NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY FREEDOM'S FRONTIER NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA
Heritage Area honors founders and award-winners
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area celebrated the presentation of the first Tacha Freedom Award and Billings MVP Awards on Thursday, October 10, 2013, with a luncheon at the Liberty Theatre in Fort Scott, Kansas. Deanell Tacha and Judy Billings were in attendance at the lunch to assist with the presentation of the awards that are named for them. Both women played essential roles in the founding of Freedom’s Frontier.
The Tacha Freedom award was named for Deanell Reece Tacha, Retired Judge with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. She served as the founding Chair of the Freedom’s Frontier Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2010. To honor her work, the Freedom’s Frontier board of trustees established an award that will engage students in grades 9-11. The Award is intended to be a way to help students learn about the issues, ideas, people and events that contribute to Freedom’s Frontier themes.
This year’s award included a cash prize of $250. The Tacha Freedom award was presented to Jayhawk-Linn High School freshman Quentin Umphenour, Mound City, Kansas. Umphenour was nominated for the award for his portrayal of Col. James M. Williams, who led the African Americans of the first Kansas Colored Volunteer infantry. Umphenour was nominated for this award by the Lowell Milken Center in Fort Scott, Kansas.
The Tacha Freedom Award is given to high school students residing in or attending school in Freedom’s Frontier, based upon a winning scholarly/creative work that relates to the history of the area and the themes of Freedom’s Frontier: the shaping of the frontier, the Missouri-Kansas Border War, and the enduring struggle for freedom. This award may be presented annually to students on both sides of the Missouri/Kansas border.
The Billings MVP, or Most Valuable Partner Award is also an annual award. Judy Billings, Retired President and CEO of Destination Management, Inc., served as the founding Executive Director of Freedom’s Frontier from 2006-2012 and was instrumental advocating for national heritage area designation.
To honor her work, the Freedom’s Frontier board established an award to recognize individual heritage area partners (current or retired) for contributions to the heritage area. The Billings MVP award honors outstanding commitment to the advancement of the Freedom’s Frontier goals and adherence to Freedom’s Frontier guiding principles over an extended period of time.
The 2013 Billings MVP Award was presented to two heritage area partners: Carol Bohl, Harrisonville, MO; and Eileen Robertson, Humboldt, KS. Both are long-term advocates and supporters of Freedom’s Frontier.
In 2005, Carol Bohl, then Executive Director of the Cass County Historical Society (she retired in 2011), also served as president of the Missouri/Kansas Border War Network. Bohl used this forum for open, honest discussion. The experiences that came from it helped her begin to build a group of people within Freedom’s Frontier who wanted to understand both sides of the region’s history.
When geographic boundaries of the heritage area increased with the addition of 12 Missouri counties, Bohl was one of the earliest Missourians to attend partner meetings. Bohl quickly grasped the importance of this opportunity to share the full story of the dissension along the Kansas-Missouri border that engendered this nation’s bloodiest war.
In 2006, representatives of a number of partners were asked to serve as an Advisory Council to provide a sounding board for staff and trustees of Freedom’s Frontier. Bohl was one of the first to be asked and her wisdom and knowledge were regularly called on by the group until she retired.
Bohl is still active in history both within her community and in Freedom’s Frontier, serving as the current president of the Harrisonville Historic Preservation Commission. When approached by Freedom’s Frontier staff for help with a grant application, she wrote the successful application in one day. Recently, she presented with Freedom’s Frontier Program Coordinator Julie McPike at the national American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) Conference.
Eileen Robertson has been active in FFNHA since the early days of the organization. In her efforts to preserve Civil War history in Humboldt and throughout the heritage area, she often relates how the war began on the Missouri and Kansas border long before the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter Charleston Harbor, SC, April 12, 1861, a fact just now beginning to gain main stream acceptance.
Robertson’s attention to detail, accuracy and the truth has inspired others to look at regional history in an unbiased manner which has led to discoveries of artifacts and historical facts surrounding the community of Humboldt, the State of Kansas and the region, often in a manner which tells both sides of Kansas/Missouri conflict and the battle over slavery.
Robertson is a founder of Humboldt Civil War Days, which celebrates the community’s Civil War heritage with re-enactments of the Burning of Humboldt, the Raid on Humboldt, a Civil War Dance, and other accurate portrayals of life during the 1850s-1860s and beyond in the Midwest. A recent Civil War Dance was attended by more than 100 people, half of whom traveled to Humboldt from other places in the region to attend the event.
During the 12 Site Tour which Robertson helped to establish, she and other members of the community dress in authentic clothing and conduct tours. The tours cover the historic interactions of Humboldt’s anti-slavery sentiments and southern sympathizers both to the east and the south of the community while telling of events which happened where the tour participants stand, interpreting and preserving her community’s historic sites.
Many people her age would not work until three a.m. in the morning to respond to a schoolboy who she had never met to assist him with a school history project. A friendship was born when the young man and his family traveled to Humboldt to meet Robertson.
Robertson is also a weekly contributor to The Humboldt Union newspaper. Her weekly column, The Humboldt Quiz, covers a variety of topics from historic to cultural to life in general from the earliest days settlers walked the plains.
The Fort Scott Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fort Scott National Historic Site, the Lowell Milken Center, and the Liberty Theatre assisted with planning and presenting the awards luncheon. The Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust and other private donors underwrote the luncheon and the Tacha Freedom Award. Next year, the awards luncheon will be presented in St. Joseph, MO.
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