Organizations, businesses, and individual citizens submitted nominations for the 2017 class. These were reviewed by a committee, and honorees were selected. The 2017 honorees will be inducted Thursday, October 19, at 4 p.m. at the Alberta Center of Performing Arts. There is no cost to attend the event.
The 2017 Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame honorees are:
Susan Phifer Cork (1953-)
Susan Phifer Cork has long been a leader in Tuscaloosa County, and her list of accomplishments is long and distinguished. Most importantly, Cork’s achievements will have a lasting impact upon the quality of life in West Alabama.
A life-long resident of Tuscaloosa, Cork attended the Tuscaloosa City School system and the University of Alabama. With her family, she is part of the leadership of Phifer, Inc., where she serves a in a key role.
Although she has a busy career working alongside her husband and sisters at Phifer, Cork is committed to an active role in community service, serving as Chairman of the United Way of West Alabama Alexis de Tocqueville Society, Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of Christ Episcopal Pre-School, Sustaining Member of Junior League of Tuscaloosa, and on numerous other boards and committees.
She was instrumental in raising funds for and developing the Tuscaloosa Children’s Center, and was part of the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s first Historical Committee, established for the purpose of formulating a restoration and preservation plan for the historic portion of Bryce Hospital.
In 2016, Cork was honored at the annual Community Foundation of West Alabama’s Pillars of the Community event, where she was named a Pillar of the West Alabama Community. Along with her husband, Brad, she was selected as the recipient of the 2015 Family of the Year by the United Way of West Alabama Alexis de Tocqueville Society.
Arlington L. Freeman (1934-2003)
Born in 1935 in Fayette County, Arlington L. Freeman received his education at the Fayette County Training School, Stillman College and Alabama State University.
A longtime employee of what began as the Tuscaloosa City Recreation Department, Freeman showed a devotion to providing recreational opportunities to all areas of the community, but particularly in the West End of the City. Freeman initiated and guided the development of Palmore Park, a 175-acre development in West Tuscaloosa. He also directed youth programs including play centers, gyms, arts and crafts and games, and sports programs for all ages such as softball, basketball, swimming, track and field, and special tournaments. In 1996, Community Center Park in West End was renamed A.L. Freeman Park.
Freeman freely gave of his time and efforts when called upon to do so, and his committee and board of directors volunteerism includes the American Red Cross, Murphy African American Museum, Drug Prevention Task Force Committee, Senior Commissioner of Tuscaloosa Youth Development Council, Advisory Member of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department-Juvenile Division and more.
Freeman was presented with numerous awards during his lifetime including the SCLC Man of Distinction, State of Alabama Merit on Recreation, Outstanding Service Award for Youth, and the State of Alabama Professional of the Year – Jim Spain Award, among others. February 20th, 1996 was proclaimed by the City of Tuscaloosa as “A.L. Freeman Day.”
Frank Michael Reilly (1954-)
By the time Mike Reilly was born in 1954 in Montgomery, his father had been killed in a military airplane crash. The youngest of four children with a working mother, Reilly had ample unsupervised time after school, at night, on weekends and during summer breaks. He spent much of that time at the South YMCA in Montgomery, where he encountered role models and learned the lessons of public service and the value of volunteerism.
Reilly has since served on the Tuscaloosa YMCA Board of Directors for decades, working tirelessly to raise funds for the new YMCA building and also serving as the Chairman of the Board. He followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Pettus Randall, III, in investing time and treasure in the Tuscaloosa community. As CEO of Randall-Reilly, he was able to undertake capital campaigns such as a new church for St. Francis, raising more than $6.5 million dollars.
Reilly’s interest in aiding children led him to help the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tuscaloosa, joining with other community leaders in resolving problems and ensuring the organization offers young people a safe place to learn and grow after school and during summer school recess.
In 2011, the Reilly family was named the Alexis de Toqueville Society Family of the Year, due in large part to Reilly’s efforts to recruit new members to the society. Because of the society, more than 7,000 local children are served annually by the United Way’s Success by Six, Jump Start and Dolly Parton Imagination Library programs.
Betty Shirley (1927-)
Betty Bailey Shirley has drawn on her personal experiences to make lasting contributions not only to Tuscaloosa County, but to the entire state of Alabama. In giving of her time, energy and resources, she has greatly improved the lives of others.
As a young adult, Shirley suffered from mental illness and was successfully treated at Bryce Hospital. Following her recovery, she spoke openly about mental illness to civic organizations and churches and became an advocate for mental health treatment and education. Families in crisis call upon her for information, to be a listening ear, and to provide hope.
In her capacity as a mental health advocate, she has served on the board of Friends of Bryce; as co-chairman of the Hospital Ball of Druid City Hospital to raise money for a mental health wing; was a fundraiser and member of the board of Counseling Ministry Professionals; and has a lifetime membership in the Mental Health Association of Tuscaloosa County, among many others.
Shirley was named the Outstanding Member of the Mental Health Association in 1990, was named a President Bush “Point of Light,” and in 2002, the psychiatric clinic at the University of Alabama School of Medicine was named in her honor.
She is also involved in the RISE program and Crossing Points, and both programs have grown in funding and support thanks to her efforts.
Jimmy Warren (1954-)
Born in Jasper in 1954, Jimmy Warren moved with his family from the family farm in Walker County to Holt when he was six months old so his father could start a job as a forklift driver at the Central Foundry. His mother quilted and canned vegetables to help support the family.
In school, Warren was a diligent student who was selected at Eastwood Junior High’s most outstanding student when he was in the 9th grade. At Tuscaloosa High School, he was one of the school’s outstanding seniors, and was editor of the Black Warrior. He worked three jobs to pay for college, and graduated magna cum laude.
Warren worked at Creative Displays and TotalCom, and in 1983, bought TotalCom and became its president. In the more than three decades since, TotalCom has grown to be a regional firm and represents clients throughout the Southeast. Through his agency, Warren has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono work to various charitable organizations.
Additionally, Warren has taken a range of leadership roles, both in a civic capacity and in his industry. He served as president of the Tuscaloosa Advertising Federation and governor of the district, serving on the national board and elected to the Council of Governors. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Seventh District’s Hall of Fame and received the Barton Cummings Gold Medal, AAF’s Highest Award.
He is a founding director and serves on the advisory board of the Bank of Tuscaloosa, and served in various roles with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, including being instrumental in the creation of the Civic Hall of Fame. Warren was Member of the Year in 2000 and received the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Warren served on the City of Tuscaloosa’ Planning and Zoning Commission for 16 years and was chair for eight years; serves on the board of the Tuscaloosa Public Library and has served as a board member for PARA and a division chair for United Way, among many other boards. A loyal supporter of the University of Alabama, he is a member of the President’s Cabinet and the Board of Visitors of the College of Communication and Information Sciences.
Gold Sponsors for the event are the Award Company of America, McAbee Construction, Inc., and The University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences. Silver Sponsor is Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers.