Latest honorees take their place on Wall of Excellence

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Ed M. Barton laughs as Larry Parrish holds up a memento from his days in the honoree’s band at Franklin High School. — Stephen H. Cowles


There was plenty of laughter and some emotional moments on Saturday evening as five people were inducted into the fourth annual Franklin Community Wall of Excellence. The awards banquet, which took place in the Cypress Cove Country Club, lauds current and past residents who have contributed in various ways to Franklin High School, Hayden High School or the Franklin community at large.

In addition to a plaque as a personal keepsake, the names are inscribed onto to a permanent plaque at FHS. They are to serve as inspiration to students of what they can achieve in life after high school.

For outstanding service. Edwin Maxwell Barton was the first to be recognized. “Mr. B” was nearly four decades the band and chorus director at Franklin High. Barton later went on to help establish the Franklin Little Theater. Larry Parrish, one of his past students, introduced Barton, saying the teacher “brought out the best in his students and never wavered in his dedication. “He touched thousands of lives as an educator,” added Parrish.

Barton said he was “humbled to be part of such a good group of fellow nominees,” and shared a few hilarious anecdotes of how he came to be hired and his career at FHS. He gave special thanks to his wife, Linda, and their two children, all he described as the “wind beneath his wings.”


Special Honorary Achievement. Robert L. “Bobby” Cutchins II was introduced by sister-in-law Pam Lease of Bronco Federal Credit Union, which was the premier event sponsor. Cutchins, himself a 1975 FHS graduate, went on to create his own business, Bobby’s Muffler, starting with just $125. That success and ambition would lead to his two full service automobile shops. In addition, he has contributed to the Distributive Education Clubs of America and the Automobile Training Institute. The honoree thanked both the committee and his own family, especially his wife, Diana, and their two children.

“I’m proud to serve and be a part of the city council,” he said. “It’s a very humbling experience and I’m very grateful.”


Dr. Alexa Harris reminisces about her father, Dr. Alvin E. Harris, at the awards banquet. At right, Herman Charity, formerly of Hayden High School, also made introductory remarks about the honoree. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News

Outstanding Academic/Career. Dr. Alvin Eugene Harris, a graduate of the former Hayden High School, was first introduced by a former teacher, Herman Charity. Then one of Harris’ children, Dr. Alexa Harris, continued by sharing her recollections about her father. One of which included quoting back to him a favorite expression: “The door to success swings on the hinges of determination.”

The honoree, who went onto become a physician, has worked at Southampton Memorial Hospital, as well as the becoming “a pioneer in correctional medicine by providing medical services to inmates at Southampton and Deerfield Correctional Facilities as a private contractor. Outside of work, Harris has been involved with the Hayden Group as well as the Democratic Party and NAACP in Franklin.

“This is indeed one of the best honors,” the physician said on accepting his award. He also thanked his wife, retired Judge Alfreda Harris, and family for their support in their lives together.


Special Honorary Achievement. This recognition is given posthumously to George Lee, who worked more than 40 years in the custodial department for the Franklin City Public School System, concluding his career as the custodial engineer at FHS. From ensuring the buildings were thoroughly clean inside and outside, Lee also took athletic teams to and from their games. His daughter-in-law, Patricia, said, “Every child knew his name.”

At far left and far right are George Lee Jr. and Jesse Lee, sons of the late George Lee, accept the Special Honorary Achievement award on their father’s behalf. With them is Patricia Lee, who spoke earlier about the honoree. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News

His sons also shared their memories, and added, “He was a great inspiration to us,” said Jesse. “He was always going to school,” said George Jr. “Now I understand why.”


Outstanding Academy/Career. Westbrook J. Parker grew up in Franklin, graduated from FHS and was also active athletically. Jim Jervey, who introduced him, said it was difficult to get personal information about the retired judge from colleagues, such as those in Camp Foundation, of which he’s executive director. “He flies under the radar,” said Jervey.

Parker said in response to the award, “I am truly humbled. My parents never told me what to do. They simply supported me in everything I did.” He went on to acknowledge that having been a judge is “a lonely honor” because of the necessity to remain as impartial as possible. Franklin, he added, “Is a great place to grow up and call home.” He thanked his wife, Ann G. Beale, and their own two children, as well acknowledging Patricia and Kay at the foundation.