ANDERSON – Most people have to search for their heroes. John Woodall Jr. just had to wait until 6 p.m. for his father to come home.

“He was just a pillar in this community and, for me, probably the greatest influence in my life,” Woodall said of his father, Dr. John Woodall.

The elder Woodall was awarded the B. Harry Beckham Award at Saturday’s NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet for his decades-long work in Anderson, not only as a physician serving hundreds of local families, but also as a volunteer for this church and various organizations.

“He has always considered his practice his way of giving back,” John Woodall Jr. said. “And one thing above all is he always lets you know love – and that you can spread love as far as you can and never run out.”

Along with celebrating the elder Woodall, the NAACP presented the President’s Award to Charles Walker, treasurer of the organization.

“He goes above and beyond what it means to serve,” NAACP Chapter President James Burgess said.

Anderson High School graduate Austin Morgan was presented with the second Anderson University Award scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship given to an outstanding AU student who has a proven record of service.

The banquet’s keynote speaker was the Rev. Ed Foggs of Sherman Street Church of God.

Along with honoring several local leaders, the annual banquet serves as a “Clarion Call” for the organization to bring attention to what Burgess sees as an increase in divisiveness and hatred in the world.

“The polarization in this country and the increase in hate groups has some civil rights organizations and experts predicting a neo-Civil War here in America,” Burgess wrote in the official Clarion Call.

Burgess said the NAACP’s record and history as an organization seeking advancement for all people, regardless of race, religion or political party, means it is more important now than at any time in recent memory to stand against hate in all its forms.

“That Clarion Call is going to tell you something about who is going to take charge. … You can kill a man or a woman, but you can’t kill the idea,” Burgess said.

He also pushed back against those who believe the NAACP doesn’t do enough.

“If you don’t think the NAACP is doing anything, look around, you are the NAACP,” he said.

Burgess spoke out against the polarization he sees as Tuesday’s election nears.

“What I see, it frightens me,” he said. “It’s on both sides, and the way we treat some people. … We are supposed to be able to disagree but still come together.”

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