The halls of Riverside Military Academy echoed with voices and music Thursday evening, as the school opened its doors to more than 260 North Georgia residents and leaders.
Riverside hosted the annual Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award dinner Thursday evening. The award, named for Riverside’s president from 1912-1969, honors two individuals for their contribution to the community, while raising money for cadet tuition assistance.
“This is a special evening when we honor the men and women of our community whose entrepreneurial leadership, knowledge and character are parallel with Gen. Sandy Beaver,” said Col. James Benson, president of Riverside.
The honorees for the evening were “Big Jim” Walters, longtime supporter of numerous area nonprofits and president of Walters Management Co. in Gainesville, and the late Wilbur Ramsey, a decorated World War II officer who later played a key role in the North Georgia poultry and healthcare industries.
Walters is the chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority Board at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal, who was in attendance Thursday evening with First Lady Sandra Deal. Walters also serves on the boards of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation, Elachee Nature Center and Brenau University.
“He’s a very kind individual,” Deal said in a video about Walters. “His philanthropy and generosity is well-known by anyone in our community and even beyond.”
Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, called Walters a “true visionary and an extremely generous philanthropist.”
Ramsey, a Hall County native, was a member of the Bushmasters, or the first to storm the South Pacific beaches in World War II. He was president of L&R Farms and a longtime board member for the Northeast Georgia Health System.
“I’m overwhelmed that the community came together to celebrate him,” said Aly Ramsey Hill, granddaughter of Wilbur Ramsey. “He did a lot for this community. My brother and I were with our grandparents every day of our lives, and it means a lot to know the community looked up to him like I did.”
Hill and her brother, Franklin “Ramsey” Hill, agreed they hope to be like their grandfather.
“He was a really special man,” Ramsey Hill said. “He was a huge role model for me.”
Deal called Ramsey “one of those real pillars of the community, the kind of individual who truly does deserve to be recognized for his contributions.”
The governor further thanked everyone present for their support of Riverside and for recognizing Ramsey and Walters.
“Not every community is fortunate enough to have individuals like these two,” he said. “So we should count ourselves as very, very special. I know I do.”