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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Walk of Fame process could be tweaked

The inaugural class of Henderson County’s Walk of Fame is a good start that revealed both the potential value and the pitfalls of the history-preserving effort.

At the top, we praise Tom Orr, the guiding spirit of the Walk of Fame, for his vision and hard work, and we salute everyone who acted, sang and handled the tech jobs for Mr. Orr’s “Unwrapping Local History,” the play that accompanied the unveiling of the first class.
The show was better written, better performed and more enthusiastically received than previous efforts by Orr and the Courthouse Players. And here’s hoping that it raised lots of money to fund the improvements that would make the Walk of Fame more credible.
We see some unfortunate parallels to the Henderson County Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame, a bloated award that year after year has had too many inductees clearing too low a bar. Seventeen Walk of Fame inductees the first year was too many not because they weren’t worthy but because the committee obviously lacked the time and horsepower to undertake a true vetting of each nominee and to produce an authoritative biographical sketch of each.
Our reading of the nominations suggests a “take my word for it” theme. We can understand that children, grandchildren and spouses would be most inclined to make nominations but their closeness to the subject is a reason for banning such nominations to start with. The better nominations were the ones that had at least a trace of objectivity.
The first class of nominees contained some obvious choices — Jody Barber, Mary Barber, Kermit Edney, Columbus Mills Pace among them. One question the arbiters would be well advised to ask is whether those who lived (or live) among us in our time would be remembered 100 years from now for their contributions to the community. Are the contributions that beloved figures make today something that townspeople will know and appreciate decades from now?
We have many leaders in Hendersonville and across the county whose devotion to the greater good is beyond doubt — whether in public service, charity, education, the law, medicine or business. Yet should the Walk of Fame induct living people? The old post office rule (changed in 2011) honored figures on a stamp only after they were dead. Tom Orr told us that the question had come up and those in favor of living inductees had won the day.
One amendment to the Walk of Fame nomination process might be to start with our earliest historical figures first, accepting nominations only of important figures from the 19th century. We should be able to tell by now whether those nominee’s influence and contributions were enduring.
We offer these thoughts as fodder for discussion. If we’re debating these important people from the past at least we’re talking about local history. Wasn’t that the point to begin with?