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3 praised for lifetime achievement
James Hodges - photo by FRANK FORTUNE/special

    Three men were honored Tuesday for having dedicated a lifetime to serving others during the 22nd Annual Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards, held at Georgia Southern University's Nessmith-Lane Building.
    The three — Joe Bill Brannon, Billy Tyson and James Eli Hodges — are former Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Award recipients who have spent their lives doing kind deeds, giving of themselves and thinking selflessly.
    Charles Brown, who received the award in the past, introduced each man and spoke about his years of community contributions.
    Brown introduced Joe Bill Brannon first.
    "It's no secret that one of our 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients is a hard worker," he said."He never seeks the glory, but his efforts are visible as he goes about his daily business of helping those in need.
    "This man wears many hats, but never seems to tire when it comes to helping people faced with tragedy, health issues, or hunger. His ties with numerous civic organizations seem to amplify his efforts, and his work has touched the lives of many as well as helped countless causes.
    "When the fall rolls around, this man is at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair every single night, working behind the scenes as a dedicated Statesboro Kiwanis Club member.  He shows up for work days with the club and offers a helping hand any time he is able."
    Brannon is also a very active member in the Statesboro Lions Club, where he has served as past president and is involved in every single fundraiser and activity the club holds to help those with sight issue, he said.
    Brannon is captain of the Bulloch County American Red Cross Disaster Team, and "is first in line to help those who have lost their homes and possessions to fire or natural disaster," Brown said. "He is also a driving force behind the Statesboro Food Bank's numerous programs, including feeding the Boys and Girls Club children five hot meals a week and the morning outreach program where 60 families receive food from local grocery stores.
    Brannon is a retired mail carrier and business owner who was recently named the Statesboro Rotary Club's Citizen of the Year - Joe Bill Brannon, please come forward and accept your Deen Day Smith Lifetime Achievement Award.

James Eli Hodges
    Brown introduced Hodges as being "well known for his leadership and involvement in several areas of the community.
    "He has served as chairman of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, and has held leadership positions with the Georgia Southern University Foundation, Bulloch Academy, Forest Heights Country Club, and Statesboro High School Athletic Booster," he said.
    "This honoree served on the Official Board and Finance Committee of Statesboro's First United Methodist Church; and is a past president of the Statesboro Rotary Club. He had led fund drives for many causes, including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association"
    Hodges was state director of the YMCA of Georgia, has been a member of the GSU School of Business advisory board, Southern Boosters, and the Ogeechee Technical College Board of Trustees.  He is a long term member of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, and served as the director and vice president of the Averitt Foundation for the Arts, he said.
    "His business savvy earned him the honor of Business Leader of the Year in the early 1990's.  This man is a past recipient of the Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards and served on the selection committee for the awards from its inception to 2008.
    "Our honoree chaired a drive to raise money for the purchase and renovation of the house currently occupied by the Statesboro Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce," he said. "He has also dedicated much of his time in caring for family members." He helped his mother for 33 years as care giver for his brother, then took the position as care giver for his mother, as well as a family friend. "He retired from his banking career to care for his wife during her battle with Alzheimer's disease," he said.
    Brown outlined Hodges' career, starting in 1974 with First Bulloch Bank and Trust, where he served as its CEO and President, then formed First Banking Company of Southeast Georgia. Hodges served as its CEO and president and the company grew to include First Bulloch Bank, Metter Banking Company, First National Bank of Effingham and Wayne County National Bank.
    "After merging with Branch Bank & Trust in 2000, Hodges became its city president and senior vice president before his retirement in 2008," he said.

Billy Tyson
    Billy Tyson is "a native of Bulloch County, was valedictorian of his high school class, attended the University of Georgia and enlisted in the United States Army," Brown said. "He graduated from Georgia Southern and was named Alumni of the Year by the College of Business in 1995.
    "He worked 10 years for the Center of Georgia Railroad and in 1968 came to work for his hometown bank." Tyson later became president of Farmers and Merchants Bank.
    His civic involvement includes being a past president and long time member of the Brooklet Kiwanis Club, and a member of the Brooklet Rotary Club, Brown said.  He has been highly involved in activities that benefit charities and causes as a member of those clubs.
    Tyson has served on "The GSU Foundation Board of Trustees, has worked with A Day For Southern, has served on the Ogeechee Technical College board, and been a loyal worker in the iGot (I Gave to Ogeechee Tech) campaign," he said.
    Tyson has been active in "United Way, Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, American Diabetes Association, Southeast Bulloch FFA and more, he said.
    Other areas where Tyson has spread his love for others and given without thought for himself include helping Forest Heights Country Club, the American Red Cross, and being a Century member of the Boy Scouts of America ... the Booster Club and charter president of the Football Boosters," he said.
    Tyson has been a member of Brooklet United Methodist Church for 64 years and has been an active supporter of church activities and causes, he said. He was recipient of the Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards in 1992.

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