(pictured above: Honoree Delray Anthony (left) poses with Council Member Derwin Montgomery and organizer Ben Piggott.)
Some of Winston-Salem’s finest grew up in Happy Hill, the city’s oldest African American community. They were feted on Friday, July 11 as part of the 21st Annual Happy Hill Reunion.
Police officers with connections to the community were honored at the William C. Sims Senior Community Center. Former and current residents were among those on hand to cheer for them as masters of ceremonies William ‘Rock’ Bitting and Ben Piggott, founders of the Happy Hill Reunion, recounted their contributions. East Ward City Council Member Derwin Montgomery assisted in presenting the awards.
Retired Sgt. Jimmy Boyd was touched by the tribute. A product of Happy Hill, Boyd was asked to give the keynote address. The community he grew up in is different from today’s community, he said.
“There was a time when Happy Hill Gardens (the public housing community that was erected in the Happy Hill community in the 1950s) had neighbors who were neighborly,” Boyd said. “It was a community back then.”
Chief Barry Rountree was honored, too. He said many officers are connected to Happy Hill through the time they spent patrolling the community.
“Most of us have a history in Happy Hill from working with the community over here at some point in our careers,” he said. “It is always good to be recognized and thanked for the job that we’ve done through the years.”
The other honorees were: Bobby Boyd, James Johnson, Dwayne Aikens, Harrison Davis, Clarence Brown, Ralph Mason, Jerome Paul, Terry Braswell, Bobby Boyd, James “Godfather” Johnson, Delray Anthony,Thurmond Carter and Kevin Wade.
Mark Redd was also honored. The former Happy Hill resident played basketball at Auburn alongside the great Charles Barkley.
The program also included songs from the Rising Ebenezer Baptist Church Praise Team and Stephanie Golden, poetry and a brief retelling of the history of the Happy Hill Reunion, which Bitting and Piggott started to keep former neighbors connected and the community’s vibrant past alive.
“The reunion continues to be an annual event for commending outstanding leaders, enjoying news and fellowship and assisting to remove the negative stereotype of the Happy Hill community,” said Maurice Pitts Johnson, whose grandparents were among the architects of the community. “This is a time to show positive and successful people who were born and raised in the area.”
Boyd is also a proponent of guarding the community’s legacy.
“Do not let our history die,” he said. “We ought to pass that torch and let our kids know what Happy Hill stood for. Happy Hill Gardens was a happy place to live.”
Rev. Ronnie L. Coleman, pastor of Witness For My Lord C.O.G.I.C, said he supports the Happy Hill Reunion because the community is a part of his heritage.
“If it had not been for Happy Hill Garden and the experiences I got, it would have been hard to make it in life,” Coleman said. “We were used to having nothing and from nothing making something. Whatever we had we made the best of it.”
Loretta Hatchett said she enjoys the fellowshipping the reunion offers.
“I think that it is good that we can look back and see where we all came from and where we are going,” she said. “We help the young people move forward and not forget where their parents came from.”
The reunion continued on Saturday, July 12 in Happy Hill Park, where for more than five hours hundreds of attendees enjoyed food, live music and games and took walks down memory lane.