Banquet honors educators
Published 10:31 am Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Three educators, whose impact and influence continues to be felt by friends, loved ones and current and former students, were honored during the Prince Edward Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet Oct. 6.
Former instructor Martha Morton of Charlotte County, Prince Edward County High School Track and Field Head Coach and Assistant Football Coach James Baker, and educator and community service member Louise Burnside were honored by community leaders during the annual banquet, which took place at the Firemen’s Sports Arena.
Morton and Burnside were integral to students’ education in Prince Edward County when public schools were closed between 1959- 1964, and after they were reopened. Morton was honored by former students during the banquet.
The Rev. Pauline Stokes, who gave the invocation and was a former student of Morton’s, said Morton understood more than most of what she and hundreds of other students experienced when students were barred from public education due to massive resistance of integration.
“She had the patience and the knowledge of understanding what we went through,” Stokes said.
But Stokes noted that Morton was both understanding and firm.
“What she said, she meant,” Stokes said. “You were there to learn and she made sure that you learned.”
She said when students acted up, Stokes said they knew their parents would be among the first people Morton contacted.
Burnside, Stokes said, worked with Morton in the community and continues to be involved in the area, currently a member of the county’s AARP chapter. Stokes said Burnside visits nursing homes each week to keep residents’ company and form friendships with them.
“It’s so important that they’re not alone,” Stokes said about the residents Burnside befriends.
Stokes spoke about Baker’s influence on students of Prince Edward County Public Schools, coaching track and field at the high school level. Stokes said Baker helps students understand the significance of physical health and of exercise.
Baker began working at Prince Edward County Public Schools in the spring of 1977. At the end of the school year, his career as an instructor and coach would have spanned 42 years.
Baker, who travels to Prince Edward from his native home in Buckingham, said he was notified he would receive the award ahead of time, but said the notification took him by surprise.
“I felt very honored to receive it,” Baker said. He said he was moved to have family and friends there to participate in the event with him.