By M. Scott Morris and Michaela Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Junior Auxiliary celebrated one of its own on Friday night, naming Charlotte Westbrook as Citizen of the Year during the 50th Charity Ball.
Westbrook served as chairwoman of the first Charity Ball, which took place in 1964.
“I am overwhelmed,” said Westbrook, who was escorted through the elegantly decorated BancorpSouth Arena to the stage by her husband, Jim Westbrook, and 2013 charity ball chairwoman Michelle Taylor. “I can tell you everything I’ve ever done I’ve done with sheer joy and the help of a lot of people.”
Westbrook said she was as surprised by the presence of her family who traveled in secret from Nashville, Birmingham, Connecticut and Nicaragua as she was the award.
“I feel humbled,” she said.
Julie Gibens, JA president, praised Westbrook’s dedication to improving life for Tupelo residents.
“When many of us are asked what makes Tupelo such a successful community, a common response is because we can offer what a larger city can offer but on a smaller scale,” Gibens said during her introduction of Westbrook. “It is in part because of our honoree that we are able to do that.”
Westbrook was a member of the team that created the GumTree Arts Festival. She has also served as president and board member of the GumTree Museum of Art.
“With a number of other citizens Charlotte helped to found the Tupelo Community Theatre as well as the Tupelo Symphony,” Jane Riley said. “She continues to be an avid supporter of the museum, the symphony and the theater.”
A native of Urania, La., she is an alumna of Louisiana State University. She taught school in Baton Rouge after graduation, then moved to Tupelo with her husband in 1961.
That’s the same year she joined First United Methodist Church, where she’s been chairwoman of the board of trustees, a Meals on Wheels coordinator and a Helping Hands Clothes Closet leader.
In addition, she was chairwoman for the United Methodist Women, an organization that supports missions in the surrounding community and around the world.
“She has a genuine passion for helping others,” said Grace Clark, the 2012 Citizen of the Year. “Her deep faith and strong sense of right and wrong give her confidence to act on her convictions.”
A former Cub Scout den leader and den leader trainer, Westbrook has three children, Wes, Justin and Bennett, and seven grandchildren.
She’s worked to improve Tupelo Public Schools over the years. Along with her husband, she was a founding member of the Association for Excellence in Education, which has raised more than $1 million to support teachers and students in Tupelo.
“Charlotte has deeply impacted those around her,” Nancy Diffee said. “I cannot think of any one person more deserving.”
Henry C. Brevard Jr., the 1989 Citizen of the Year, has known Westbrook since she came to Tupelo. He’s been a witness to Westbrook’s constant spirit of giving.
“Charlotte has a dogged determination in the pursuit of good causes,” he said, “which gets things done and leaves Tupelo citizens in her debt.”