Four Community Titans Named Grand Marshals of 2022 West Alabama Christmas Parade
The grand marshals for the 46th Annual West Alabama Christmas Parade were announced Monday in a press release from the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority.
According to the release, Lyda Black, Clell Hobson, Sr., Gary Minor and Dr. Samory Pruitt were selected to lead this year's parade, which will take place on December 5.
The grand marshals' selections are based on several qualifications, including one's significant contributions to the community, lifetime achievements with lasting community impact and career accomplishments.
Becky Booker, the parade chairperson, said this year's grand marshals all come from different backgrounds but have all made a great impact on the community.
"While each is set apart by their own unique path, all four are a testament to the strength of service to the community, and their impact in education and recreation across Tuscaloosa County is undeniable," Booker said in the release.
Meet This Year's Grand Marshals
Lydia Back is the retired asocial dean of Shelton State Community College. Described as "an accomplished educator and award-winning teacher," she received the Alabama College System’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence six times throughout her career. Black was also the recipient of the John Todd Award for Exceptional Achievement in Teaching and was a member of the team that developed and designed Shelton's current campus. She previously served on the Alabama Post-Secondary Curriculum Committee and is a member of the Post-Secondary Advisory Council. She is also a charter member of the Shelton State Foundation.
Black is the recipient of numerous community honors and awards, including the 2018 Pillars of West Alabama, Career Accomplishments Award, Women Helping Women Award, Named Gift Recipient, Northport’s Citizen of the Year and Tuscaloosa’s Distinguished Young Woman.
Black has leadership positions for various civic and community organizations and actively participates in each group where she holds membership, including serving on the board of directors and holding officer positions.
Clell Hobson, Sr.
Hobson, 91, is the oldest living former University of Alabama Crimson Tide Football quarterback. Born in Tuscaloosa, he is a product of area schools before attending the University of Alabama on both football and baseball scholarships. He led the team to an impressive victory over Syracuse University during the Crimson Tide's second Orange Bowl appearance in 1953, which score of 61–6 set an NCAA record for the largest margin of victory in a bowl game, which stood until 2008.
After college, Hobson pursued a professional baseball career before returning to the Tuscaloosa area where he was both a teacher and a highly successful football coach in Bibb County, Pickens County and Bessemer high schools. He later served as principal for Davis-Emerson Middle School and served on the Tuscaloosa City Council for one term during 1997-2001. He is described as being well-known for his kindness and humor.
Minor, a Birmingham native and avid outdoorsman, has spent the majority of his life’s work devoted to creating recreational opportunities for all ages. He worked at the University of Alabama as head golf professional and at Shelton State Community College as head golf coach but is best known in the community for his work through PARA. Beginning his career as a program coordinator with PARA, he worked to cut the ranks to become recreation manager and superintendent of recreation before being named the organization's third executive director in 2011, PARA's highest ranking position.
His appointment came one month before the April 27, 2011 tornados that devastated Tuscaloosa, and Minor lead tornado relief efforts and his leadership assured that all available PARA resources, including staff, equipment, and properties worked smoothly while the Belk Center operated as largest and longest operating temporary storm shelter in the state.
Minor led the agency to earn the prestigious Alabama Recreation and Parks Association's "Agency of the Year" in 2015 and 2020 and oversaw the construction of four activity centers, the McDonald Hughes Community Safe Room, and multiple playgrounds. Minor is set to officially retire from the organization on December 31.
He currently serves on the board of directors for the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority, Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, and the University of Alabama Recreation Committee. He also helped develop public access for Hurricane Creek Park and designed Van de Graaff Arboretum and Historic Bridge Park as nature parks, both of which provide easy access to nature near urban areas.
Dr. Samory Pruitt
Dr. Samory T. Pruitt has served as Vice President for Community Affairs at the University of Alabama since the division’s creation in 2004, where he is responsible for developing and managing the University’s public outreach programs and providing campus leadership to enhance the quality of life both within and beyond the campus community. He has worked for the University since 1986 in various management and administration, including roles in the divisions of Financial Affairs and University Advancement, as well as in the President’s Office before being named to his current position. The University presented him with the Award for Outstanding Commitment to Public Service in 2002 and the E. Roger Sayers Distinguished Service Award in 2016.
Pruitt serves on the board of directors for several community organizations throughout West Alabama, including the First Tee of Tuscaloosa, West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, Tuscaloosa Library Board; Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Education Policy Council, Literacy Council of West Alabama, Black Belt Community Foundation Board, Success by Six, Paul R. Jones Art Collection Advisory Board and Youth Emergency Services.
He is the founding sponsor of the 100 Black Men of Tuscaloosa chapter and serves as a member of the Tuscaloosa International Rotary Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and is a 1995 graduate of Leadership Tuscaloosa. He also chairs the Martin Luther King Jr. Realizing the Dream Initiative committee and serves on the leadership team of the annual UA United Way Campaign.
Dr. Pruitt serves as the immediate past president of the board of directors of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium and was named to the Commission on Economic and Community Engagement Executive Committee of the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities in fall 2019. Additionally, he is the publisher of the International Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship.
Author's note: The biographies for the grand marshals were provided by Tuscaloosa PARA and paraphrased for brevity and clarity.