On Thursday night, the Rev. Raymond A. Jetson and Frank McArthur will enter the Riverview Ballroom of the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center to receive the 50th annual Brotherhood Sisterhood Award in a procession led by 23 of the 38 living former award recipients.
Jetson and McArthur will join a list of 84 community leaders who have been recognized in the 50-year history of the award, which recognizes those who contribute to harmony in the community.
It will be presented at the annual Greater Baton Rouge Brotherhood & Sisterhood Award Dinner sponsored by 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge in partnership with Forum 35.
“This year of the Golden Anniversary of the award is truly a special one. Not only are we honoring two of our city’s finest as the 2012 honorees, but we wanted, on the occasion of our 50th year, to honor all the past recipients in a very special way,” said Susan Lipsey, who with her husband, Richard A. Lipsey, a 2005 award recipient, and Jacqui Vines, a 2006 recipient, are the 2012 dinner chairmen.
The award began in 1963 when Lewis Gottlieb was recognized by the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Baton Rouge chapter was part of the national organization, which was established in 1927 to fight bias, bigotry and racism in response to anti-Catholic sentiment expressed during New York Gov. Al Smith’s run for the Democratic nomination for president. One of the founders, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, dedicated the organization “to bringing diverse people together to address interfaith divisions.”
In a visit to Baton Rouge in October 1953, the Rev. Everett Ross Clinchy, an ordained Presbyterian minister and NCCJ president, told an audience of local business, professional and religious leaders that when Smith ran for president, “He was beaten, not so much for his national views, but because he was a Roman Catholic, and this unleashed a barrage of hate literature that did the work.”
The founders of NCCJ felt that there had to be a way in which Catholics, Protestants and Jews could get together, even though they worshipped in different churches, Clinchy said.
The Baton Rouge office was organized in 1954 by Carlos G. Spaht, a Protestant; Julius Bahlinger, a Catholic; and Harvey H. Posner, a Jew. The Brotherhood Dinner was introduced almost a decade later in 1963.
Joe Simmons, a member of the 2012 dinner committee, is the great-nephew of Gottlieb, the first recipient. Simmons served on the board and chairman of NCCJ for many years. He described his uncle as a “great big man with a gentle soul.”
“LSU was a passion of his, not just from having been on the Board of Supervisors, but he was exceedingly generous in helping young people pay their way through LSU, not once demanding a promissory note from students,” Simmons said. “If they had it in their hearts to pay him back, that was good.”
Gottlieb, who was a bachelor, a banker and owner of Standard Motor Car Co., was the silent benefactor of both the Protestant and Catholic orphanages.
Often on Sunday, Gottlieb would go to Bernard’s Chicken Loaf restaurant and take chicken loaves to the children in the orphanages. He frequently called the matrons of the two orphanages and asked them to take the children to a local store to purchase new outfits, shoes or coats, all charged on his account.
Gottlieb’s niece, Betty Moyse Simmons, said in an Advocate story from 2000 that when Standard Motor Car Co. celebrated its 50th anniversary, Gottlieb took the children from both orphanages to Biloxi for a whole week.
“He never had any children of his own, so he just adopted the children at the orphanages,” Betty Simmons said. “He just sort of adopted the whole city.”
The Rev. John Melton, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, received the second award “for distinguished service in the field of human relations.” Melton, in accepting the award said that “preaching the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God” was “part of his job.”
“He was a giant of a man,” Richard Lipsey said. “I remember that he and Rabbi Walter Peiser used to alternate giving the Thanksgiving speech at Rotary. I can remember how elegant he was.”
Southern University President G. Leon Netterville was the first black recipient of the award in 1975. John F. Smith, chairman of the Brotherhood Sisterhood Committee, said that Netterville “bridged gaps between the universities in Baton Rouge.”
“He was one of the first to try to do things with LSU,” Smith said. “His challenge was how to continue to move the university forward for those who had no other place to be educated. I guess that he was the first African American to be recognized because he could act with persons across cultures. It had a lot to do with his community presence.”
The first woman recipient was Rosalind McKenzie, who was the first woman president of Capital Area United Way, the first woman to serve as chairperson of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, president of the Junior League of Baton Rouge and first chairwoman and an organizer of the Book Bazaar for the Friends of the LSU Libraries. She was recognized in 1976.
Donna M. Saurage, a 1996 recipient and a member of the dinner committee, recalled Dr. Morton L. Levy, a pediatrician who received the award in 1979. “He was my children’s counselor, psychiatrist and physician,” said Saurage, who recalled a time years ago when she had a very sick baby. “Dr. Levy said he would come to the house,” she said. “From that day forward, he was our doctor.”
“He was so concerned with people’s health and the safety of children,” Richard Lipsey said. “He ran the Baton Rouge Safety Council and Safety Town. He just devoted his life to that. Even after he retired, he was involved with children and safety.”
Levy was an active Kiwanian, who started eight Kiwanis clubs including two for black members and one integrated club.
Richard Lipsey describes Douglas L. Manship Sr., a 1974 recipient, as the “go-to man in Baton Rouge when I was young.”
“If you wanted someone to weigh in on something, he would absolutely give a lot of thought to it,” Lipsey said. “He would steer you in the right direction. He always looked for something to help with. People don’t remember how involved in everything he was. He was very quietly philanthropic.”
The Rev. T.J. Jemison, who was recognized in 1982, is the earliest living recipient. “When I first started practicing law, I had to notarize bank loans at City National Bank,” Joe Simmons said. “I cannot count the number of car loans that T.J. Jemison cosigned for his parishioners. If there were 20 car loans to sign in any one week, seven of them were Rev. Jemison’s.”
The 85 recipients are a veritable Who’s Who of Baton Rouge. “There are the big ones like John Barton, Bishop (Stanley) Ott and Gen. (Troy H.) Middleton,” Joe Simmons said. “Alvin Rubin, even when he was a senior judge on the U.S. 5th Circuit, when you called his office, he picked up the phone. He was a people person. And (Paul M.) ‘Mac’ Hebert, one of the kindest souls.”
The list of past recipients includes such notables as D. Jensen Holliday, Gordon A. Pugh, Huel D. Perkins and Horatio C. Thompson, who died in October. In the 50 years, there have been three husband and wife recipients — Josef and Mary Ann Sternberg, Wallace and Eileen R. Armstrong and Eula V. and the Rev. Charles T. Smith.
“What astounded me was a couple of years ago when the committee on first vote selected Derek Gordon. How proud I was for choosing a gay black man,” Saurage said. “When the vote was over, half of the people said they didn’t know he was gay, and the other half said they didn’t know he was black.”
“That was a real testament to the committee,” Susan Lipsey said.
For many years, Richard K. Goldberger, one of Baton Rouge’s first advertising executives, served as volunteer executive director of the local chapter of NCCJ.
“He was the glue of this organization,” Richard Lipsey said.
In August 2005, the Baton Rouge Region of NCCJ, which was by then renamed the National Conference for Community and Justice, officially “passed the torch” to five organizations to continue its long-standing programs.
“NCCJ was a very top-heavy organization with only one board of directors for its 40 chapters,” Richard Lipsey said. “We sent them a lot of money, but San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and New York were eating up their budget. We always had a positive cash flow, but those cities ate up those proceeds.”
Lee Berg, a 1999 recipient and a member of the board of NCCJ, asked 100 Black Men to take over the awards dinner. The group gladly accepted. In 2009, in an effort to bring in younger participation and diversity, 100 Black Men asked Forum 35 to assist with the dinner and the award, which is now the Brotherhood Sisterhood Award.
The two organizations, along with a few longtime members of NCCJ, are moving the dinner into its second half century.
“It’s our intention to select the honorees based on diversity in the community,” Smith said. “We are looking for people who have skin in the game, people who give their time, talent and treasure.”
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