History of the Wall of Fame
The concept of a Wall of Fame began in 1988 under the administration of William R. Ballou, former Executive Director of the Columbia Housing Authority. Ballou was concerned about the absence of positive role models in the lives of children living in public housing, and he suspected that it was a contributing factor in the cycle of government dependence among families. He believed that if children could see former public housing residents achieve great success, it would encourage them to set higher goals and standards for themselves. It was this belief that provided the inspiration for the Wall of Fame.
Although there has been some variation from year to year, the basic requirements for induction into the Wall of Fame have remained unchanged. To be eligible for the honor, an individual must be a former resident of a CHA public housing community (later, this was expanded to include Section 8 participants), must have achieved success in their chosen career field, and must be recognized as someone who gives back to the community.
The Wall of Fame Organizing Committee, which consists of Wall of Fame honorees, CHA staff, a representative from the CHA Board of Commissioners, representatives from the Resident Executive Council, and representatives from the community-at-large, is tasked with sorting through applications and narrowing the field to no more than five candidates. The CHA Board of Commissioners makes the final selection of up to three individuals to be inducted into the Wall of Fame each year.
The original ceremony was held in April of 1988 at the Oak-Read Highrise, a CHA public housing community for the elderly. Three individuals were inducted that year. In order to memorialize the event, brass plaques bearing the names of each of the inductees were placed on a two-foot high retaining wall. In subsequent years, plaques were added to the wall as additional individuals were selected for the honor.
In 1993, the CHA received a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Public Housing Drug Elimination Grant (PHDEP) for several crime prevention activities. The City of Columbia Police Department indicated there was a severe problem with drug traffic between two large public housing communities, Saxon Homes (now demolished) and Allen-Benedict Court. The Oak-Read Highrise sat in the middle of these two communities and the recommendation was made by the police to build a large wall (12 feet high) to curtail the drug traffic. The construction of the wall resulted in a beautiful courtyard for the elderly residents of the Oak Read high rise and eventually became the site of the CHA’s Wall of Fame ceremony.
By the time the wall was constructed, the Wall of Fame ceremony had become such a prestigious event that the decision was made to expand the visibility of the program. So, in 1994, large portraits of the 21 Wall of Fame inductees were painted on the wall surrounding the Oak Read high rise garden as part of the CHA's 60th Anniversary Celebration.
The CHA obtained donations from local businesses to have the portraits created and additional funding was made available by the Cultural Council of the Midlands, the South Carolina Commission for the Arts, and the Central Carolina Community Foundation. The painting of the portraits was done by over 300 school children in a paint by number scenario organized by local artist, Ralph Waldrop.
The annual Wall of Fame ceremony is held in conjunction with Richland County School District One's Spring Break so that children can participate in the program and observe the activities. To date, 38 individuals have been inducted into the Wall of Fame, and their portraits on the Wall are a constant reminder to local youth of what can be accomplished with hard work and determination.
The list of Wall of Fame honorees is impressive and includes many well-known names. Past inductees include: Bishop Fredrick James, AME Church; Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Catholic Church of Chicago; Tyrone Corbin, National Basketball Association; J. Anthony Brown, nationally syndicated radio personality; Harold White, Assistant Athletic Director for the University of South Carolina; and Heyward Bannister, South Carolina Director of Fannie Mae.
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