Portraits of Honor: Celebrating LaFayette’s Finest

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023

During its final month, LaFayette Main Street’s Portraits of Honor will showcase six individuals who have left an important legacy for the town and its community. 

“These individuals were instrumental in LaFayette and really made an impact on so many throughout their lifetimes here,” said LaFayette Main Street Director DeAnna Hand. “We wanted to honor them and pay tribute to everything they had done for our community and for others throughout their life.”

Throughout the month of June, the “LaFayette Legacies” will hang in the windows of one of LaFayette’s historic downtown buildings, once known as the McClendon building. 

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The “LaFayette Legacies” that were nominated and chosen for the Portraits of Honor are Billie Anne Tucker, Julius Vines, Michael Hand, Robert McClendon Sr., Charlene Holloway and James Edward Rodgers.

“Anytime you meet anyone from LaFayette, they know these individuals and their legacies,” Hand said. “They were well known in our community and really served to make within a better place.”

As the Portraits of Honor end, the organization collected drawings from the elementary school in LaFayette to post to the storefront windows on the square. 

Eastside Elementary School students made art to help Main Street’s efforts to beautify the vacant buildings downtown. 

Tucker was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Alabama Law School. She was the first female attorney to practice law in Chambers County and practiced for 37 years. She was an active community member, serving in the Rotary Club and the East Alabama Mental Health Center board.

Vines, a Chambers County Training School alumni, enlisted in the US Army during WWII. He served honorably on the frontlines during the Battle of the Bulge, providing aid to wounded soldiers and civilians. In 1952, after his education, Vines opened the Vines Funeral Home and served the community for more than 50 years. 

Hand, from LaFayette, took over as the editor and publisher of the LaFayette Sun from his mother in 1989. The paper had stayed in his family for 74 years. As a member of the LaFayette Public Building Authority, he advocated for the expansion of the Chamber County Courthouse and the Jou Louis statue outside its doors. 

McClendon was an army artillery commander in WWII in the Pacific Theater. He left active service in 1948 and served as a Lieutenant Colonel for more than 28 years of service. After retiring from the army, he opened a furniture store, McClendon’s Home Furnishings, in downtown LaFayette. 

Born and raised in LaFayette, Holloway served on the LaFayette City Council for eight years. She spent over 40 years serving as a Certified Nursing Assistant at various hospitals including  Traylor Nursing Home, Batson Cook Hospital, Chambers County Hospital, Lanier Hospital and West Georgia Medical Center.

Rodgers came to LaFayette in 1928 to join his brother’s sawmill business. In 1945, he opened a small cafe. Rodgers Restaurant stayed in business until 2007, serving LaFayette and Auburn for 67 years. When a storm knocked out the electricity, he opened his restaurant early to give city workers a warm place to eat. Upon his retirement, the city declared Jimmy Rodgers Day to honor him for his service to the community. 

This will be the last month of LaFayette Main Street’s Portraits of Honor project. Hand said that the organization is excited to start new projects for the community and is eager to receive feedback, recommendations or donations from the community.