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home : news : e-news January 20, 2018

1/13/2018 9:15:00 AM
Jackson, Ownbey, Shoukry Earn MLK Awards
(L-R) Danny Jackson, Sam Shoukry and the late Ron Ownbey, winners of  the annual Martin Luther King Unity Award.(Contributed Photos)
(L-R) Danny Jackson, Sam Shoukry and
the late Ron Ownbey, winners of  the
annual Martin Luther King Unity Award.

(Contributed Photos)

Lincoln Herald Staff

GASTONIA, N.C. - They’re three community leaders known for their work to foster greater unity in the community.

They’re Danny Jackson, Sam Shoukry and the late Ron Ownbey, and they each recently earned the annual Martin Luther King Unity Award for 2018. The award is an initiative of the Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition and Gaston Together, according to the latter’s executive director, Donna Lockett. The event will be held on King Day, this Monday, Jan. 15, at 10:30 a.m. at MLK Plaza in uptown Gastonia.

Lockett explained that the award was established by the coalition, 14 years ago. It recognizes current or former Gaston County citizens that have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of race, class, gender, faith and/or municipalities within Gaston County. Names of the honorees are engraved on the MLK Monument located at the plaza. Some of the past winners include former North Carolina state senator Marshall Rauch, Rev. Houston Matthews, artist James Biggers, Rev. Dr. Richard Boyce and Judge Jesse Caldwell and the late N.A. Smith.

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A native of Greenville, S.C., Jackson is a graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, where he earned a degree in business management and was a noted basketball standout. He is familiar to many through his tenure with the City of Mount Holly of three and a half decades now. He serves as the city manager

Through his work with the City of Mount Holly, he has always striven to build co-operation and collaboration among Gaston County’s municipalities. Jackson has been very active in the community, having served on the boards of the Mount Holly Community Relief Organization and the Gaston County United Way. He is a founding member of the Mount Holly Black History Committee; a member of the 2035 Gaston County Comprehensive Land-Use Plan Steering Committee; and a member of the Gaston Outside Image Campaign Steering Committee. Jackson is also a longtime member of the Mount Holly Rotary Club, and he has served as its president.   In 2016, he was named Mount Holly Man of the Year. He and wife Kay reside in Mount Holly, and they have four children.

Ownbey was a lifelong resident of Gaston County. Professionally, he was a successful financial adviser and planner, which afforded him the flexibility to spend time and energy towards his passion of building bridges of unity through music. Ownbey was a visionary in seeing that the art of music could create an umbrella, under which different groups of people could find common ground and begin to interact and appreciate each other as individuals, as races and as cultures.

Ownbey was an active member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and, in later years, Bethlehem Church. He served as a board member at the Dream Center, as well as serving as the president of his local Rotary Club. He spearheaded many musical events that showcased both black and white bands together, among them the “Night of A Thousand Stars” for Gaston Hospice. 

He was preceded in death by his wife, Susan. The Ownbeys are survived by three children.

Shoukry, a native of Cairo, left Egypt and moved to Gastonia, some 34 years ago now. He has been employed by the Gastonia-based Tindol Ford automotive dealership since 1985. 

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Shoukry has served as a representative of the Islamic Society of Gastonia at many interfaith activities and with many different churches across the county. He has been a member of the society since the late 1980’s, and he has twice served as the president of its shura (a method of decision-making in Islamic societies) or consultative council. And he has also been an active member of the Interfaith Trialogue, a local oecumenical group with the purpose of fostering understanding and harmony among the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Shoukry and his wife have two daughters.

“The presentation of the MLK Unity Awards is part of an annual event designed by the Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition to recognize the dream that the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had for all people,” said Lockett. “It is a dream very much alive in Gaston County.”

She added that the public is invited to join Gaston Together and the coalition in their countywide efforts to honor those who have worked to build bridges of unity.

The Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition is a countywide, non-denominational, ministerial association that was formed by Gaston Together, back in the late 1990’s. The coalition meets on the second Thursday of each month at 9 a.m. in the family life center of the First United Methodist Church of Gastonia. 

For more information about the coalition and other such initiatives and activities, please call Gaston Together at (704) 867-9869.

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