The 17thannual Richmond Hill Hometown Christmas Parade will kick off the holiday season Saturday. Leading the long line of floats will be this year’s grand marshal: Donald Singleton.
Parade coordinator Nancy Frye nominated Singleton. She said his history in Richmond Hill and contributions to the community made him an easy choice.
“Mr. Singleton is an inspiration. He’s done so much for this community and for our local veterans, and we’re happy to honor him by naming him grand marshal. It’s our way of thanking him for everything he’s accomplished in his life,” she said.
Singleton, 68, is an active supporter of military veterans in Bryan and Chatham Counties. A member of nearly every local veterans organization and a veteran himself, he was instrumental in bringing the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall to Bryan County in 2008.
“I just do what I can,” said Singleton. “I think it’s important that we remember the men and women who served.”
This won’t be Singleton’s first time in the parade. For the last several years, he’s driven an old red, white and blue Volkswagen Beetle that bears the names of the local Vietnam dead in the parade.
Singleton said he was “shocked, but honored” when he got the letter asking him to serve as grand marshal.
“I like being a part of the parade, but I have no idea why they picked me,” he said. “I’m just a down-to-earth, regular guy.”
Singleton was born and raised in Richmond Hill. He left to join the Army at 18, and after his service and a career as a locomotive engineer, returned home in 1998 to retire.
“I love Richmond Hill. I’ve always loved it. It’s home. I was born here, raised here, and I’ll probably die here,” he said.
Singleton has watched Richmond Hill change from a small town with no paved roads to a self-sustaining city that’s home to nearly 12,000.
“Everything’s changed — the roads, the buildings, the cars — but the feeling that I have about Richmond Hill, that’s still the same.”
As a teenager, he worked for the Ford Plantation, labeling boxes in the brick lettuce shed that still stands near the intersection of Ford Avenue and Highway 17.
He attended the original George Washington Carver School built by Henry Ford, and it was his idea at a Board of Education meeting to name the current George Washington Carver Elementary School after its predecessor.
After leaving Richmond Hill, Singleton joined the Army, where he served 19 months and 22 days in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded by a grenade.
Singleton is married and has four daughters and four grandchildren. He’s a University of Georgia-certified Master Gardener, and his hobbies include farming, trains and playing the drums.
The Richmond Hill Hometown Parade starts Saturday at 10 a.m. in downtown Richmond Hill. For more information, call 756-3641.
Veterans activist named parade grand marshal