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Judge Cunningham receives Cora Tucker award / January 02, 2013
“It’s the biggest award I’ve ever received,” said Halifax Circuit Judge Joel Cunningham as he accepted the 2013 Cora Tucker Award given annually by the local chapter of the NAACP.

“I loved Cora Tucker. She was a fearless fighter for justice for all. She just wanted to make things better for everybody,” Cunningham told a gathering Tuesday at Jubilee Day, held at Banister Hill Baptist Church in Halifax.

“She was a big idea person,” he said.

Cunningham is the fourteenth recipent of the award, established in memory of the late civil right leader and Halifax County native. The award has been presented at Jubilee Day by the local NAACP chapter since 2000.

Cunningham, the first African-American to serve as a circuit judge in Halifax County, recalled witnessing Tucker as she made several appearances at the University of Virginia Law School while he was still a law student.

Turning to the present, the judge appealed to those in attendance at the Jubilee Day celebration “to do something to save our young people.” As a sitting judge, Cunningham said, he sees far too many young people brought before him — a disproportionate number of them young black males — who need more direction in their lives.

He praised the members of the HYM (His Young Men) musical group who provided several musical selections for Tuesday’s program.

“My heart has been warmed by these young men’s singing,” he said, adding that he hopes they will set an example for how much young men can offer in today’s society.

Presenting Cunningham with the award was ougoing NAACP President Kevin L. Chandler, who was joined in the presentation by Betty Tucker, the daughter of Cora Tucker, and Cora’s granddaughter, Ebony Guy.

Guy told the audience that to her, Cora Tucker had simply been a mother and grandmother who wanted all the good things in life for her children and grandchildren.

“She was my world and I never quite understood all those things that happened to her. So many have had to sacrifice and to struggle,” Guy said, referring to the struggle for civil rights.

She also remembered another person who was a recent recipient of the Cora Tucker Award, Virginia Hightower, who died in December. “She was so important to the recent presidential election, working so hard for President Obama.”

The first recipient of the Cora Tucker award was Laurietta Faulkner in 2000. In 2001 the Rev. Roger Ford received the award; in 2002, Leslie Hughes; in 2003, Gelois Miller and Sarah Baldwin; 2004, William Fitzgerald; 2005, Lewis Wilson; 2006, Walter Potts; 2007, William B. Claiborne; 2008, Cheryl B. Terry; 2009, Arthur Reynolds; 2010, Virginia Hightower and 2011, Shirley Chandler.

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