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Thomas D. "Bud" Hunter Jr., who moved to Hendersonville with his family at age 3 and went on to serve his community through dozens of projects while carrying on a successful car sales company, was honored Friday night with the G. Ray Cantrell Award during the 90th annual awards dinner of the Chamber of Commerce.
After serving as captain of the baseball, basketball and football teams at Hendersonville High School, Hunter went on to graduate from Davidson College. He served in the Korean War before returning to his hometown to run the family dealerships with his brother, Hal. Hunter Automotive Group now include the Subaru-Hyundai dealership on Asheville Highway, run by Bud's son, Tom, and the Nissan store on Spartanburg Highway, run by his nephew, Randy Hunter.
During his long career in business and civic leadership, Hunter helped start the Fletcher and Mountain industrial parks, supported the then-controversial zig-zagging of Main Street, was a founder the Community Foundation, and helped push for a successful ABC vote so restaurants could serve alcoholic beverages. He was among the business leaders who helped save the YMCA and has been president or an active board member of the Chamber, Blue Ridge Community College and the North Carolina Nature Conservancy and has been instrumental in efforts to expand DuPont State Recreation Forest and Chimney Rock State Park.
Bud Hunter's award was accepted by his son, Tom.
Vince Rees of Mountain 1st Bank handed over the gavel after serving as 2012 chairman. He led the business group as it added more than 160 new members, chiefly through a successful drive led by 300 Chamber volunteers last summer.
Chuck Edwards, who owns seven McDonald's restaurants in the area, takes over as the 2013 chamber chairman.
Edwards and his wife, Teresa, who are co-owners of the franchises, have done everything from fry burgers to mop floors.
"These are people who understand business," Rees said. "But the best thing I can say about Chuck is he cares about Western North Carolina. He's never forgotten where he came from. He's committed to Henderson County and he's committed to the Chamber of Commerce."
The Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award went to Ervin Bazzle, a South Carolina native, West Point graduate, retired Army lieutenant colonel and attorney who just won his fifth term on the School Board and is the current chairman.
Evidence of his commitment to youth is boundless, said Sandy Tallant, of Duke Energy. He has served on the boards of the YMCA, the Department of Social Services and the Henderson County Job Ready Council and has served as president of the Henderson County Bar Association.
"I don't know how this gentleman has time to have a career but he does," Tallant said.
The event had its light moments, too. Tables were decorated in school colors of Rees's beloved South Carolina Gamecocks. The athletics mascot, Cocky, strutted around the room and posed for photos.