Four community leaders in Murfreesboro will be honored Friday, March 22, at the Willie McGowan Banquet.
Sponsored by the board of directors for the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center, the banquet is the largest fundraising event for the Bradley Academy Historical Association and will honor people who are working hard to make a difference in the African American community.
The event is in honor of the late Willie McGowan, the first board chairman of the Bradley Academy Museum.
“Mr. McGowan had a vision to restore Bradley Academy and inspired others to help achieve this goal,” said Katie Wilson, board chairwoman of the academy. “Mr. McGowan and others were instrumental in obtaining funding for renovation of Bradley Academy, which was the first school for education in Rutherford County for white males only.”
There will be four special honorees at the banquet. They are Keta Barnes, judge of the Municipal and General Sessions Court in Smyrna; Rutherford County General Sessions Court Judge Larry Brandon; the Rev. David Johnson, pastor of Cherry Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro; and the Rev. Goldy Wade, former president of the Murfreesboro branch of the NAACP.
Each of the honorees have had success in their respective careers.
On Aug. 3, 2006, Barnes was selected for an eight-year term as judge and became Smyrna’s first black elected official.
Brandon made history in 2006 when he became the first African American to be elected to a county-wide political office in Rutherford County.
Wade has received many awards for his service to Murfreesboro. In 2009, he was awarded the Jerry Anderson Hero Award for his work with the NACCP. He was also honored by MTSU’s African American Black History Month Committee in 2011.
Johnson was called to preach in 1987 and became the pastor of Cherry Grove in November 1989. His friendly personality and love for God have aided him in changing lives over the years.
The banquet will take place at the Bradley Academy Museum 415 S. Academy St. on March 22. The event starts at 7 p.m. For ticket information call Katie Wilson at 615-867-2633. Tickets are $30 per adult and $15 for youth 17 years old and younger.
Bradley Academy has a lot of history associated with it. The first Bradley Academy opened in 1809 in a small log cabin near Stones River, nestled on a site located by a Revolutionary War officer named John Bradley.
In 1884, Bradley Academy made history by becoming the county’s first school to allow African American students to enroll.
Bradley Academy’s current location was built in 1917 and served as the new building for African American students when it opened in 1918. It operated as a high school and elementary school until 1955.
After closing, the building soon fell into disrepair.
In 1988, community leaders, including McGowan, banded together to breathe new life into the old school. Two years later the Bradley Academy Historic Association formed and the school was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2000, Bradley Academy was reopened as a museum and cultural center. Bradley Academy Museum houses permanent exhibits on Rutherford County’s African-American community. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits details the experiences of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.