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Lee Wright Homes Residents Council Award; Torchlight Award Community Service Award, Muhammad Mosque East St. Louis; Madison Progressive Women’s Club for service and achievements.
The Williamses have also been involved with the Girls Scouts of America, Venice Park Board and Venice Little League.
“First give God to Glory and praise and honor to him,” Williams said. “I look around this room and look at many who have supported me and out ministry down in Venice. You’ve been doing it a long time and I am no greater than the people who support me.”
Williams thanked the County Board and his wife for supporting him.
“She has stood by me when it was all a vision,” he said. “It started 23 years ago and all of you helped make it happen.”
PHOTOS: (TOP) County Board members Victor Valentine, Gussie Glasper, Michael “Doc” Holliday present Madison County Living Legend Community Service Award. Steve Gray (third from left), the son of honoree Vera Gray of Alton, accepts the honor on her behalf.
(BELOW): Madison County Board members Gussie Glasper, Victor Valentine, Michael “Doc” Holliday and Chairman Kurt Prenzler present Bishop John Henry Williams (front) and his wife, Linda Faye Williams with the Madison County Living Legend Community Service Award Wednesday night.