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Tommy Rollins Named Lyons Citizen of the Year

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Toombs County Commissioner Tommy Rollins has been named the 2021 Lyons Citizen of the Year. Rollins was honored at the Lyons Lions Club’s annual banquet on September 30 at Partin Park. Rollins is a lifelong native of Toombs County who joins a class of 48 Citizens of the Year, all of whom were recognized during the event. A Lyons Citizen of the Year has been named every year since 1971, except for two times. In 1976, which was the year of the city’s centennial celebration, local officials were too busy to hold the annual banquet and in 2020, the COVID pandemic prevented a traditional gathering.

When presenting Rollins as the recipient of the award, Lion Charles “Speck” Nobles discussed the various adversities Rollins has overcome throughout his life. “He had a rough start in life: he went home from the hospital as a baby, and instead of having a baby bed, he slept in a drawer in the dresser of his family’s home,” Nobles explained.

He continued speaking of Rollins’s exceptional youth: Rollins became very active in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) under the encouragement of James Brazell, who convinced Rollins to run for State Vice President of the chapter. Rollins also was able to travel with the FFA, and even took his first plane ride to Kansas City for the FFA National Convention.

“He did all this while still speaking at church and handling home re- continued from page

sponsibilities,” Nobles told the crowd. “He was truly an outstanding young man.”

In high school, Rollins served in several leadership capacities at Toombs County High School. He was President of BETA, Vice President of Student Council, and an avid participant in the FFA. He attended the American Legion Boys State Convention in Atlanta, was a member of the Georgia Conference on Education, was selected for the Jaycee Citizenship Award, and represented the Georgia Jaycees at the Federal Affair Seminar in Washington, D.C. After high school, Rollins attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), where he received awards for leadership and academics. He was the top student in Forestry Technology studies. Later, he was elected President of the Alumni Association and served on the ABAC Foundation Board.

Unfortunately, Rollins’s time at ABAC was temporarily paused to come home and care for the family farm when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Yet, Rollins persisted through his struggles and eventually gained his degree from ABAC. After graduating with a two-year degree from ABAC, Rollins decided to attend the University of Georgia (UGA) to continue his education.

Nobles explained Rollins’s character from a young age through his depiction of Rollins working throughout his time at UGA. “Mr. Cato, a family friend, offered him a job on Saturdays working for the forestry division of his timber business. Tommy would come home, work Saturdays, go to church on Sunday mornings, then go back to Athens,” Nobles told attendees. Rollins has served the community throughout various positions and organizations in the area. He has been the Director of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce (now the Greater Vidalia Chamber) and the Toombs County Development Authority; he currently serves on the Toombs County Board of Commissioners and has participated in the local Tales of the Altamaha play for five years. He is a member of the Lyons Lions Club and Toombs County Booster Club, and is known for his support of the Boy Scouts and anyone in need.

He serves on the Altamaha Bank and Trust Company Board and is Chairman of the Robert Toombs Christian Academy Board of Directors. Rollins is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Lyons, where he has served as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher and spent 10 years as the Chairman of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Rollins established a timber operation after the death of Mr. Cato. This business became very family- oriented, as his entire family joined in running TAR Land and Timber. Through this business, Rollins acquired the contacts and connections that allowed him to become an Officer and Board Member of the Southeastern Wood Association. “He is one who truly knows how to work hard, how to give back, and how to share with others,” Nobles concluded. “He has worked hard to give honor to God. He is proud of his name and his tough upbringing – it’s called character. He is willing to give a hand to those who are willing to help themselves. I say that to make you understand that hard work and determination are key factors on the road to success.”

Rollins was presented with the Key to the City by Mayor Willis NeSmith and expressed his gratitude to the community. “I have grown up here, and you all have truly supported me in everything I have done. It is an honor to be among so many great people with this same title throughout the years,” he tearfully remarked.

Toombs County Commission Chairman David Sikes later commented on behalf of the Commission Board about Rollins’s reception of this award. “We are proud of Commissioner Rollins for being recognized as Lyons Citizen of the Year!” he beamed. “It is very well deserved, and we are thrilled for him and his family.”

The banquet also featured entertainment by Dana Burton, who sang “America the Beautiful,” and “Chief Impossibility Officer” Joe M. Turner, who used his illusions to present the crowd with motivational truths. Past Recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award 1971 – Rev. Carl J. Milton; 1972 – Wilson E. Collins; 1973 – Dess Gray; 1974 – Ernest E. Trapnell; 1975 – Amelia Gray; 1976 – (Not Awarded); 1977 – John Adams; 1978 – Ross P. Bowen; 1979 – William T. Aiken; 1980 – G. Melvin Page; 1981 – L. Howard Sharpe; 1982 – Charles H. Durst; 1983 – James A. (Buster) Johnson; 1984 – J. Hardy Thomas, Jr.; 1985 – Ronald E. Widener; 1986 – U. S. Jones; 1987 – Leo B. Trapnell; 1988 – C. Warren Culpepper; 1989 – Dr. Wilbur New; 1990 – Harold M. Rhoden; 1991 – Anson Callaway; 1992 –Wayne Smith; 1993 – Billy Robertson; 1994 – Dr. Larry Smith; 1995 – Marvin B. Hartley, Jr.; 1996 – Charles H. James; 1997 – Tommie Williams; 1998 – W. Doyle NeSmith; 1999 – Roy L. Stewart; 2000 – A.S. “Sid” Clark; 2001 – Charles Davis; 2002 – H. Dorsey Hart; 2003 – James Bellmore; 2004 – Clint Williams; 2005 – Jane Benton; 2006 – Jack Durst; 2007 – Rod Clifton; 2008 – Michael Grimes; 2009 – Johnny Jones; 2010 – Kipling “Kip” Hart; 2011 – Nan Price; 2012 – Darriel Nobles; 2013 – Sabrina Culpepper Campbell; 2014 – Kathy Mann; 2015 – Charles “Speck” Nobles; 2016 – Carolyn Cooper; 2017 – George Powell; 2018 – Ramon Powell; 2019 – Jackie Alexander; 2020 – (Not Awarded); 2021 – Tommy Rollins.

PAST RECIPIENTS — Rollins joins the company of 48 past Lyons Citizen of the Year award recipients. Here, past recipients stand with Rollins. Shown with the year of their award from left to right are: 1977, John Adams; 1991, Anson Callaway; 1992, Wayne Smith;Photo by Makaylee Randolph1997, Tommie Williams; 1998, W. Doyle NeSmith; 2004, Clint Williams; 2021, Tommy Rollins; 2005, Jane Benton; 2008, Michael Grimes; 2011 Nan Price; 2012, Darriel Nobles; 2013, Sabrina Culpepper Campbell; 2015, Charles “Speck” Nobles; 2017, George Powell; and 2019, Jackie Alexander.

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