The Citizens of Democratic Action will host their Third Annual Humanitarian Awards Banquet Thursday, Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the MLK Center on MLK Drive, Natchitoches. Recipients include WWII veteran James Gay, former State Senator Don Kelly and Winnfield Funeral Home general manager and noted musician Edward Ward Jr.
The event will include gospel singing, praise dancers and guest speakers including La. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, Coushatta Mayor Johnny Cox, Tommy Roque and State Representative Kenny Cox.
Southern Quality Services will cater the event. Cost is $20. Reserved tables are available. To purchase tickets contact Harold Bayonne at 521-6932, Johnny Cox at 393-8888 or Kevin Stafford at 413-2064 or 228-7468.
Education was a central focus of Ed Ward’s life journey. Formal instruction has roots in the parochial school, public high school, state supported Southern University and UCLA. It was appropriate preparation for management in the death care industry, life insurance realm, serving more than two decades on the Natchitoches Parish School Board, a pivotal position in the Natchitoches Parish Voters and Civic League, a member of the Peoples State Bank Board of Directors and a current appointment to the Civil Rights Museum of Louisiana. Music has been another significant element in Ward’s journey. It undergirded his founding the Interdenominational Choir of Natchitoches in 1970, the Gospel Choir of Southern University, becoming Minister of Music for the Asbury United Methodist Church and being called upon to enhance various public services in Natchitoches and beyond. Always interested in being of service to the community, Ward has participated in a myriad of social justice causes and civic efforts designed for the progress of the citizenry. Ward is the general manager of Winnfield Funeral Home of Natchitoches.
Retired 1st Sgt. James Gay of Natchitoches is a proud veteran of the US Army, and his 27-year military career spanned three wars. As a survivor of WWII, he is a member of a rapidly vanishing group of heroes, and rightfully takes his place as part of a generation who preserved American freedom. He joined the military at the age of 17 and was sent to Tuskegee, Ala., where he was assigned as an aircraft mechanic for the Tuskegee Airmen. They were a large group of nearly 1,000 black pilots who served with honor during WWII. Gay was a member of their of their over 15,000 man ground support team. He served three tours of duty in Korea, where he was a member of a combat tank crew. In Vietnam, he fought with an armor unit. Other overseas tours were three in Germany and one each in France and Japan. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal plus those from his service in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He was also considered a sharpshooter. Gay retired from the Army in December 1973. Upon returning home to Natchitoches, he bought a van to transport preschool and special education students. He was hired by the school board in that capacity and continued to drive for years before retiring. He is a former Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge-Dawn of Light #22, chaplain of the VFW Post 1962 and member of the American Legion Post 10.
Donald G. Kelly is an icon in his home parish of Red River and an inspiration to many across numerous parishes. Kelly graduated from Coushatta High School, attended law school and was admitted to the bar in 1966. He is best known as a state senator and advocate for those he served from 1975-95. Kelly served on judiciary, budget, natural resources and finance committees during his tenure. His dedication to the people of Natchitoches, Red River and surrounding parishes has been commemorated in numerous ways. He was at the forefront of obtaining millions of dollars for upgraded facilities at Northwestern, new roads, bridges and office buildings and numerous other enhancements. A successful attorney for nearly a half-century, Kelly was a major force in the establishment of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts. His many honors include membership in the Hall of Distinction, or Long Purple Line, at Northwestern and the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. Kelly states his greatest and most satisfying achievement of his tenure as Senator was his constituency services including solving problems with retirement, helping with medical insurance and helping people obtain employment. His legislative accomplishments include millions of dollars in capital outlay projects for highway and building or construction projects. He was also a member of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973. His passion and enthusiasm for public service spilled over into his involvement with the horse industry of Louisiana. Kelly began breeding Quarter Horses in Louisiana in 2000. He served as the attorney for the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association from 1998-2011.