Six inducted into Warner Robins Hall of Fame

Sun News correspondentOctober 20, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS — Six who made their mark on Warner Robins were inducted into the Warner Robins Hall of Fame Saturday at a banquet at the Museum of Aviation.

The group is the second class of inductees into the hall of fame since it was founded in 2012. Officials said 230 community leaders and families and friends of the inductees attended the ceremony.

David Perdue Jr., Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate, former Dollar General and Reebok CEO and son of one of last year’s hall of fame inductees, David Perdue, was guest speaker and called the six true patriots and leaders.

Outlining various qualities of good leaders, Perdue said in their own way, each of the inductees exhibited qualities such as courage, selflessness and even a willingness to fail in order to play their role in making Warner Robins not only what it is today but what it will be in the future.

In light of the many accolades given inductees throughout the evening, both still-living members of the honored group referred to their families when asked about their greatest accomplishments.

“My kids,” said Eddie Wiggins. “They all are great parents now and have great families — I’m just so proud of them all. They’ve been far more successful than I’ve ever been.”

Wiggins, who was born on Robins Air Force Base, said he was fortunate to have been able to live all but a few years of his life in the city he loved.

In remarks accepting the hall of fame honor, Wiggins mainly spoke of Middle Georgia’s future and potential threats to Robins Air Force Base. He encouraged those present to pull together behind efforts of the 21st Century Partnership, a group he helped start to protect the base through several rounds of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure).

Claude Lewis, another inductee, said it was his late wife, Mary, standing by him that made his work as the first director of the Warner Robins Recreation Department possible.

“I know she’s proud,” he said. “I know she’s looking down on all this and is as proud as she can be. I wish she was here.”

Lewis, who was credited with working tirelessly on a shoestring budget to fashion the city’s recreation goals into an award-winning program, said he always knew his wife would be waiting up when he came home after long hours to fix him a cup of coffee.

Lewis said he accepted the honor on behalf of all the children of the city who had been through the recreation department. He said he learned more from them than they ever learned from him.

The idea for the hall of fame was the vision of Mayor Chuck Shaheen, who is in the final months of office. He said he hoped the city’s new mayor will take up the cause of honoring those who have made the city what it is.

“My heart’s desire was just to honor those who built this city, those who touched my life and touched the lives of others here in our community and throughout the world,” he said. “This is bigger and better than I ever imagined, and I’m grateful to Yvonne Elliott, who's chairman of the hall of fame board, and all the other board members who do such an outstanding job.”

The six inducted into the Warner Robins Hall of Fame Saturday were:

• The Rev. Willie J. Johnson, a long-time pastor and employee at Robins Air Force Base who helped guide Warner Robins and the surrounding area through desegregation. He founded the first Boy Scout troop for black boys in 1951 and worked for many causes such as obtaining federal funds for affordable housing in Warner Robins’ Suzanne neighborhood.

• Claude Lewis, who brought T-ball to Warner Robins in 1958 and literally wrote the rules for the game which spread across the U.S. and the world. He gave shape to the Warner Robins Recreation Department as its founding director and mentored other recreation leaders across the state. He is a member of the Georgia Recreation and Park Hall of Fame.

• Charles R. Singleton, a member of the Boy Scouts of America 100th Anniversary National Hall of Leadership, who led young men as a Boy Scout leader for more than 45 years, mentoring hundreds of boys in Troop 566 and helping 189 of them, far above the national average, become Eagle Scouts.

• C.B. Watson, who was the unofficial mayor of Wellston, the community that became Warner Robins, and the first official mayor of Warner Robins. He was appointed mayor in 1943 and led the city in that position until 1950. Considered a key player in bringing Robins Air Force Base to Middle Georgia, Watson also served publicly as a school board member and county commissioner and behind the scenes privately as a promoter and benefactor of the area and its residents.

• Edward J. Wiggins, a former businessman and at one time the youngest Chevrolet car dealership owner in the state. He was a founding member of the 21st Century Partnership and served as its chairman for many years. He served countless civic roles and was also a teacher and coach for one year at Rumble Junior High School.

• William Wisse, an early Warner Robins lawyer and city attorney who helped charter the city’s first Rotary Club in 1956. He was the club’s first president and in 2007 received Rotary’s Lifetime Achievement Award. As a captain in the U.S. Army, Wisse inspected Nazi concentration camps, investigated war crimes and attended the Nuremburg Trials of war criminals following World War II.

Previous inductees to the Warner Robins Hall of Fame are: former Warner Robins Mayor Henrietta McIntyre; educator and activist Pearl Stephens; former Magistrate Court Judge Nick Lazaros; former Houston County schools Superintendent David Perdue; former Happy Hour Service Center President Frank Ryals; businessman Charles Williams; and former Fire Chief Ernest W. Wood.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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