Starkville resident Bill Poe has spent a lifetime giving back to our community by promoting and preserving our local history. In recognition of his efforts, Bill received the second annual Ava Moore Historical Leadership Award at the Denim & Diamonds dinner, a fundraising event for the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.
The Ava Moore Award was created last year to honor Ava Moore, who was president of the Friends of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum when she passed away in 2014. It recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in preserving and promoting local history in Oktibbeha County. That description fits Bill Poe perfectly.
He is a former president of the Board of Trustees of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum. Among other things, he curated the museum’s exhibit on Cool Papa Bell, the Starkville native and Negro Leagues standout who is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Bill is responsible for the mannequin depicting Cool Papa Bell at our local museum.
Bill also created the permanent exhibit for basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell. In fact, he and I first worked together behind the scenes to have a street on campus named for the legendary MSU great. Bill was instrumental in the effort to rename Coliseum Drive as Bailey Howell Drive.
He received the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s Military Award for a project recognizing over 45 local World War II veterans. They were interviewed about their experiences, and honored at a special ceremony at the MSU Student Union.
Bill has been an advocate for local contributions to the history of aviation. He coordinated a roundtable discussion about the impact of aviation advances in the Golden Triangle area. The Heritage Museum has copies of the video available for purchase.
A resident of the Cotton District for 50 years, Bill has hosted numerous parties in his home to celebrate the historical accomplishments of others. For example, he hosted an event for Stuart Vance upon the publication of his book, “Aviation in the Golden Triangle.” He also hosted a farewell party for Chester McKee, who had been a longtime supporter of the museum.
Bill has served as the primary museum liaison with Dr. Cory Gallo and the MSU landscape architecture students who designed the award-winning rain garden and pavilion in front of the museum. This design has been selected for exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City next month. Since 2010, the museum pavilion, rain garden and MSU faculty involved have received eight national and regional awards for teaching, collaborative practice and design.
Bill also served as a historical consultant for the Cooley Building’s transformation into the Cotton Mill Conference Center. Fittingly, Bill has already received the T.E. Veitch Award for community service and the Maroon Volunteer Award.
In short, recent accomplishments related to promoting and celebrating our local history have Bill Poe’s fingerprints all over them. The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum, inside and out, reflects the hard work and dedication of Bill Poe. I know our departed friend Ava Moore would be proud to see him honored in her name for his outstanding achievements.
In July, the museum was proud to welcome a group from Meadowview Baptist Church in Starkville for a guided tour of the collection!
The first annual Ava Moore Award was presented by the Friends of the Museum at this year’s Denim & Diamonds event on August 22. Friends President, Brother Rogers, presented the award, and these were his remarks:
Ava Moore was my close friend for more than 21 years, and it is my honor in her memory to inaugurate the Ava Moore Historical Leadership Award. The Ava Moore Award will be presented each year by the Friends of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum at this Denim & Diamonds event to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in preserving and promoting local history in Oktibbeha County.
Ava’s death in 2014 was a shock to us all. She provided great leadership as president of the Friends of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.
When the Friends of the Museum organization was established in 2008, Ava served on the initial Board of Directors. That’s not surprising because whenever anything good was going on in Starkville, Ava Moore was right in the middle of it. She was a driving force for community development.
Patsy Stuart, Wanda Thorne, and Ava Moore, co-chaired the first “Denim & Diamonds” fundraiser for the museum, and Ava worked hard on that project each year. The Friends of the Museum wanted to find a fitting way to memorialize Ava and to annually recognize the leadership of an individual who has made a significant impact on preserving and promoting the history of Starkville and Oktibbeha County. That is why we established the Ava Moore Award.
The first Ava Moore Award recipient is the founder and first president of the Friends of the Museum back in 2008. She recruited Ava and many others to be on the board.
She and her husband moved to Starkville in 1970. She retired from Mississippi State University in 2003, and has been a tremendous leader in our community. I think she’s a professional volunteer. This person has been an officer with the Starkville Area Arts Council, MSU Women’s Club, and M’Lady Garden Club. She’s active with the Association of Retired Faculty.
But she’s being honored as the founder and first president of the Friends of the Museum. She will tell you she had a lot of help, and a lot of you in this room helped her, but in another way, this person was like the Little Red Hen. She wrote the first by-laws, registered the group with the Secretary of State’s office, started the website for the museum and then became the website editor. She photographed and documented progress at the museum. She created the Friends organization and she raised funds from individuals and businesses to support the museum. She co-chaired the first Denim & Diamonds event four years ago. She continued to be a leader in organizing this event each year. She has done so much for the museum and provided outstanding leadership. She is the heart and soul of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum and we wouldn’t be where we are today without her.
She loved Ava Moore, and I think it is especially fitting and proper that she be the first recipient of an award in memory of Ava. By now, you know who it is. It is with great pleasure that I formally announce to you that the recipient of the first Ava Moore Award is Wanda Thorne.
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Tours are encouraged and available by special arrangement.
Admission to the museum is free, but donations are appreciated.