MLK Recommitment Banquet to Honor Five; Local Pastor to Speak

-Janae Pitt-Murdock, keynote speaker
Photo Submitted

-Janae Pitt-Murdock, keynote speaker

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council will hold its 22nd annual Recommitment Banquet at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, in the Fayetteville Town Center as the final event in the local celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The theme this year is “MLK50 Forward: Together we win with love for humanity.”

Rev. R. Janae Pitts-Murdock, the Connections Pastor at First Christian Church of Rogers, will deliver the keynote address.

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available on the council’s website.

This year’s Salute to Greatness awards will be presented during the banquet to:

  • Redell Thompson, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Dr. Ornette Gaines, who will receive the Ernestine White-Gibson Individual Achievement Award
  • Joseph “Joey” Daniels III, who will receive the Rodney Momon Youth/Young Adult Award
  • Betty Davis, who will be posthumously honored with the Rev. J.A. Hawkins Award
  • Northwest Arkansas Community Clinic, which will receive the Business/Non-Profit of the Year Award

The council will also award scholarships to 11 Northwest Arkansas high school students and nine current undergraduates, for a total of 20 academic scholarships.

“The Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council members are ecstatic to have the opportunity to present scholarships in order to further academic excellence and assist in financing our leaders of tomorrow,” said council President Angela Mosley Monts. “In the first year of the Recommitment Banquet we were able to award two scholarships. The growth of this event and the community support we have received over the past 22 years have made all the difference.” 

The Recommitment Banquet is presented in conjunction with the University of Arkansas, which serves as the executive producer of the event.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available by contacting Danielle L. Wood-Williams, chair, sponsorship sub-committee at


Rev. R. Janae Pitts-Murdock is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and ordained into the gospel ministry at New Bethel Baptist Church under Rev. Robert Smith Jr. She has been featured in The African American Pulpit, a quarterly journal for the very best of African American preaching. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and recently served as chaplain of the Southern Region, which includes Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and the Bahamas.

Pitts-Murdock is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies, Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Science degree in public policy and management, United Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Business Administration at the University of Memphis.

She served in the U.S. Department of the Army as a U.S. presidential management intern and later as a logistics management specialist. She then served as lead pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, under Pastor Frank A. Thomas.

Pitts-Murdock now lives in Fayetteville and works for the city of Fayetteville. She is also a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy of African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric at Christian Theological Seminary. She is married to Jeffrey Allen Murdock, assistant professor of choral music education and associate director of choral studies at the University of Arkansas. They have two children.


Redell Thompson, Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes the unselfish acts of kindness, service and giving that Thompson has demonstrated throughout his life.

He is a native of Holly Grove and is a senior operational analyst for Walmart, where he has worked for 26 years. He attended the University of Arkansas.

Thompson has been a member of the Arkansas Officials’ Association since 1982, and has officiated many state football and basketball games, including state playoffs, state championships and all-star games. He also worked two years in the Arkansas Junior College Conference. He was a charter member of the Northwest Arkansas Basketball Officials’ Association in 1988. He is the current assigner for 24 schools in Northwest Arkansas in basketball and football. He was one of the first African American officials in Northwest Arkansas and the first African American for football and the only one to be a crew chief. He started umpiring softball in 1982 and has worked in three different organizations: ASA, USSSA, and NSA, where he is currently the Western Arkansas State umpire-in-chief. Thompson is a co-founder of the Arkansas Athletes Outreach youth basketball league in Northwest Arkansas and the current and only director of officials since the league’s induction. He is a 2016 Arkansas Officials Association Hall of Fame Inductee.

Thomson is a member of the Hill City Masonic Lodge No. 347 in Fayetteville, where he has held many positions up to and including the second highest position possible in the lodge.

He is a lifetime member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. During his service to this fraternal brotherhood, he is currently the Western Arkansas Area director and has held this position for over 20 years. He held an integral part in the chartering of the Northwest Arkansas Alumni chapter in 1999, and was the president for 12 years and has since then held the office of treasurer for the chapter.

Thompson is an avid donor of his time and is always willing to serve in any capacity in his community. He and his wife Laverne have five sons and 12 grandchildren.

Dr. Ornette Gaines, Ernestine White-Gibson Individual Achievement Award

This award is given to an individual who has given to his/her community through service, leadership, and commitment.

He attended the University of Kansas on a track scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science in human development and human biology. While completing the required courses for medical school, he worked for seven years at a group home for individuals with developmental disabilities, where he developed his commitment to treat people with compassion and respect.

Gaines earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency in family medicine at the UAMS Northwest Arkansas campus, where he was voted chief resident in his third year. Gaines has worked in a variety of settings in Northwest Arkansas and currently serves as a family physician at Optimal Health and Wellness. For the past 8 years, he has served as medical director for Kids for the Future and Kids Corp where he performs initial physical exams for children with disabilities so they may receive physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Gaines is passionate about helping high school and college students explore careers in the health profession. He has mentored students and allowed many to shadow him to gain a better knowledge of their career options. He also enjoys having medical students and residents spend time in his practice. He challenges each of them to treat patients with compassion and respect.

Gaines was called to preach at 18 and accepted his call at age 20 under Pastor Leo Barbee Jr., his mentor, and father of ministry, of Victory Bible Church in Lawrence, Kansas. He was ordained in 2007 by Pastor Curtiss P. Smith of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, where he has served for 15 years. Gaines served with his wife for 10 years as founders and co-facilitators of Gateway to Hope College Ministry leading Wednesday night bible studies in the Arkansas Union. He recently transitioned to become the leader of the St. James Men’s Iron Sharpens Irons Ministry.

Gaines and his wife, Adrienne, have three children.

Joseph “Joey” Daniels, III, Rodney Momon Youth/Young Adult Award  

This award is given in recognition of a youth or young adult who has exemplified strong character, leadership and service to the community.

Joseph W. Daniels III is a native of Silver Spring, Maryland, and a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Arkansas. He is conducting research on heated pavement systems with a focus on airfield pavements.

At the University of Arkansas, Daniels served two terms as president of the Black Graduate Student Association. He has also served on the Graduate Dean Student Advisory Board, assisted in graduate school recruitment, and currently serves on the All-University Academic Integrity Board. He was awarded the Alex Marino Service Award, as part of the U of A Graduate Student Congress awards, for his outstanding service to the University of Arkansas and Fayetteville at large.

In his community, Daniels serves in multiple capacities seeking to find solutions to better race relations. He has served in the Northwest Arkansas branch of the NAACP, on the Fayetteville Black History Month planning committee, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Fayetteville. He has given keynote speeches at the 2016 UA Martin Luther King Jr. Vigil, the 2016 End of the Year Banquet for the Kappa Iota chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and the 2014 End of the Year banquet for the North Carolina A&T chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Betty Smith, Rev. J.A. Hawkins Posthumous Award

Rev. J.A. Hawkins Posthumous Award is given in recognition of a person whose life and service had a positive impact on the community.

Betty Hayes Davis was born in Fayetteville, the youngest of nine children. She was married to the late William Marshall Davis.

She enlisted as a Navy WAVE in 1951, served for two years and then moved to New York and attended New York University on the GI Bill, working during the day and attending school at night. She received her B.S. in Pre-Med in 1956 and ran a lab at Rusk Institute in New York City. Bill and Betty married in 1963 and remained in New York until 1989 when they retired to Fayetteville. Soon after, Bill became ill and Betty became a caregiver for the next seven years.

She was a member of PEO, League of Women Voters, Washington County Historical Society, Compassion Fayetteville, Fayetteville Senior Center, St. James and Sequoyah United Methodist Churches, and was active in Sequoyah United Methodist Women, where she served as president. She did not want the black history of Fayetteville to be lost and spent much of her time researching and giving interviews.

For her own family history, she organized what she hoped would be the first of many “Taylor/Hayes/Manuel” family reunions on Mount Sequoyah in May of 2012. Although she had no children, numerous people loved her and called her “Mom.” She had a life-long concern for children and before her death had been pursuing a way to make the old Jefferson School a weekend meal provider for underserved children in the area.

She is survived by numerous nieces and nephews and extended family.

Northwest Arkansas Community Clinic, Business/Non-Profit of the Year Award

This award recognizes a corporation or organization that has donated time, effort and finances to upgrade the community. 

For over 20 years, the Community Clinic has served individuals in Northwest Arkansas by providing quality, affordable health care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Last year alone, the clinic provided medical, dental and behavioral health services to more than 36,000 residents of Benton and Washington counties. Over half of those patients were children, and 53 percent of those patients were within 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Over half of the patients are Hispanic/Latino or Marshallese. These groups experience inequity in health status and encounter health care access barriers at a greater rate than the general population nationwide and in Arkansas.

The Community Clinic addresses these major health care needs and barriers by providing patient-centered, culturally and linguistically appropriate preventive and primary health care services. Services include integrated behavioral health with primary care, prenatal and pediatric services, dental care, chronic disease management, cancer screenings, laboratory services, X-rays, low cost medications, and nutrition and diabetic counseling. Staff also assist with enrollment in ARKids A and B, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Health Insurance Marketplace. Community outreach includes education and prevention to reduce disparities in chronic diseases, tobacco use, and cancer.

All of these services are offered — without discrimination or regard for a patient’s ability to pay — at the clinic’s 14 service sites in Washington and Benton counties.


Angela Mosley Monts, President
NWA MLK Council

Danielle L., Chair, Sponsorship Sub-Committee
NWA MLK Council

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
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