A 97-year-old World War II veteran and church deacon is Dayton’s Citizen of the Year for the Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. Earl Randolph, a native of Hardin who has lived in Dayton for more than five decades, was announced as this year’s recipient at the Chamber’s annual gala on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Dayton Community Center.
Julie Campbell, last year’s Citizen of the Year for Dayton and owner of Star Twirl Cheer and Gym, introduced Randolph. As she read Randolph’s biographical information, dozens of his family members quietly entered the civic center ballroom to surprise him and watch as he received accolades from the Chamber, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, representatives for U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and State Rep. Ernest Bailes.
“Throughout his life, Mr. Randolph has been a man who has worn many hats. He is a lifetime member of the Olive Bethel Baptist Church in Hardin, Texas, where he serves as emeritus deacon board chairman, senior choir president and a Sunday school teacher,” Campbell said. “He supports all activities of the church with his presence and cooperation. He still captivates audiences with his beautiful voice, leading songs of praise.”
Randolph is one of Liberty County’s few surviving World War II veterans. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy during the war, where he was assigned to the Asiatic Pacific Campaign from 1943 to 1946 on the USS Mintaka Ship. He witnessed firsthand the battles at Peleliu Island and Okinawa, Japan.
Randolph’s war experiences were recently recorded and will be part of the Veteran’s History Project at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
After the war, he worked for and retired from the Diamond Shamrock refinery in Deer Park. His community service and activities extended to the Dayton Civic League and Trinity Valley Singing Convention. He was once named the Citizen of the Year for Hardin, Texas, and was awarded Earl Randolph Day in Liberty County in December 2012.
The Liberty Citizen of the Year is Dianne Huddleston, who serves on the Liberty City Council and is a retired banker for First Liberty National Bank. Frank Jordan, a past recipient of the award, made the announcement at the Chamber gala.
“She has dedicated her life to improving the quality of life in our hometown. She has served on the Liberty City Council since 2006,” Jordan said, adding that her knowledge of budgets and finance made her an invaluable resource to the council.
“When this lady gets a hold on a budget, she reads every line. She evaluates, criticizes and improves on every line,” he said.
Huddleston served on the L-D Chamber’s board of directors previously and served as board president in 1999. Her community service extends to the Liberty Rotary Club, where she has served as a member for more than 30 years and served as president. Through the Rotary Club, Huddleston initiated a program to provide free dictionaries to every single student of Liberty ISD.
“Education is one of her primary focuses. She served on the TVE scholarship program during 1999-2007 and was the chairman from 2003-2005. She was a founding board member of the Liberty [ISD] Education Foundation, concentrating on providing resources for teachers and programs to enhance the quality of education for LISD students and, I might add, the staff,” Jordan said. “The amazing thing is she always leaves a wonderful mark and better friends, no matter where she serves. Her presence assures that whatever she joins is better because of her contributions.”
Like Randolph, she received accolades from the Chamber, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, representatives for U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and U.S. Rep. Ernest Bailes.
The guest speaker for the evening was former Harris County judge and current Rice University professor Ed Emmett, who considers himself a part-time resident of Liberty County as he owns a weekend home at Artesian Lakes.
As a newcomer to Liberty County, Emmett said he began looking into the County’s rich history.
“In talking about Liberty County, whenever you move into a place, you get into it and want to learn about it,” he said.
His research took him to the Grand Cane area, referred to today as Clark in northeast Liberty County. The area was the home of General Sam Houston, the first and third president of the Republic of Texas and the leader of the Texas Revolution.
Emmett’s research also led to learning that the co-founder of the Blank Panthers, Bobby Seal, was a Liberty, Texas, native. He challenged the Chamber guests to educate the younger generation on the the important people in their history, including former Texas Speaker of the House and Liberty native Price Daniel Sr.
Emmett said that while Liberty County should strive to preserve and protect its history, the county needs to brace and prepare for radical changes over the next few years because of the increasing sprawl of Houston. County leaders, he said, need to start planning now.
“First and foremost, you have to make this community resilient. We’ve had a few floods lately. We all live near the Trinity River bottom, so it’s expected. It’s the nature of the beast. So how do we make the community resilient? We need to work on that,” he said. “We also need to protect our environment. We have had a lot of conversations in years past about the environment. It’s time for everybody to come together and say, ‘We only have one environment. We need to make sure it stays the way it is, and the things that make this area lovely, we need to make sure they stay.”
He encouraged the Chamber members to be welcoming to newcomers to Liberty County.
“Make them feel welcome and get to know them,” he said.
Emmett said people need to understand that life, like business, is ever-changing. While the energy industry may be dominant today, in 40 years that could change.
“Look at how telephones have changed over the years. Anybody here ever grow up with a phone on a party line?,” said Emmett, adding that home phones were replaced by flip phones, which were later replaced by smart phones.
“It’s the same with typewriters and computers,” he said, adding that because industries change, people must be prepared to adapt and change as well.
“The bottom line is think about your future, enjoy the past, prepare your business for that future, and prepare to change businesses because your business may not be here in the future,” he said. “Prepare yourself to be a friend, supporter and helper to everyone you come into contact with. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here tonight and thank you for giving me the opportunity to live in Liberty County.”