NC WARN gives the John O. Blackburn Award to individuals who have devoted their lives to social and environmental justice. The award is named for Dr. John Blackburn, former Duke University Chancellor and Chair of the Duke Economics Department. After retiring, Dr. Blackburn served as NC WARN’s volunteer technical advisor for over five years before dying unexpectedly on January 16, 2011. Remembrances of Dr. Blackburn and links to the reports he wrote for us can be found here.
In December 2010, we presented John with a special award for his dedicated and extraordinary service toward a clean-energy future and a better world. Since then, we have presented an award in his name to the following recipients.
Bobby Jones — December 2019
Bobby Jones is a lifelong community organizer and advocate for social and environmental justice. He is retired after a 30-year career at the NC Department of Health and Human Services, where his roles included Director of Internal Community Advocacy for the Eastern Region.
Among many other community roles, Bobby is a Deacon at Greenleaf Christian Church, and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Center in Goldsboro. He serves as president of the Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition, which advocates for the black, brown and poor white communities in eastern North Carolina that face harmful environmental conditions. The Down East Coalition addresses corporate bullying and weak regulatory oversight.
In December 2019, Bobby joined the NC WARN board of directors.
John Runkle — July 2018
As NC WARN’s attorney for 13 years, John has been instrumental in helping us win important victories – preventing the building of one of the two proposed coal units at Cliffside, blocking Duke Energy from getting automatic rate hikes to pay for building new nuclear power plants (a project that has finally been scrapped!), submitting a civil rights complaint over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would bring fracked gas to Eastern NC and cut through African American and Native American lands, and challenging Duke over its climate-wrecking business model. We are honored that such a passionate, intelligent and caring individual has devoted so much time to promoting environmental justice with us!
Dr. Steve Wing — October 2016
Dr. Steve Wing, a UNC epidemiologist, is a foremost expert on radiation health effects and on health damage to people living near hog farms. He spoke out forcefully against allowing North Carolina to become a nuclear waste dumping ground and wrote a report for NC WARN in 2003 on the safety risks of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant.
Steve is a cofounder and long-time anchor of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. He is the primary author of that organization’s Position Statement on Climate Change, which reads, in part: “We are not fighting for a new order that reduces greenhouse emissions but leaves other injustices in place… NCEJN recognizes that environmental injustice itself is a driving force behind climate change: by polluting low-income communities instead of their own, the wealthy have less incentive to reduce pollution.”
In presenting the award, NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren said: “In the long struggle for a more just society, there is no one better to have on your side than Steve Wing. For Steve, we need to keep learning how to work together amid enormous challenges, we have to exercise our courage, we have to demand justice on every single front, and we have to stay at it. Steve has pointed out the way for us — the way of respect, integrity and courage.”
Dr. Wing’s extended battle with cancer ended on November 9, 2016. Read an obituary from the UNC School of Public Health. The National Institutes of Health also shared this remembrance.
Joyce Johnson and Rev. Nelson Johnson — December 2015
At our annual meeting in December 2015, we presented the John O. Blackburn Award to Joyce Johnson and Rev. Nelson Johnson in recognition of their lifelong dedication to social justice. The Johnsons operate Beloved Community Center in Greensboro and Rev. Johnson is the retired pastor of Faith Community Church there.
The Johnsons share John Blackburn’s humility, deep humanity and determination. They were out front on problems between the police and the community years before video recordings confirmed the appalling extent of those problems. They have been strong voices for environmental justice.
We are grateful that they have the courage to stand with controversial allies such as NC WARN. We have partnered with the Johnsons on our Solar Freedom project, the test case that challenged the state’s ban on third-party sales of solar, and on our Emergency Climate Response, which called on NC Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate Duke Energy’s corporate charter. It has been a great honor to work with the Johnsons on these and other efforts.
Alice Loyd — December 2014
Alice is a former NC WARN board chair and former executive director of North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, a program of the NC Council of Churches that educates and activates the faith community on climate change.
Alice worked with NC WARN to form a collaborative called the Grassroots Energy Alliance with the vision of marrying social justice values with environmental sustainability through a program of green jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy. To further that program we approached Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the NAACP, and together developed a broad coalition called the Black, Brown, and Green Alliance which put on a major green jobs conference in Durham. On the NC WARN board, Alice worked hard to shepherd the organization through a process of Dismantling Racism Training toward our goal of deepening our anti-racist work.
Pat Moore — December 2013
Pat Moore and her husband John are strong social justice activists and philanthropists. They helped start and make possible Moore Place, an apartment complex and treatment center for the chronically homeless in Charlotte. They slept out with the homeless in their protests. They were regular participants in Occupy Charlotte. And they helped form the United Religions Initiative which has brought together Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others for dialog and mutual support.
Pat has been arrested in Charlotte for protesting Duke Energy’s Cliffside coal plant and Bank of America’s financing of coal plants and in Washington, DC for protesting mountaintop removal coal mining and the Keystone XL pipeline. She has spoken out repeatedly and movingly at public hearings.
Beth Henry — December 2012
Beth Henry, a retired Charlotte attorney, has worked long and hard for NC WARN as a board member, organizer of protests at Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meetings, testifier at public hearings and participant in street theater (she has portrayed Duke Energy in two “toxic wedding” protests, donning a wedding gown to marry first Gov. Pat McCrory and later Piedmont Natural Gas). Her keynote speech at the 2012 annual meeting was a moving metaphor likening the metamorphosis of monarch butterflies to the change now needed in ourselves and our society.