Shane Black can often be found providing legal counsel for the Athens City Council or Athens City Board of Education in his role as city attorney. He and his family are also often seen giving back while working with various community organizations.
It is the latter that saw Black honored with a special award during Monday's council meeting.
David Malone, a member of the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee, presented Black with the C. Eric Lincoln Humanitarian Award for his work with the organization. Malone said Black plays Santa Claus at the group's annual tree lighting event, where toys are handed out to kids in the neighborhood. Black also portrays the jolly old elf for the annual Athens Christmas parade.
“I can't tell you how honored and thankful I am for this awesome award,” Black said. “I have learned about Dr. Lincoln through the work I have done with y'all. It's an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as him.”
Malone said Councilman Jimmy Gill, the namesake of another local park, started the committee over 20 years ago.
“This committee has two major functions per year — one is a tree lighting event at Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park, where we give away toys to the kids, and the other is a Martin Luther King (Jr.) Day program at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church,” Malone said.
Malone said Lincoln was born and raised in Athens, attended Trinity High School and was a author and minister before eventually retiring as a professor at Duke University. He said the committee typically gives the award named after Lincoln during the annual program at the church, but this year, the time and venue were changed.
“That's why I'm standing here tonight,” he said. “We have a lot of outstanding people in our community, but from that, we have some people that stand out. Tonight, the person we want to honor, he really stands out. It is my honor to present the Dr. C. Eric Lincoln Humanitarian Award to Mr. Shane Black.”
Black had no prior knowledge that he would be receiving the award. He also did not know his family had secretly been invited to the meeting in order to share the moment with him.
The Council and members of the audience gave Black a standing ovation after he was announced as the award's recipient.
Malone told the audience about Black's work as Santa Claus during the park tree lighting event. He said he once saw a 4-year-old child standing silent with jaw agape in excitement at seeing Black portraying Santa.
“If you haven't seen him perform, I believe he could go to New York and be Macy's Santa Claus,” Malone said. “He's been doing this for years. You are one of the best I've seen. This man is good at what he does.”