2022 Razor Walker Award Winners

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Public Service/Policy

“Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the consummate public servant and servant leader. He has devoted most of his adult life as a spiritual leader and moral activist to mobilize forces to create equal opportunities and justice for youth and families throughout North Carolina and the country.”

Dr. William J. Barber II leads and serves as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, and co-chair for the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.

For nearly 30 years, Rev. Dr. Barber has enhanced the lives of youth and families in his role as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church. In addition to serving as a spiritual leader, he has initiated programs including the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has provided more than 60 affordable housing units, a 90-student pre-school academy, meals and other services to benefit families in the greater Greensboro area. A key achievement of the RBCDC is the development of Project Y.E.S.S. (Youth Empowerment for Success and Service), an award-winning afterschool enrichment program that is STEM-focused and provides academic enrichment opportunities for students.

Rev. Dr. Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, from 2006-17 and served on the National NAACP board of directors from 2008-20. He is the architect of the Moral Movement, which began with weekly Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013, and led to a relaunch of the Poor People’s Campaign, begun by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Rev. Dr. Barber is currently co-chair of the initiative, which focuses on racism, poverty and other critical issues. In 2015, he established Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit organization that seeks to organize, train and work with a diverse school of prophets nationwide to uplift the constitutional and moral values of love, justice and mercy.

Dr. Barber’s commitment in his work to the inextricable link between community environment and constructive outcomes for children has at times been controversial. He has been arrested 15 times as he joined with others in nonviolent civil disobedience in pursuit of his goals. His tireless efforts have also earned him numerous local, state and national recognitions including the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor (2019); the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award (2018); the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award (2015) and the Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship (2015).

Rev. Dr. Barber is the embodiment of tenacity, courage and sacrifice. His work in the ministry, advocacy and public service has immeasurably impacted the lives of youth and families and made him a role model for Razor Walkers everywhere.

First Lady Kristin Cooper

Public Service/Policy

“Kristin Cooper has taken advantage of every opportunity to work directly with other citizens, often leading the way to improve the lives of our state’s most precious treasure – our children.”

Kristin Cooper has served as the First Lady of North Carolina since 2017. As First Lady, she uses her voice and platform to champion the well-being of children in North Carolina. She is primarily focused on the issues of foster care, child abuse and neglect, childhood hunger, early childhood development and literacy, as well as access to the arts and nature for children’s overall health and wellness. As the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran, she is also a passionate advocate for military families.

Mrs. Cooper is an attorney and Guardian ad Litem. She has served as a Guardian ad Litem for children in Wake County since 2003, using her legal training to represent foster children in court. Mrs. Cooper and other Guardians ad Litem ensure that at-risk children do not become neglected nor abandoned.

Mrs. Cooper has worked with SmartStart and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide books for North Carolina’s youngest children. Due in part to her involvement, North Carolina became the second state to receive an expansion of the program. She is also committed to ending childhood hunger and has been instrumental in partnering with No Kid Hungry to expand access to school breakfast in 10 districts around the state.

Before ending her term as First Lady, Mrs. Cooper has a goal to visit all 100 counties in North Carolina. Despite the pandemic, she has been to 85 of them.

She and Governor Roy Cooper raised their three daughters here in North Carolina; each of them is a graduate of the University of North Carolina System. Today, they make their home in Raleigh with their ever-increasing menagerie of rescue pets.

As a passionate and engaged citizen committed to maximizing opportunities for North Carolina’s children, Kristin Cooper has displayed the vision, tenacity, sacrifice and courage of a Razor Walker.

Major General Joseph A. McNeil (Ret.)

Public Service/Policy

“It is hard to imagine how a young college student could find the courage to stand up to unconstitutional laws of the land, but Joseph McNeil’s action – sitting on a stool at a lunch counter with three other freshmen students and refusing to move – changed history.”

Joseph McNeil was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a graduate of Williston High School and North Carolina A&T University, and a retired Air Force major general, who is best known for his contributions to the civil rights movement as a member of the Greensboro Four.

On February 1, 1960, at the age of 18, Mr. McNeil and three other North Carolina A&T University freshmen (David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Jibril Kazan) sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and refused to leave until they were served. The act inspired nonviolent sit-ins in cities across the South and was the catalyst for a social movement that challenged racial segregation. It became the cornerstone for major civil rights legislation in the United States.

Mr. McNeil graduated from North Carolina A&T University with a degree in physics in 1963 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He served for more than 37 years and was involved in our country’s efforts in Vietnam and Desert Storm. He retired from the United States Air Force Reserve in February 2000 with the rank of major general.

Upon retirement, Mr. McNeil received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal. He has also been recognized with honorary doctoral degrees from St. John’s University, North Carolina A&T University, University of North Carolina Wilmington and Molloy College.

For six decades, Joseph McNeil has been an inspiration and a role model for many. Through early acts of courage that sparked the civil rights movement and a long and distinguished career in service to his country, he has exemplified himself as a true Razor Walker.

WHAT of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.

Medicine, Health and Wellness

“For more than 20 years, WHAT has delivered quality care to young people, particularly those significantly at risk, through total community collaboration.”

Wilmington Health Access for Teens of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. provides children, teens and young adults access to comprehensive primary medical care, mental health and preventative services.

The organization’s origins date back to 1994 when a steering committee representing more than 20 New Hanover County agencies was formed to address the critical issues of unserved/underserved adolescents and the increasing risks of poor health outcomes and avoidable deaths. The committee concluded that the creation of a specialty center and staff was needed. WHAT was incorporated in 1995 and opened doors at its main facility on Oleander Drive in 1997.

WHAT believes that health, learning and success in school are interconnected; that medical care should be prevention-focused and patient-centered; and that increasing access means finding ways to minimize scheduling, transportation and financial barriers. The organization opened its first school-based health center at Lakeside High School in 1999. They now offer school-based care at four Wilmington-area high schools and mental health services on other New Hanover County school campuses. During the 2018-19 school year, WHAT served more than 2,300 unduplicated patients, helping to reduce absenteeism, tardiness and school discipline problems and enhance students’ overall health and engagement in school.

Many of the partnerships that were the bedrock of WHAT’s inception still exist today. WHAT’s partners include Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the Department of Social Services, New Hanover County Schools, UNCW, Cape Fear Community College and many other primary care and youth service providers. Their collaborative approach to health care has helped to increase access to care, prevent duplication of services, improve coordination of care and achieve better health outcomes.

Wilmington Health Access for Teens of Coastal Horizons, Inc. has “walked the razor’s edge” for more than two decades, providing services that have significantly enhanced the lives of children and youth.

Special Thanks To Contributors as of March 22, 2022

Corporate Sponsor

  • AT&T

The Tannis F. Nelson Endowed Razor Walker Scholarship in Education
Established in 2021 by R. Michael and Tannis F. Nelson, this scholarship will be awarded annually.

Razor Walker Scholar

  • James M. Applefield
  • Van Dempsey and Jaci Webb-Dempsey in honor of UNCW Deans
  • R. Michael and Tannis F. Nelson, ‘03
  • Tom ’98 and Susan Rabon
  • Robert E. Tyndall ’00 in honor of Dr. Noel K. Jones, ‘06

Professor’s Circle

  • James H. Faison III, ‘13
  • Nick and Deloris Rhodes, ‘17

Alumni Circle

  • Cathy L. Barlow, ‘18
  • Gurney Chambers, ‘97
  • Wanda Marino, ‘16
  • Elizabeth Miars, ‘08
  • Constance Parker, ‘03
  • Marc Sosne, ‘02
  • Bertha Todd, ‘01
  • Robert F. Warwick, ‘98
  • Barden Winstead, Jr., ‘97
  • Eleanor B. Wright, ‘08

Previous honorees designated by the year in which they received the award.