Saborris Johnson Honored as Vidalia’s First Sweet Onion Citizen
Students Recognized for Accomplishments
Good citizenship, acts of service and perseverance inspire and strengthen a community. There are many people in Vidalia who take it upon themselves to quietly provide a service, again and again, just for the wellbeing of others, and there are young people and their mentors in Vidalia whose academic and athletic achievements foster pride throughout the community. The leaders of the City of Vidalia know the importance of these people and have begun two public recognitions, one for servant citizens called “Sweet Onion Citizen” and the other to celebrate outstanding achievements by students.
The first recipient of the “Sweet Onion Citizen” award, Saborris Johnson, was honored at the March 8 meeting of the City Council.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Johnson graduated in 1964 and enlisted in the Air Force, serving 9 of his 20 years of enlistment in the Panama Canal Zone. When he retired from military service in 1985, he was hired by the Miami-Dade County Corrections Department as Deputy Sheriff where he served for 16 years. Upon his second retirement, Johnson moved to Vidalia with his wife Sheena, where they have lived for 18 years.
During his campaigning for Mayor, Doug Roper talked with Johnson, who lives near Sally D. Meadows Elementary. Johnson said he keeps a close eye on the children walking to school and steps in to monitor their safety in traffic when the police have not arrived, or have been called away. Roper said, “Mr. Johnson takes it upon himself to step in and meet the need to ensure our children safely get to school. His love of our children, community and sense of seeing a need and meeting that need impacted me.”
The Mayor was inspired to recognize Johnson, and the many citizen servants like him who see a need and take action. “We want to recognize those individuals and their contributions to our city. Our desire is that by recognizing these selfless acts of service, it fosters more of that type of behavior and strengthens our community,” Roper said. Johnson said his act of service was inspired by his neighbor, Tim Mixon, who for many years had also watched over the school children’s safety–neighbor inspiring neighbor that pays forward for the good of others.
A specially commissioned, 9-inch-tall stainless steel onion sculpture mounted on a black base was presented to Johnson by Mayor Roper. This sculpture will be given to each recipient of the award, and was created by local artist Ruth English, who also crafted the large onion fountain located at the amphitheater. The Council hopes to present this award each month.
In speaking to the crowd gathered in the Council Chambers, Johnson emphasized, “First and foremost, I thank God for giving me the ability and the availability to be a help in the community. And I thank Mayor Roper for this honor.”
Johnson continued, “We all need one another’s support, we can’t do it all by ourselves. The Mayor is going to need our support. It's not what party you voted for, but who are you going to support? We need to support the police department. They need your support; you are going to need their support. Finally, if everybody gives a little bit, a lot would get done. No one person can do it all, and with Christ Jesus being in the center of our lives, we can do all things without fail. Thank you.“ The second recurring recognition will be for the outstanding achievements of students in the school systems. Either as individuals or as a team, the activities of students bring value to a community. In introducing this recognition, Roper said, “We have some incredible coaches, athletes and teachers in our community who pour into the lives of our young people every single day. When the students excel, we want to recognize that.”
Three young gentlemen, Jaylin Burns, Tom Godbee and Hunter Manning, persevered in wrestling to become 2021 Class AA GHSA State Champions in their weight classes. These wrestlers helped to set a school record by placing fourth in the Championship round, and finished the Traditional Championship with a 6th place team finish.
A proclamation was read by Mayor Roper for each young man, which included the acknowledgement that “active participation in organized athletics is influential to building good character and teaches a wholesome sense of fair play and good sportsmanship among our youth.” The proclamation also praised the coaches for demonstrating “an outstanding spirit of dedication, leadership, enthusiasm and hard work.” The Mayor lauded the young athletes for taking “pride in your accomplishments” and commended “your coaches, your parents and your community for demonstrating a winning attitude and spirit which has become a tradition in our fine community.” The proclamations recognized the dedication of VHS wrestling Coaches Bobby Blount, Steve Fulham, Chris Hamilton, and J.R. Trippe Coach Gray Meredith, all of whom are mentors inspiring young people, who will pay that dedication forward for years to come. Each young man also possesses outstanding records in other sports and these were highlighted in the individual proclamations. Burns has signed a football scholarship with The University of the Cumberlands. He is the son of Jerome and Kesha Burns. Godbee has received a wrestling scholarship and an appointment to West Point. His parents are Fred and Mandy Godbee. Manning, now a Junior, will be a top contender in pole vaulting in the next track season. He is the son of Mike and Jenny Manning. Roper gave a special charge to the young men, “It’s really special to be a part of a championship. A lot of folks have poured in to you, and to whom much is given, much is expected. You have been able to represent your school, your city, your family and to compete at a high level.
“What I hope that you see, as baseball taught me, is that you’ve not learned just how to be a championship wrestler, you’ve learned how to be a championship husband, how to be a championship parent, father, a student at the next level. You guys are future leaders, you are going to go places and do great things and represent this city well. You need to know that we appreciate what you’ve done. As you go out and you fly, please remember home. Please, go get further educated and do great things, but we would love to have you come back home and put down permanent roots and be a part of this community as adults.”