Hundreds of dignitaries, friends and relatives gathered Saturday night to honor veteran state Rep. Charles Young Sr., D-Meridian, for his longtime service to the community.

Proceeds from the appreciation dinner will support restoration of Carnegie Library, where Young worked and studied as a student. The dinner, held in Kahlmus Auditorium at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, was sponsored by the Lauderdale County Human Relations Commission.

Carnegie Library, located at 2721 13th St., was the educational hub of Meridian’s black community from 1912 until it closed in 1974. The restoration project seeks to renovate the building and equip it to become a center for arts education, social skills and tutorial services.

Guests enjoyed a buffet-style dinner and entertainment through song by The Pinnacle Institute Conference Choir and Young’s daughter, Assistant District Attorney Vel Young. The evening included a video tribute to Young, 74, a longtime businessman and civil rights leader who has served in the state House of Representatives since 1980.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, both R-Miss., were among the dignitaries in attendance Saturday. Others who either attended or sent written greetings were Gov. Haley Barbour, former Govs. Ray Mabus, Ronnie Musgrove and William Winter, state Sen. Sampson Jackson, D-DeKalb, state Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith, and Lauderdale County Supervisors Jimmie Smith, president of Mississippi Association of Supervisors, and Craig Hitt.

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, honorary co-chairperson of the dinner, said she was honored to pay tribute to a “Mississippi leader, close friend as well as respected community leader.”

Tuck stated that leadership and learning are very important to Young and that the library restoration was an appropriate project to benefit from the appreciation dinner.

State Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke, D-Jackson, welcomed guests with an acronym.

“Welcome could be thought of this way: W — watch how you treat your colleagues; E — every day thank God for the day; L — love and learn, as this is what Charles would tell our children; C — come and call your state legislators to ensure they are doing what you sent them to do; O — only Charles would say, ‘Only look down on someone if you are picking them up’; M — march on, Charles, march on; and E — everybody is worth everything,” Clarke said.

The keynote speaker was former House Speaker Pro Tempore Robert Clark of Ebenezer, who was introduced by state Sen. Terry C. Burton, R-Newton.

Other guests on the program were Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, president of Mississippi State University, and state Sen. Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian.

Political figures and educators alike admired the work and service of Young.

“He has always been a peaceful man and an effective legislator who gives his best,” said Barbara Rooks-Jackson, an executive assistant to Cochran for 27 years. “He is known to bring people together from different backgrounds and is very influential in the state and everywhere he has reached in his career.”

Former state Rep. Charles Shepphard, who also was elected to the House in 1980, recalled Young’s “ability to provide leadership and knowledge to the newly elected members of the Black Caucus.”

“Because of him and Aaron Henry, the state began to move forward. They are responsible for things at Alcorn State and other historically black colleges.”

Carey and Michele Smith, both educators at Meridian Community College, thanked Young for his continued support of the college and the Meridian area.

“There is no way to show him enough thanks for his continued support in Mississippi,” Michele Smith said.

Ray Denton of the MCC Production Center and Public Relations Department has worked with Young for nearly 30 years in the broadcast business and considers him one of the smartest people he has worked with.

“He has taught me about broadcast and life, and I owe him the biggest debt,” Denton said. “I think of him as a great confidante, friend and the most deserving person I know of this great honor.”

Young, a decorated Army veteran of the Korean War, has served as president of E.F. Young Jr. Manufacturing Co. since 1969. He was among the originators of Head Start and was the first African-American to join the local Chamber of Commerce. He founded the Greater Meridian Health Clinic, which now operates in six locations and has a mobile dental lab.

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