Brownwood native Charles Lowe was honored as the Willie Lee Gay Legends Award recipient Saturday at the Rufus F. Hardin Museum Inc. banquet.

Lowe, a 1968 Brownwood High School graduate, accepted the plaque, and honor, and told those gathered for the 11th annual event he had heard a call and had renewed commitment.

“An old coach from on high has called my name,” Lowe said. “He said, ‘Charles, get back in the game.’”

The game, of course, is the ongoing effort to restore the former R.F. Hardin School, long vacant and boarded up, and transform it into an historical museum. In the first half of the 20th century, when schools were segregated, the Hardin school was the only school in Brown County for black students.

Earlier in the evening, Hank Hunter, vice president for the museum board, announced that in the last more than 10 years, approximately $112,000 had been raised toward the building’s restoration.

“We’re about to spend all of that,” Hunter said. “Work is about to begin on the building, doing what can be done, and a new roof is a priority.”

At the same time, a new campaign effort is under way, with a goal of raising another $125,000, Hunter said.

The Hardin school building is designated as a national and state historical site, and there are monuments to be put on the school/museum grounds. Those markers are to be dedicated June 19, during the Juneteenth celebration.

During his time at the lectern, Lowe said to those who have worked the last 11 years toward the goal of the school’s restoration, “You’ve been committed, staying the course. It’s been a long journey, but the journey is not completed.

“It’s not over.”

Lowe challenged banquet attendees to all become involved in the project. “All of us can help in some way. All of us can be involved.”

Lowe’s cousin, Draco Miller, presented a $1,000 check to the museum board in memory and honor of their mothers and aunt, Jo Ann Thompson, Betty June Green and Doris Powell, all of whom were Hardin school graduates.

“We can take change,” said Miller, “but we really like folding money.”

Dr. Reece Blincoe, superintendent of the Brownwood Independent School District, was keynote speaker for the banquet. Blincoe told the audience that included representatives of the cities of Brownwood and Early, Howard Payne, Family Services Center, numerous churches and “United Neighbors Involved To Improve” that these are exciting times in education.

“We’re having a good year. It’s going to be OK,” Blincoe said.

But even though circumstances change, the challenges don’t in the effort of educating our children, Blincoe said. “We’re going to level the playing field for our students. All of our futures are at stake.”

Jaleesa King, an HPU communications major, served as the banquet’s emcee. Dallas Huston delivered the welcome and the Rev. Ernest Kirk gave the invocation and also sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the evening’s conclusion. Bishop Lorenzo Stephanson played the piano during dinner and Carolyn Webb and her son Zakary and Evonie Batts sang for the entertainment portion of the event.