• 64°

Womack: We can do better

Greenville native Chris Womack, executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company, served as the keynote speaker at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Thursday night. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Greenville native Chris Womack, executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company, served as the keynote speaker at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Thursday night. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Like one of his idols, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chris Womack has a dream.

Womack, who served as the keynote speaker at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet on Thursday night, dreams of a Greenville that’s not divided by race or religion. He dreams of a Greenville that continues to move forward. He dreams of a Greenville that will one day reach its full potential.

“There are a lot of wonderful things that occur in Greenville, Alabama that I am so very, very proud of,” said Womack. “Yeah, there are things we can do better. I want to see all the communities come together and work more collectively together. Whether you are black, white, Hispanic, Protestant, Catholic or Jew — no matter what you are, let’s all come together. Whether you live on Baptist Hill or Methodist Hill or City School Hill, it doesn’t matter which hill you are on. Let’s all come together and do things together for the betterment of this community.

“I can’t tell you enough about your mayor. He has been not only a good friend of mine, but he has been somebody I have come to really appreciate because of his dreams. This mayor has dreams. This mayor is committed to knowing that Greenville can be better than what it is. This community is in a wonderful location. Greenville has wonderful resources. Greenville has wonderful people. But there are things that we must do, that we should do, to grow Greenville to make it better.”

Womack, a graduate of Greenville High School, is executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company. He said he has always been proud to call Greenville home, but a recent trip to the Camellia City for longtime city councilman James Lewis’ funeral ended in a visit that made him swell with pride.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon was giving Womack a rundown of some of the city’s projects. He told Womack he had something he needed to show him.

“He was like a little child he was so excited,” Womack said.

McLendon pulled out a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King that was taken in 1965 at Greenville’s Harrison Street Baptist Church.

“I was born in 1958,” Womack said. “I remember, because we lived on 413 Harrison Street right across from Harrison Street Baptist Church, there was some chaos and commotion going on over there. I had no idea what was going on. When I saw that photo, and to see Dr. Martin Luther King, to see John Lewis, to see them photographed at Harrison Street Missionary Baptist Church, that was an incredible prideful moment for me about this mayor and about this city because he was excited like a little kid to know and to see the history of Greenville, to see that Dr. King was here carrying his message of equality and also about having dreams.”

Womack was a dreamer from an early age. Those dreams have served him well.

“In June of 1979 I left home and exited on Exit 130 heading north on Interstate 65 headed to Washington, D.C. with no idea what was going to happen to me in my life,” Womack said. “But I had an incredible foundation that was developed here in Greenville. No doubt my faith in my God was an important part of my life, but I was also given the ability and the intestinal fortitude to say, ‘OK, I can do whatever I want to do.’ I had no idea what I wanted to be, but I had some idea of where I wanted to go.”

The Greenville native landed a job working for the U.S. House of Representatives as a legislative aide to Leon Panetta and as staff director for the Subcommittee on Personnel and Police, for the Committee on House Administration.

Womack eventually joined Southern Company in 1988 where has remained since. He has held a number of leadership positions within Southern Company and its subsidiaries.  He has served as executive vice president of external affairs at Georgia Power and senior vice president and senior production officer of Southern Company Generation, where he was responsible for coal, gas, and hydro generation for Georgia Power and Savannah Electric.  Womack also served as senior vice president of human resources and chief people officer at Southern Company, as well as senior vice president of public relations and corporate services at Alabama Power. He now directs Southern Company’s public policy strategies and oversees the company’s federal and state governmental and regulatory affairs and corporate communication initiatives.

Womack has received numerous honors, including the Johnny Morrow Endowment Foundation “Man of the Year” (1996); SCLC Leadership Award (1998); Distinguished Alumni, Western Michigan University (2003); Black Enterprise 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America (2012) and Black Enterprise Magazine’s 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America (2005).  He also received the Boy Scouts of America Whitney M. Young Award for Public Service (2007); the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award (2010); and the Black Enterprise/Porsche Intelligent Performers Award (2010); and he National Award of Merit from Alpha Phi Alpha (2011).

“Clearly Mr. Womack has been very successful in his career, and he’s give back to others in the communities he’s lived as evidence by his honors,” said Rod Cater, Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce board member and general manager of Alabama Power. “But how does someone like that become so successful? I believe it’s a product of your environment. Your environment is made up a lot of things, but there are four primary things that make up an environment that influence each and every one of us — your home, your church, your school and your community. For Mr. Womack, all of those are right here in Greenville.”