Influential Figures Awarded at River Bell Luncheon

Dec 15, 2009

Messrs. James and Brent Recognized for Contributions to Industry and Institute

The final Special Event during the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) 175th Anniversary Year honored two influential figures in the inland river industry. C. Ronald “Ronnie” James received the 2009 River Bell Award, and Howard Brent accepted the 2009 River Legend Award at the River Bell Awards Luncheon in Paducah, KY on December 11. A crowded room in The Walker Building boasted 248 industry leaders gathered for a lunchtime fundraising event, which brought in close to $125,000 in support of SCI’s Ministry on the River, the nation’s only pastoral care program dedicated to inland river mariners.

In their prefatory remarks, Paducah Mayor William F. Paxton and Craig E. Philip of Ingram Barge Company characterized the 2009 River Bell Award recipient, Ronnie James, as a “doer.” James’ determination and action took his company, James Marine, Inc., from modest beginnings to becoming a thriving enterprise that employs over 1,000 people. James also possesses an uncommon devotion to the community, according to Paxton and Philip, contributing to growth in the City of Paducah and the river industry.

Steve Golding introduced the 2009 River Legend Award recipient, Howard Brent. Golding compiled several hours of video footage of interviews (some of which he traveled hundreds of miles to record) with colleagues from Brent’s career in the river industry. Golding presented a condensed version of the video to the audience at the luncheon, recounting his memorable career on the river spanning several decades.

“The personal testimonies about Ronnie and Howard,” said Carrie Christensen, SCI’s Special Events Coordinator, “brought to light how much they’ve influenced a lot of people.” She also observed that the recipients’ acceptances speeches expressed a similar gratitude for the influence of caring coworkers and teachers during their formative years.

SCI’s Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider, and the luncheon’s chairman, H. Merritt Lane, described the awardees as “leading citizens,” adding that their support and leadership “continues to sustain SCI’s program of maritime education.”

“We are grateful,” said Rider, “for their example … of the enduring alliance of the inland river community to assist and support one another.”