Chester Gray was named the winner of the Jearl Hampton Lifetime Achievement Award during Saturday night during the 73rd annual Booneville Development Corporation/South Logan County Chamber of Commerce banquet.
“When I think about the lifetime achievement award, one of the things I think about is impact,” said award presenter Robert Herrera. “Impact that people before us have had on our community, the impact they have had on South Logan County and what they’ve meant.
“This person tonight is no different.”
After Herrera finished his presentation
“Thank you very much. It sure is good to see my family here,” said Gray. “Not all of my family, but I consider all of Booneville to be my family.
“I love Booneville. I love everyone that’s had a part in my life. It’s a great honor to continue to serve. I love to tutor children, to be a part of their life, to encourage them, to give them a sense of hope that someone cares. I thank you very much for this privilege to receive this.”
A volunteer chess teacher Gray was tricked into attending the banquet at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center instead of attending a state chess tournament.
Gray was born and raised in Texarkana, Ark., and began serving as a church pastor at the age of 18.
It was that role that brought Gray to Booneville, as the pastor of Southside Baptist Church, were he remained from 1985 to 1990.
That was followed by a move to Parkview Baptist Church and he taught sixth grade math at then-A.R. Hederick Elementary School in Booneville.
He added a counselor’s administration and was a counselor at Booneville Middle School from 1995 to 2001 when, at a state championship football game, he suffered a stroke.
“The prognosis was grim,” Herrera said. “Things didn’t seem like they were going to work out. It was devastating to the family. It was devastating to the community.”
After a year of pain and suffering, and surgeries Gray would return to service.
“Nothing was going to stop him from serving other people,” said Herrera.
Since the stroke Gray has continued to serve as an associate pastor, a music leader, counselor at church camp, Sunday school teacher, was instrumental in helping establish the CASA program, is a Lions Club member, and teaches chess at the schools daily and at the senior center regularly.
A Ouachita Baptist graduate before attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville where he left with a master’s degree in religious education. Gray pastored in the Fort Worth, Texas area from 1980-1985.
Other awards presented Saturday included the volunteer of the year which went to Leslie Oliver and the Chamber Member of the Year, which went to Booneville Democrat editor Glenn Parrish.
Oliver has served as treasurer of the Booneville Rotary Club, where she is also a past president. She is very active in the United Way and the South Logan County Relay for Life and severs on numerous committees and other events, including the banqet, presenter and outgoing Chamber president Philip Blankenship noted.
Cathy Littlefield, who is the new Chamber president, presented the Chamber Member of the Year Award. She did so in rhyme describing Parrish in vague terms before diverting into his written works and being regularly found behind a camera running up and down fields and courts.
In addition to the plaque with the award Parrish was presented with a buckeye necklace in recognition of his affinity for the Ohio State University.