Bertram Rantin

Urban League rolling out awards

The Columbia Urban League will honor six people and an area corporation Thursday for service to the organization and the community.

The recognition will come during the 42nd annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner, which showcases the Urban League's reach into the community through its mission of empowering disadvantaged people to enter the economic and social mainstream.

The theme of this year's event is "Economic Empowerment: A Competitive Edge Driven by Race Relations," and the keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. James Clyburn,who also is one of the evening's honorees.

"The Equal Opportunity Day Dinner is important because it highlights the importance of sustainable race relations for equal opportunity," said Urban League president and CEO James T. McLawhorn. "Secondly, it recognizes persons who have given unselfishly of themselves in support of our effort in empowering communities and changing lives."

A look at those being honored at Thursday's event:

- Clyburn and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will receive the Whitney M. Young Award for advancing race relations in South Carolina and for their efforts to promote civility and equal opportunity.

The two lawmakers are credited with demonstrating that two leading South Carolinians from different racial backgrounds and political parties can find common ground on race relations.

- James L. Solomon Jr. will receive the John H. Whiteman Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of a current or former Urban League board member.

Solomon is president of Solomon & Associates, an educational and administrative consulting firm. He is noted for his support of the Columbia Urban League's summer employment programs.

A past Columbia Urban League board chairman and member of the National Urban League Quarter Century Club, Solomon was instrumental in securing $60,000 for the 2009 summer programs. As an educator at Morris College in Sumter, he became the first black person since Reconstruction to enroll in graduate school at the University of South Carolina.

- Bambi Gaddist will receive the Lincoln C. Jenkins Jr. Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership.

Gaddist is executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. She is noted for her leadership on the national level in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Gaddist has 29 years experience in HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy and was named a 2008 CNN Hero. This year, she received the Norman J. Arnold Alumni Medal from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

- Janice Marshall will receive the Ethel M. Bolden Community Service Award, recognizing community contributions by an individual, corporation or organization.

Marshall, who serves as director of the James E. Clyburn Scholarship and Research Foundation, is being recognized for her civic, community, and volunteer efforts. For the past several years, she has coordinated the Rudolph Canzater Memorial Golf Classic Scholarship Fund that provides $100,000 annually to disadvantaged youths.

A former Urban League board member, she recently was recognized nationally as "An Unsung Hero" by the spouses of the Congressional Black Caucus.

- William Horton will receive the President's Award, recognizing leadership and commitment to the Urban League's mission.

Horton retired recently as president and chief operating officer in the government programs division of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

He is noted for his long-term support of the league's Youth Scholarship Fund, Summer Work Experience Leadership Program, "The State of Black South Carolina" and the Annual Fund Campaign and Equal Opportunity Day Dinner. Horton is a former Urban League board member.

- Time Warner Cable will receive the Virgil C. Summer Corporate Award, recognizing achievements of an individual or business that has been consistent in promoting equal opportunity and social justice. Time Warner has been a major sponsor of the Urban League's Black History Month program and the Young and Gifted Awards.

Since 1967, the Columbia Urban League has served the Midlands with programs and initiatives aimed at helping African-Americans achieve economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.

Thursday's dinner is sold out.