Four area leaders were welcomed into rarified air Thursday morning when they were inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame.

The prestigious list was created in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. In the two decades since, only 136 men and women have been honored with a place in the Hall of Fame.

In a ceremony at the Tuscaloosa River Market, Elizabeth Winter, the Chair of the Chamber's Board of Directors, said the four inductees are men of action, not seekers of recognition.

"Even so, recognition is due," Winter said. "Because we all see the impacts they have made in Tuscaloosa County and beyond. Through the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame, we are honored to pay tribute to men and women who have invested themselves in the people and communities we call home."

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Four honorees were recognized Thursday morning -- the late Robert Almon, Sr., David E. Gay, Jr., Jheovanny Gomez and Mark Sullivan.

Almon, who died in 2014, was the founder of the Almon Associates engineering firm and was instrumental in shaping Tuscaloosa into the city it is today. Almon's designs included Lake Tuscaloosa, Jack Warner Parkway, the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk and so much more.

Gay, 65, is a titan of mental and physical healthcare in West Alabama. He served as the first Black director of Tuscaloosa's Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility and retired at the rank of Major after nearly three decades in the Alabama National Guard. Gay now serves as the CEO of Whatley Health Services, which provides free and affordable health care to those in need all around West Alabama.

As the co-owner and manager of three Jalapenos Mexican Grill locations in the county, Gomez is a familiar face to connoisseurs of local cuisine in the area. The Columbian native and father of three earned his U.S. Citizenship in 2018. In addition to running his popular restaurants for 20 years, Gomez is a dedicated public servant with positions on the Chamber, the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama and many more.

Finally, the Chamber recognized Sullivan, who worked in leadership positions at the Bank of Tuscaloosa for decades before coming out of retirement in 2020 to become the Executive Vice President of Bryant Bank. Sullivan's lifetime of public service is too long to enumerate here, but most recently, he helped the Chamber develop and distribute their Small Business Relief Fund, which allocated more than $1 million to local entrepreneurs struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

A wall of plaques honoring the members of the Civic Hall of Fame stands in downtown Tuscaloosa's Government Plaza, and the new inductees will be added to the display soon.

Read more about each honoree at the Chamber's website here.

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