“Dr. King asked, ‘What are you doing for others?’” said the Rev. Kim Moss of Hickory’s Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church
Moss was about to reveal the 2015 recipient of the Spirit of King Award during a Jan. 18 celebration and remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Hickory.
“She never turns down the opportunity to help the less fortunate,” said Moss, stirring the audience’s curiosity about the identity of the person selected by members of the Greater Hickory Ministerial Alliance and the Hickory Area Ministers association.
“She is Cozette Patterson Sinclair,” Moss announced.
Never miss a local story.
The crowd scanned St. Luke’s sanctuary until a stunned Sinclair, an advocate for reading, stood and slowly made her way to the front of the church. “For years, this is a woman who’s been dedicated to service,” Moss said as she handed Sinclair her Spirit of King Award plaque.
“What a shock,” was about all Sinclair could say.
With Sinclair back in her seat, retired Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Wallace Johnson of Hickory stood and surprised attendees with the name of a second 2015 Spirit of King Award winner, a posthumous recognition of Coach Sam Davis.
Johnson offered a brief biography of Davis, including his work as athletic director and football coach of Hickory’s Ridgeview High Panthers from 1952 to 1966 during which the Panthers won 13 straight conference championships, five state championships, and “at least one, if not more than one, season in which Ridgeview was not only unbeaten but unscored upon,” said Johnson.
“When our schools integrated, (Davis) moved on to coach at College Park Middle School from 1966 to 1980,” Johnson said. “He was a peacemaker by nature and, at College Park and elsewhere, he was able to deal with racial unrest in a constructive, calm, yet firm way. He treated all students fairly and expected others to do the same.”
Davis, who died in 2005, “knew how to bring people together to accomplish remarkable things,” Johnson said. “He used his spirit to nurture peaceful and healthy relationships among people of all colors.”
Like Davis, Sinclair is a person who speaks quietly and humbly but is serious about her convictions and passions. At the top of her list: “Teaching a child to respect others,” she said. No. 2: “If you teach a child to read, well, its one of the best gifts you can give them,” Sinclair said a few days after receiving the Spirit of King Award.
“I was totally surprised,” she said. “It is quite an honor.”
Ridgeview High School’s 1958 valedictorian, Sinclair studied health education, biology, and library science at what is now North Carolina Central University in Durham before moving to Tennessee where Sinclair worked one year as a librarian.
Her next stop was Chicago and working as a reference librarian for textbook publisher Scott Foresman, followed by employment at Chicago’s Municipal Reference Library, and finally sharing her skills with encyclopedia giant World Book. During her time in Chicago, Sinclair earned a master’s degree in library science from Rosary College in River Forest, Ill.
From 1969 to 2002, she lived in Pasco, Wash., and worked for the Pasco School District as an elementary and middle school media specialist. Sinclair and her husband Roland Bernard Sinclair returned to Hickory in 2002 to be close to family.
Getting Sinclair to talk about her accomplishments takes a little prodding, but the gentle and kind mother of three comes alive with enthusiasm when asked to speak about Hickory’s libraries.
Sinclair serves on the board that oversees Ridgeview Branch Library’s Friends of Ridgeview Library and as Ridgeview’s representative on the board of Patrick Beaver Memorial Library’s Friends of Hickory Public Library.
Sinclair offered a long list of ways both groups benefit the libraries and the community.
Ridgeview will host an accessories sale during the 2015 Women’s History Month, which is March, Sinclair said.
“Hats, scarves, jewelry,” said Sinclair, offering examples of the items that will be on sale 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 7 at the Ridgeview Library, at 706 First St. S.W. in Hickory. Profits will support Friends of the Library numerous undertakings.
Sinclair said fundraising helped buy computers and provided capital to construct a conference room at Patrick Beaver. “We’re a very active group,” said Sinclair. “A lot of activities to promote reading and the use of the libraries.”
When Sinclair isn’t working for the libraries, she’s a volunteer tutor at Jenkins Elementary School in Hickory. “This year, I’m with the fifth- and second-graders,” she shared.