Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce to Induct 5 Local Legends Into Civic Hall of Fame
The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama will induct five area leaders into its Civic Hall of Fame next month in honor of their long-term contributions to the development of Tuscaloosa County. The five 2022 honorees were nominated by organizations, businesses and citizens, and then selected by a committee.
According to a press release from the Chamber, this year's honorees include Camille Wright Cook, Travis Gary Fitts, Samory Pruitt, Sammy Wayson and Ernest Williams.
Camille Wright Cook
The late Camille Wright Cook was the first woman to become a tenured professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and to receive an endowed professorship at the University. She also served as Associate Dean of UA Law School and as University of Alabama Assistant Academic Vice President.
Cook has been honored as one of the Top 31 Alumnae and received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award, Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and Bench and Bar Oustanding Alumnus Award. She served on the vestry of the Christ Episcopal Church, the board of AmSouth Bank, the University Club Board of Governors and volunteered at the DCH Cancer Treatment Center.
Travis Gary Fitts
Travis Gary Fitts was a fourth-generation owner and retired president of Fitts Agency, Inc, a Tuscaloosa insurance agency. Fitts obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University and later commissioned 2nd lieutenant USMC, serving as a naval aviator in the Marine Corps reserves for over 30 years.
Fitts and his wife Beji returned to Tuscaloosa in 1959 to work at Fitts Agency Inc. for the next 50 years, retiring in 2009. He also served in leadership positions in many civic organizations including the Boys Scouts of America-Black Warrior Council, the Tuscaloosa YMCA, Tuscaloosa Academy, the Tuscaloosa Salvation Army and many others. He died earlier this year.
Dr. Samory T. 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. In this position, he is responsible for developing and managing the University’s public outreach programs and providing campus leadership to enhance the quality of life not only on campus but within the Tuscaloosa community. Dr. Pruitt has worked for the University since 1986 in roles in the divisions of Financial Affairs, University Advancement and in the President's Office.
Dr. Pruitt has served the West Alabama area by serving on the Board of Directors for The First Tee of Tuscaloosa; the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce; the Tuscaloosa Library Board; Big Brothers, Big Sisters; and other organizations. He is also a member of the Tuscaloosa International Rotary Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., chairs the Martin Luther King Jr. Realizing Dream Initiative committee and serves on the leadership team of the annual UA United Way Campaign. In addition, he received the E. Roger Sayers Distinguished Service Award in 2016 which is given to a faculty or staff member who has gone above and beyond their normal duties and performed in an exceptional manner in order to further the mission of UA.
George Samuel "Sammy" Watson
George Samuel "Sammy" Watson recently retired after serving as Director of Community Relations for DCH Health System for 26 years. Waston was elected three times to the Tuscaloosa City Council and served as Council President from 1993 to 1995; he was part of Tuscaloosa's first city council, which took office in 1985. He also worked in the radio industry for over 25 years and still works part-time at 92.1 The Possum.
Waston has served on the boards of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, United Way, Caring Days, the Chamber of Commerce, among others. He has also chaired the Easter Seals Board, The University of Alabama President's Community Advisory Board, the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitor's Bureau Board, the Youth Emergency Services Board, and the Tuscaloosa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Shelton State Community College Foundation Board and is a member of the Easter Seals Board, Black Warrior Council-Boy Scouts of America Board, Police Athletic League Board, Presbyterian Apartments Board and the Red Oak Credit Union Board.
Ernest G. Williams
Ernest G. Williams graduated from the University of Alabama in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce and business administration. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942, serving as a communications deck officer aboard the U.S.S. Kaskaskia a fleet oiler and as a communications officer aboard the U.S.S. Severn in the South Pacific. He returned to Tuscaloosa after three years of active duty, serving as assistant treasurer at the University of Alabama. He left the University a year to join First National Bank of Tuscaloosa as a vice president and member of the board, returned in August 1956 after being elected to the Board of Trustees, becoming the school's third local trustee.
In 1958 Williams resigned his position at the bank and became vice president for finance and treasurer at Gulf States Paper and a member of its board of directors. He left the Gulf States in 1977 and organized Affiliated Paper Companies, where he became chairman and chief executive officer. Williams' tenure as a trustee of The University of Alabama spanned 30 years, 26 of which were on the executive committee. His service ended in 1986 at age 70.
The honorees will be inducted into the Civic Hall of Fame on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Read more about each nominee here.