Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia has named Spencer Frantz of Graham White Manufacturing and Claudia Whitworth of the Roanoke Tribune laureates for the 19th annual Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was established in 1990 by the Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia.
Selection is based on leadership in the free enterprise system and business success, as well as contributions and involvement in the community. A committee of their peers selects laureates, who must be retired or no longer in the position in which their principal business contributions were made.
This year's Laureates will be recognized on November 10 at the Business Hall of Fame dinner at Fitzpatrick Hall in the Jefferson Center. Reception begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30.
Frantz is the third of four generations to be president and now vice chair of Graham White Manufacturing. The company began in 1914 by producing a sanding device for locomotives. Since then, Graham White has developed many more vital parts and devices patented and used in all forms of transportation.
Frantz ran his own business, Tread Corp., from 1968-1987, distributing explosives and producing storage containers for the high explosives. The company led to the creation of Treadlok, which produced gun safes for the shooting sports industry.
Frantz's commitment to youth has included the chairmanship of YMCA campaign drives, leading to new facilities in Roanoke and Salem. Learning work ethic from his childhood days on the farm and orchard, his accomplishments are sure to inspire today's youth and entrepreneurs.
Whitworth is the middle child of a minister who published newspapers for African-Americans in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Martinsville. Her education and teachings were influenced by her Quaker and Baha'i background, which encouraged her to include service in her daily routine.
Whitworth had determined by the time of 17 that college was not an option for her and instead she found that a "hands on" approach gave her the lessons that would help her shape her career and overcome barriers. Her first job was setting up linotype, a slow and tedious process that also required heavy lifting. She traveled often to large cities to learn about what it took to assemble a newspaper in a male-dominated production field.
Eventually, Ms. Whitworth took over the helm of the Roanoke Tribune, which outlasted several other African-American weeklies owned by her father. Despite the challenges faced by the newspaper industry, the Tribune remains a beacon in the community. Ms. Whitworth has never missed a deadline since taking over the operation.
Over the years public service has been important to Ms. Whitworth, and she has a particular concern for youth. She has established a community center on her property and she owns two other small businesses that support residents of northwest Roanoke. This year the Roanoke Tribune celebrates its 70th anniversary and a celebratory dinner was highlighted by a presentation from nationally acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni.
The Roanoke Tribune remains as the vital community paper with the third generation, with son Stan Hale serving as editor. Whitworth was bestowed in April with the 2009 African American Trailblazer in Virginia History from the Library of Virginia System.
In 1992 Whitworth was inducted into the Virginia Women's Hall of Fame.