The 2nd Annual “I Tried” Awards Banquet Commemorates the Past and Looks to the Future

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center hosted its 2nd annual “I Tried” Awards Banquet on Thursday, October 19 at NSU’s Friedman Memorial Student Union. The gala honored the life and legacy of the late Natchitoches businessman and civic leader, Ben D. Johnson Sr. and raised funds to support the educational facility named in his honor. Mr. Johnson was the owner of Winnfield Funeral Homes, Winnfield Insurance Company, and other businesses in Natchitoches and around the state. In addition to his business interests, Mr. Johnson was a leader in the Civil Rights movement and community betterment in the local area and throughout Louisiana.

Mr. Ed Ward, a Natchitoches businessman and civic leader, paid homage to Ben D. Johnson’s life and accomplishments in the areas of business, the civil rights struggle and community improvement. In an era when the banking system was far from open to African-Americans, Mr. Johnson financed the building of numerous churches and businesses. His legacy of hard work, determination and community betterment is aptly carried on by the educational center that bears his name.

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center provides life changing job readiness training, offering everything from GED completion to certifications in construction, food service, forklift operation and Six-Sigma quality control. Their Lagacy Café, staffed by students and utilizing produce grown in the center’s community garden, is one of the finest restaurants in the city. The Center also operates an emergency food and clothing bank for people facing hard times. The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center is a force for good in our community!

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center honored four community leaders at the banquet: Mr. Ken Hale of Bank of Montgomery, Fr. John O’Brien of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Attorney Howard Conday and community activist De’Andrea “Coach De” Sanders.