Morehouse College President, David A. Thomas presents Judson Pickard (left) and Dr. William F. Pickard (right) with Candle in the Dark Awards as actor Clifton Powell, Morehouse students look on. Photo Credit Alex Jones
In a city renowned for an elevated standard of living for Black Americans and celebrating the accomplishments of African American professionals, few events can rival Morehouse College’s Candle in the Dark scholarship benefit and gala.
Fresh off the heels of a raging pandemic, The Candle in the Dark Gala took center stage, throwing open the doors of the Hyatt Regency on Feb. 19 to embrace the city’s most respected residents and engage educators and the educated in an unparalleled night of elegance and achievement.
The noteworthy event, emceed by acclaimed actor Clifton Powell, exceeded the expectations of attendees and organizers as speaker after speaker expressed appreciation for the quality education Morehouse affords its young charges and the commitment to excellence exhibited by past and present students. The event showcasing Black academia and achievement, included heartfelt and sometimes tearful tributes to honorees as several were overcome with emotion as they accepted awards from the institution that continues to provide a foundation for visionaries and launch legends and luminaries.
Judson Pickard and Dr. William F. Pickard share with audience members during Reflections in Excellence at Morehouse College – Photo Credit Alex Jones
Counted in that number of admirable Candle in the Dark honorees was one known to many as a titan of business and commerce as well as a perpetual philanthropist, Dr. William F. Pickard.
“Something magical happened to me when I was in the eighth grade. As was our tradition, we had a speaker at our school. [That year] our speaker’s name was Otis Moss Jr. and he came to LaGrange with a purpose to encourage us to believe that all things were possible,” Pickard recalled. “And that day he said something that I have never forgotten. He said success without service is worse than a thief in the night.” Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. also a son of Lagrange, Georgia was a renowned theologian, pastor, and civic leader and one of America’s most influential religious leaders and sought-after public speakers.
Pickard, an accomplished entrepreneur, author, and one of the nation’s most revered and respected Black business leaders received Morehouse College’s Candle in the Dark Award for Entrepreneurship.
“I have a very simple philosophy about life, anybody from anywhere can accomplish anything if you put the work in. And that’s been proven time and time again,” the beloved businessman explained. “I am very proud to tell you that I am a social worker with a Ph.D. It doesn’t matter what zip code you come from, if you’re prepared to put the work in you can accomplish whatever you so desire,” he reiterated.
But the accomplished was not the only member of his family to earn honors on his special night. His cousin, Judson Pickard, a pillar of the business community and a heralded civic leader, received a Candle in the Dark Entrepreneurship Award for his long and illustrious career of leadership and innovation in the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Judson Pickard, owner of multiple McDonald’s franchises expressed strong sentiment for the recognition from Morehouse College.
“This ranks in the top tier of my accomplishments,” Judson Pickard admitted in an exclusive interview with Atlanta Daily World staff. “I grew up very poor … and I recognize that too often students get close to graduating but don’t have the money to make that a reality, so I made up my mind to make sure that they can,” a generous, but humble Judson Pickard said.
In 2019, Bill and Judson Pickard donated $2 million to Morehouse College and established the Pickard Scholars Program to recruit and support students from metro Detroit, Flint, Cincinnati, and LaGrange, Georgia.
Both Pickard men credit their unpretentious upbringing in LaGrange, Georgia for their profound appreciation for education, which is fortified with ample doses of ambition and aspiration for their remarkable successes.
On Feb. 17, Dr. Pickard presented a $100,000 gift to the United Negro College Fund to support education at Clark Atlanta University, Saint Augustine’s University and Philander Smith College.
Other 2022 Candle in the Dark honorees includes Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans; Paul “PJ” Morton, Grammy Award-Winning musician, composer, recording artist, and member of Maroon 5; Bakari Sellers, CNN Contributor, author, and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives; Charles Phillips, managing partner and co-founder of the RECOGNIZE technology equity firm, and Dr. John K. Haynes, a distinguished educator, researcher and former Dean of Science and Mathematics at Morehouse College.
Since its inception in 1989, 221 exceptional Black Americans have received Morehouse’s Candle in the Dark Award. The prestigious award is named from the title of Morehouse’s official history book written by Edward A. Jones, Class of 1926.