Below are the biographies of the honorees. The bios were provided by Arlington County Parks and Recreation Department staff. This will be read out loud at Saturday's awards ceremony. To find out more about the awards, read our previous article:
Darnell Crewe Wise Lightbourn
Darnell Crewe Wise Lightbourn believes music helps to bring together people and their collective experience, no matter how diverse we are. It crosses language barriers, education and age differences. She is a passionate and life-long educator whose commitment to improving the quality of education and learning for children and adults has been in the forefront of her being.
Whether it was introducing young children to the joys of music at one of the four elementary schools she taught in Arlington, inspiring young teens to develop confidence through dance and music at Thomas Jefferson Middle School or leading the choir at Stratford High School, Mrs. Wise Lightbourn helped to put music and rhythm into the secret places of their hearts.
Mrs. Wise Lightbourn has been advancing the love of knowledge and music in Northern Virginia for more than 30 years. She herself received her Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia State University and a Master’s from George Mason University. She’s made a distinctive impact in the community, supporting various humanities programs and helping new generations of Arlingtonians learn about their heritage with tribute programs to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Marian Anderson. She was even the choral director at the 400th Anniversary of the Founding of Jamestown and was recognized by President and Mrs. Obama as the Outstanding Music Educator in 2009. And her voice is still strong. She currently is a board member of the Opera Guild of Northern Virginia, and a vocal instructor at the Levine School of Music. She also coaches speakers, actors and singers, and serves as a judge for voice competitions and choral festivals.
Mrs. Lightbourn's commitment and passion is to faith, family and friends. She is the proud mother of Kenneth Wise, Jr., Darryl L Wise, and Kenay W. Wright and the grandmother of Langley Anasten Wright.
At the Jamestown 400th Anniversary event, Ms. Wise Lightbourn is quoted as saying “music is the thread that binds us all together.” Well, I believe it is people like you, Darnell, which truly binds us all together. We thank you for your many years of service to our community and your commitment to providing an outstanding education to so many.
“I just want to pack my bags and ease on out of here with my head held high.” This quote epitomizes Bill Vollin’s humility. It was taken from a 1991 article published in The Arlington Journal that highlighted Mr. Vollin’s career and the difference that he made during the 30 years he shared his love of knowledge, his integrity and his commitment to the community and its future.
Mr. Vollin was born and raised in Arlington during a time of great change within the community. He attended Hoffman Boston, a segregated Arlington school that spanned from elementary to high school. After graduation, Mr. Vollin attended Storer College, a segregated school in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where he met Mildred, his college sweetheart and wife of 58 years. He furthered his education by obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education at the University of the District of Columbia, did graduate studies at Howard University and completed his graduate work at George Washington University.
BB King, another articulate black man who did not have the advantage of growing up in Arlington, said, “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” Mr. Vollin imparted the fortitude you develop through a diligent educated mind when he began teaching at Langston School, which at the time was the elementary school for African-American children in north Arlington. He continued this passion for learning and self-improvement when he became principal of Glebe Elementary in 1974. He couldn’t believe the state of the 600-student school. The facility lacked a cafeteria, graffiti defaced the building, and students wandered aimlessly in the hallways. A self-described disciplinarian, over the course of three years Mr. Vollin changed the school’s program and made it into a place where parents wanted to send their children instead of a place where transfer requests abounded.
Many would likely say that Mr. Vollin is a soft-spoken man who does amazing things for the community and the people who reside in it without ever wanting recognition for what he has accomplished. Well, sorry Mr. Vollin, you can’t get away for this. We are thrilled to honor and recognize this outstanding citizen as part of the 2012 Harambee ceremony. Many, many parents only wish their child could have been influenced by your wondrous talent.
Eunice Brown Cobb
Some people were born teachers, and Mrs. Eunice Brown Cobb is one of those beloved individuals. It’s not just that she taught elementary age children in Washington, D.C., for 32 years. It’s not that she was a substitute teacher in Arlington for seven. You’d think that earning a spot in the Education Hall of Fame in Charlestown, West Virginia, would be the reasoning behind the statement Mrs. Cobb is a born teacher...but there’s more. And it’s not even that after she retired from teaching in public schools she volunteered her time to promote healthy minds and enrichment. No, the proof that Mrs. Eunice Brown Cobb was meant to be teacher, born to be a teacher, is that she successfully taught many of Arlington’s newest residents how to speak English, even though she doesn’t speak Spanish. Amazing! Mrs. Cobb has her own way of communicating and sharing knowledge that clearly transcends language barriers. But this is getting ahead of ourselves.
Born and raised in Elkins, West Virginia, Arlington was lucky when the Brown family moved to here in 1959. Mrs. Cobb was a classmate of William Vollin’s at Storer College, and she furthered her studies at Howard University and earned a Master’s degree at Trinity University.
Schools aren’t the only place where Mrs. Cobb helps people grow. She is a woman of strong faith and has been active in the St. John Sanctuary Baptist Church for over 50 years. She is a member of the Sanctuary Choir and serves as deaconess. She is also a proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Truly a woman of letters, she is also a woman of….elephants. Her collection includes over 200 beautiful elephant figurines, made in all types of materials – from coal to jade. But did you know, she’s never actually seen a real elephant up close?
Wife of the late Gilbert L. Cobb, Mrs. Cobb is devoted to her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. Photos of her beloved family members line the walls of her home. And her love extends to all. Mrs. Cobb is always willing to lend a helping hand – from previously serving on the Board of Mental Health to currently volunteering with Reading is Fundamental. The world could certainly use more Eunice Cobbs, but we’re happy to call her our own.
Roxie E. Johnson
Harambee honors were most likely developed with people like Roxie E. Johnson in mind….quietly helping others for years, including people she had never met, Mrs. Johnson has been a constant force in bettering our Arlington County in general, and the Nauck community specifically.
She was part of a dynamic duo that included her sister, Mildred Jones (a 2011 Harambee Honoree). Their humble contributions included delivering community newsletters and feeding the less privileged with food they purchased, prepared, and shared. They would load up on smiles and good thoughts and visit sick patients at area hospitals, nursing homes and private residences. Without hesitation they committed to any organization, really anyone, who needed support. They were both members of the Nauck Civic Association; using their time to make their neighborhood a better place to live.
Mrs. Johnson is also very active in the Lomax AME Zion Church, where she was past president and vice president of the Missionary Society. She currently serves as a class meader, mentor for the youth group “SPICE,” and is a member of the senior program.
Mrs. Johnson worked for many, many years in the banquet hall at what is now known at Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall. Not surprisingly, she was voted “Employee of the Month” several times. The job had many perks, the best of which was probably meeting all of the famous people that came through the facility, including Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson. Little did Mr. Aaron and Mr. Robinson know what an important woman they were lucky enough to meet too.
In her role as mother, Mrs. Johnson always gave support to the direction each one of her children chose. She instilled in her children the desire to better one’s self, to be independent and to love their selves, regardless of employment. As a good friend to many, she allowed freedom of expression and the room to make mistakes.
Having amazing people like Mrs. Johnson, who serve quietly without recognition, is one of the reasons why Arlington is able to thrive the way it does. For this, we congratulate Roxie Johnson and her immeasurable contributions that truly mean so much to those she’s served.
Louise Hill McGregor
Louise Hill McGregor’s life has exemplified the spirit and meaning of Harambee. Harambee literally means "all pull together" in Swahili and we are very lucky that Mrs. McGregor helped Arlington pull together to support people with special needs, as well as those who are able but not always deemed so.
Mrs. McGregor has been a fixture of the community for so long that many think she’s born local. Actually, she was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida and moved to Arlington in 1958 where she worked for 29 years in the Arlington County Public Schools system. She was first employed at Hoffman Boston High School to teach home economics for a teacher who was on leave. When the teacher returned, a very astute principal asked Mrs. McGregor to accept a permanent position to in the field of special education. As this was not her concentration in undergraduate and graduate school, (her Master’s Thesis at Hampton Institute was Homemaking Education for High School Boys,”) she did what every dedicated teacher does...she improved her knowledge by studying at Cornell, Temple, and George Washington Universities. She also attended a seminar at Sterling University, in Sterling, Scotland and toured nine countries in Europe to evaluate Special Education Programs.
She worked with parents making them aware of Special Education Programs, and how they could help their children to be successful. She dedicated herself to counseling students. She single handedly kept some African American boys out of Special Education Programs and ensured their enrollment in regular programs, starting with Hoffman Boston, then Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and finally at Kenmore Middle School.
Mrs. McGregor is the proud mother of Robin and Franklin, who now live in Texas and Georgia respectively. A strong woman, Mrs. McGregor beat cancer in 1973 and again in 2000. Her husband, the late Robert D. McGregor, Jr., was very active in the local NAACP chapter, and Louise worked silently with him on the many issues the NAACP faced. She has been involved in many other organizations and issues, including the League of Women Voters, the Civic Coalition for Minority Affairs, and fair housing, among others. For her work, she was listed in the 1981-1982 edition of the "Who's Who of American Women" and was recently inducted into the Lincoln High School Hall of Fame in Gainesville, Florida. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Who can imagine what it would have been like if Mrs. McGregor hadn’t moved to Arlington 54 years ago? What children would have missed an education? What issue could have fallen quietly to the side? Throughout her years in Arlington Mrs. McGregor has positively affected so many. We salute you, Mrs. McGregor and the other men and women you empowered to make our community a better place.
James (Doug) Pelham
A true Arlingtonian, James Pelham, who is known as "Doug," was born and raised right here in our community. Dedicated to keeping our community safe, he poured himself into the work of keeping drugs and dealers out Arlington generally, and Highview Park specifically.
As many of you may know, in the early 1990s, the Highview Park section of Arlington was plagued by drug dealers. This was totally unacceptable to Mr. Pelham. (Three cheers for Mr. Pelham). Together with dozens of other residents they started the “Crackdown on Drugs” patrol, writing down license plate numbers of those they witnessed buying drugs and giving those numbers to the local police. Mr. Pelham would even confront the dealers themselves, demanding they leave the neighborhood. Of course, he received threats from the dealers. They threatened his person, they threatened his property. But “for a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people's love and concern for each other.” And Mr. Pelham’s concern for his neighborhood is astronomical!
In time, the drug dealers realized what they were up against...dedication, passion, integrity, and fortitude. Doug Pelham. After a few years, the dealers finally cleared out of the neighborhood.
The good news is people recognize we need more Doug Pelhams. He was presented with the United to Serve America Diamond award for outstanding service toward the betterment of our country in 1993 and met with then-President George H.W. Bush to discuss the drug problem in America. Can one man make a difference? Absolutely. Look at Mr. Pelham.
While the work Mr. Pelham did to free his community from the shackles of the drug deals is amazing, he is a true Harambee Honoree because of the everyday support he gives to the community. A member of Mt. Salvation since 1957, he served as an usher for 34 years and was the Vice President of the church's Usher Board for years. In fact, he even earned an award for his unwavering dedication in 2010 from the Interdenominational Church Ushers Association of Virginia.
Mr. Pelham has two daughters and lives in Highview Park with his wife Lucy. This home-grown hero attended Langston School and worked for Arlington County for his 31-year career. To this dedicated citizen, we thank you, Mr. Pelham for your work in keeping our streets safe.
Anita Saundra Green
Saundra Green grew up in Hall’s Hill, an African American community where seniors were “the wisdom,” a community rich in nurturing and love for its children. She began her service as a community organizer with the United Planning Organization, an initiative of the federally mandated “War on Poverty”. This led to her passion for serving “underserved” pockets of poor people. She became an advocate, connecting people to County services and assisting and motivating communities and individuals to become a respected voice in the greater Arlington community. Growing up in segregated Arlington, she experienced discrimination firsthand and was determined to do what she could in order that all people are treated fairly.
For 33 years, Mrs. Green worked for Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation. She loved her job, initiating programs that addressed the basic needs of the community and was a constant advocate for fairness and equal opportunities for minorities. She founded the Junior Jamboree Teen Program, the Arlington Youth Street Theatre, Miss Black Teenage Arlington pageant, three generations of Zappa Ladies Dance Troupe, and “Neighbor’s Corner,” a senior adult club, among other enduring accomplishments. She is proud to have employed lots of community youth during her tenure. Mrs. Green was named “Employee of the Year” in the 1980s. For over 20 years, she advocated for the construction of a new community center in Hall’s Hill and was proud that the Langston-Brown Community Center was completed in 2004, a year before she retired.
Throughout her tenure, Mrs. Green has had loving support of her family, her husband David of 44 years and her daughters Nadia and Nataki, both of whom support Arlington by working at the Department of Human Services and Arlington Public Schools, respectively. And now, she’s a very proud of her loving grandson D.J.
Mrs. Green has devoted her life to recognizing and supporting elders, children and her own family. She is President of Neighbor’s Corner, sits on the C-DCAC, a citizen’s advisory committee, and is Vice President of the Black Heritage Committee of Arlington. Most recently, Mrs. Green led the effort for Arlington to designate Calloway United Methodist Church’s cemetery as a historical landmark. In truth, however, we all know that Saundra Green should be designated an Arlington treasure.
Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., Ed.D.
The driving factors behind Dr. Taylor’s lifelong service are his parents, who were always active in the community. His father was Arlington’s Assistant Superintendent of Sanitation, retiring with 47 years of service. In fact, his father and two uncles were honored by Arlington County for 110 years of combined service. Now that’s a family legacy of service!
Dr. Taylor was born and raised in Arlington’s Nauck community. And while he moved to Washington, D.C. during part of his career, he returned to Arlington in 1990, before his wife’s retirement from the DC school system. Yet even during the years he lived in the District, Dr. Taylor continued to support Arlington through Macedonia Baptist Church and other Arlington affiliated organizations and programs.
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” She had to be thinking of the life of Dr. Taylor. The work he has done, the people he has inspired are immeasurable. Not only is Dr. Taylor president (again) of the Nauck Civic Association, he also serves on the Boards of Directors of the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation and the Nauck Revitalization Organization, as well as the Joint GMU/Arlington County Advisory Board, among other executive committees. He will be honored December 9 with the Ellen Bozman Award for his service to the Alliance for Housing Solutions.
Dr. Taylor’s biggest personal joy is seeing the Nauck community as a viable link to the history, growth and success of Arlington. Having the Nauck community seated at the table in planning its future is exactly what he’s been working for for years. And he’s not stopping. He’s still challenged that not enough Nauck residents are convinced that they do have a voice in the growth and direction of their neighborhood. He also wants to better assimilate the different ethnic groups into the spirit and fabric of the community.
His love for education was evident in a thriving career, during which he promoted the IDEA Academy and served as Assistant Provost and Acting Dean at the University of the District of Colombia, where he retired in 1999 after 31 years of service. A lifelong educator, he advocates for teachers and currently substitute teaches for kindergarten classes at Drew Model School.
Harambee! All pull together! That’s what Dr. Taylor has been working for in Arlington, since, forever! Harambee!
Willie Jackson-Baker takes pride in where she lives and you know it. You know it in the work she’s done in the schools, the support she’s given the John M. Langston Civic Association, and in the smile on her face during a summer cookout in Highview Park.
Born and raised in Arlington, Mrs. Jackson-Baker knew as early as 4th grade that she wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, her teachers made a lasting impact on her life, as she spent hours with them and in the library. She was in her comfort zone until 7th grade when Arlington was desegregated and she was sent to Swanson Middle School and later Washington-Lee High School. But challenges have never impeded Mrs. Jackson-Baker and she excelled and went on to earn a degree from Virginia State University in Petersburg. In fact, she was named Ms. Virginia State her senior year!
Mrs. Jackson-Baker takes her motivation from her mother who passed away in 2000. While her mother was not the outgoing type, she always encouraged her children to do better than she did. She is passionate about her civic duties and is completely dedicated to community service. She is a role model and mentor for youth and is a committed leader. Neighbors know that Mrs. Jackson-Baker “got to bat” for them. Whether lobbying to the County Board or confronting contractors or investors, Mrs. Jackson-Baker works tirelessly to help keep Hall’s Hill a family-oriented neighborhood that retains the character and integrity that has made it an attractive and unique place to live.
However, as much as Arlington County has benefited greatly by the advocacy work of Mrs. Jackson-Baker, she believes she is truly the winner. Arlington not only has been a wonderful home to her, it also brought her her son Ray. His birth family lived in Arlington and Mrs. Jackson-Baker was lucky enough to have him come live with her when he was 13 ... and her family was made. And now, she has a grandson. She strongly believes in paying it forward.
Willie Jackson-Baker not only meets the criteria for a Harambee honoree, she exceeds them!