Bond, Graning take top honors as Natchez Woman and Man of the Year. Businesses honored at annual Chamber Gala.

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022

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NATCHEZ — The Miss-Lou business community came together at the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday evening and named a new man and woman of the year and small and large business of the year.

Kathleen Bond, superintendent of the Natchez National Historic Park, was chosen Woman of the Year by the Chamber.

Helen Moss Smith, last year’s woman of the year, introduced Bond. She read a laundry list of Bond’s accomplishments in her career and service to the Natchez community.

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“During her tenure, her accomplishments are quite remarkable,” Moss Smith said. “She worked closely with scholars on the foundational planning documents for the park, performed operational assessments at other national parks, and has presented on themes of southern history, tourism, and culture.”

Bond became permanent superintendent in Natchez in 2006 and has received an award for recognition from the American Association for State and Local History, drafted legislation on the Forks of the Road slave market, which passed in 2017, served on the national Cultural Resource Advisory Council, and the regional Southeast Cultural Resource Advisory Council.

“It is my pleasure to recognize Kathleen Bond for her many talents and dedication to preserving the people and structures of Natchez for several decades,” Moss Smith said.

Bond said she was honored and surprised by the honor.

“I guess it means now I’m from here,” Bond said. She is a native of Vicksburg.

John Grady Burns, the Chamber’s Man of the Year in 2021, introduced Tom Graning as 2022 Man of the Year.

“Our Natchezian Man of the Year is a Natchez native, a fifth-generation graduate from Cathedral School and Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi,” Burns said. “This choice is not surprising as those of us who know Tom realize that he spends a huge amount of his time giving back to youth, fundraisers, and worthy causes.”

Graning has been a running back and secondary coach on the Cathedral football team. He has spent the past 30 years and countless hours working during the week as the field crew maintenance and designer, volunteering his time painting the field before each home game for football, baseball, and softball.

Graning and his brother, Ward, owned the Go Mart, founded by their late father, Al Graning of Graning Oil Co. in 1984.

“When Tom’s brother, Ward, died unexpectedly, he and his family wanted to honor him in a special way and created the Ward Graning Scholarship Fund and distributed it to students at Cathedral,” Burns said. “He and his siblings also wanted to create a restaurant for years, so Wardo’s is one of the newest and 95 percent family-run restaurants in Natchez.”

Burns went through a litany of good works by Graning, including helping to raise thousands of dollars for St. Jude.

Graning was visibly surprised by the honor.

“I was very surprised, completely surprised,” Graning said. “We all love Natchez, which is why we are here. This is truly an honor.”

NOLA Lending was named Small Business of the Year, and Home Bank was chosen Large Business of the Year.

Scott McLemore took the reins of the Chamber from Kolby Godfrey and will lead the Chamber as its chairman of the board.