Two performers, James Rogers and Randall Franks, were honored with the Kiwanis International Service Award.
The Kiwanis Club of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia presented the awards at the Walker County Civic Center in Rock Spring. Mr. Rogers currently lives in Rock Spring and Mr. Franks in nearby Ringgold.
Fans, friends and dignitaries traveled hundreds of miles to wish the honorees well and support Kiwanis youth programs as well as charities chosen by Mr. Rogers and Mr. Franks at a banquet held in their honor.
Mr. Rogers is supporting Wings to Soar, a non-profit birds of prey environmental education organization, and Mr. Franks, the Share America Foundation, Inc., a non-profit encouraging youth in the traditional music and arts of Appalachia.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal sent special commendations for both; thanking them for their respective services to the people of Georgia and the light their efforts shine on their home state. State Rep. Jay Neal presented the commendations on his behalf.
"So many of you have really gone out of your way to be here,” said Mr. Rogers. “You are fans and friends. What you do is your talent. A lot of us have certain gifts that we do. God gives us talent. But what you do with it is who you are.
“If I am anybody it is because of my wonderful family and friends that I look up to, and this wonderful community,” he said. “I couldn’t thank you enough to give me this great honor. I am truly blessed to continue to do what I do.”
Always wishing to share a bit of comedy, Mr. Rogers waxed philosophical mentioning great thinkers such as Socrates and Aristotle
“... And Chris Rock. Chris Rock had one of the best lines I ever heard saying ‘Man, You don’t get a cookie for doing what you are suppose to,” he said. “You give back, you are suppose to. This is an expression from you to me of love, and guess what, I love you back.”
Countless concerts for charities, service and civic organization special projects and St. Jude’s Research Hospital have always been a focus of his career, Mr. Rogers said.
Mr. Rogers served 17 years as an honorary chair for the Alzheimer’s Association memory walk and raised awareness for family support organizations for various military branches including upcoming focuses on the Wounded Warriors Project and the Medal of Honor Society.
He was a founder and former board member of American Eagle Foundation for saving of eagles and continues that work with this interest in the Chattanooga based Wings to Soar.
The multi-instrumentalist, singer and comedian was born to a musical family in Chattanooga, but grew up in Fort Oglethorpe. The Rogers family and friends used music to escape the drudgery of working at a textile mill. Mr. Rogers' father, Hershel, played the steel guitar and his mother Elizabeth often sang with her sisters.
Beginning his professional career at the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s Station House his career eventually brought to the road working large shows and in concerts with the biggest names of the era including Alabama, Suzy Bogguss, Roy Clark, Steve Martin, Ricky Skaggs and superstar Dolly Parton.
He began a long association performing with Silver Dollar City (later Dollywood) in Pigeon Forge in 1983 that eventually brought him to a partnership in the Music Mansion with James Rogers and Company starring in a 2,000-seat multi-million dollar theater winning multiple awards for Best Show, Best Theater and Best Entertainer. He retired in 2013 from performing regularly for Dollywood following 30 years of entertaining millions of fans through thousands of live shows.
With his unique songwriting talents, he has crafted songs that have become official themes of numerous organizations, such as "I Guard America" adopted by the Enlisted Men and Women's Association of the National Guard and "Where Eagles Fly" for the Fraternal Order Of Eagles.
Mr. Rogers adds to his resume with composing music for an upcoming children’s audio book “Born to Be” partnering with Dolly Parton and Sally Moorer.
For more information, visit http://jamesrogers.com/.
Mr. Franks began his comments sharing a story about as a child joining his parents as they went door to door in the neighborhood to gather items for a needy family.
“In watching that I could never imagine what life had in store for me as an entertainer or performer,” said Mr. Franks. “I think what was instilled in me by my late parents was that everyday we are given the opportunity to help someone else. It can be individually; it can be in a large project or organization that brings together massive amounts of resources to make a difference."
He offered specific thanks to his long time friend Governor Nathan Deal and Rep. Neal before focusing on the work of the Kiwanis.
“For my friends in the Kiwanis, I have served with you as a Kiwanian myself and I know how much of a difference the organization makes in the lives of youth,” he said. “That has been so much of my focus. Celebrity is a wonderful thing. My mother use to say, ‘It is great that you are famous; it is both a curse and a blessing. People know who you are. If you use it well, you can make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.’ That is what I have tried to do.
“What I have done in my life is not for recognition, so I will accept this on behalf of the two people who inspired me to be who I am, my mom and dad.”
He is past chairman of the Catoosa Citizens for Literacy, which assists individuals in learning to read and pursuing a GED at its Catoosa County Learning Center near Ringgold. Volunteering as deputy public information officer and volunteer liaison for Catoosa County and Ringgold following a 2011 tornado, he coordinated the formation of the Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster (COAD) whose collaborative efforts brought $1.3 million in donations to Catoosa County helping the uninsured and underinsured residents.
He is president of the Share America Foundation, Inc. that provides the Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship to musicians continuing the traditional music of Appalachia. He volunteers as the Northwest Georgia Joint Economic Development Authority film industry liaison and serves as Georgia Production Partnership Secretary. He is a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Ringgold and the Boynton Lions Club. He is treasurer of the Catoosa Local Emergency Planning Committee. He volunteers with the Catoosa County Habitat for Humanity, Ringgold Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Family Collaborative and other area organizations.
The actor/entertainer starred in three TV series but is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” a role he performed on NBC and CBS from 1988-1993.
He has co-starred or starred in 14 films with superstars ranging from William Hurt to Dolly Parton. His most recent film “Lukewarm” is with John Schneider.
The Independent Country Music Hall of Famer’s career boasts 19 albums, 19 singles, and over 200 recordings helping share his musical stylings in 150 countries and with more than 25 million Americans. The award-winning fiddler’s best selling release, "Handshakes and Smiles" was a top 20 Christian music seller adding to successes in country, bluegrass and folk. In addition to his solo career including 13 years guest starring for the Grand Ole Opry, the International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend is a former member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Jim and Jesse's Virginia Boys and has performed with Jeff and Sheri Easter, the Lewis Family, the Marksmen Quartet, the Watkins Family, Elaine and Shorty, “Doc” Tommy Scott’s Last Real Old Time Medicine Show and Doodle and the Golden River Grass.
The latest of his four books is “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.” The award-winning journalist is a syndicated columnist with his “Southern Style” appearing weekly in newspapers from North Carolina to Texas and at http://randallfranks.com/