Dedrick and Jeremy Baker, sons of Dr. Melvin O'Neal Baker, accepted the R.O. Arnold Award on his behalf. The award was presented by Louise Adams, left, a past R.O. Arnold recipient. In the background is Chamber President Hunter Hall.
COVINGTON -- Dr. Melvin O'Neal Baker is the 2011 recipient of the R.O. Arnold Award.
Baker, 61, was unable to attend the event Thursday evening when the award was presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce held at DeKalb Technical College. His sons Dedrick and Jeremy accepted the award on his behalf.
The award recognizes a lifetime of community involvement and achievement and was presented by past recipient Louise Adams, who, along with her husband T.K. Adams, nominated Baker.
Adams said Baker's life mirrors that of R.O. Arnold, for whom the award was named.
"They both set the standard by which a community measures its citizens that display extraordinary service in the field of business leadership, community outreach and church services," Adams said. "It's good to live in a community with a person who has an attitude of caring for human kind. He has the idea that if you want your community to grow, you have to help it grow with knowledge, skills and finances."
Baker is a Newton native. He and his wife, Gussie, live in Oxford. He has practiced dentistry in Covington for 34 years.
Baker is chairman of the Washington Street Community Center board of directors, which oversees programs meeting the educational needs of underprivileged children through an afterschool tutorial program and other enrichment activities. He regularly participates in career days at local schools, promoting good dental health practices, and distributes dental health packages at events for children.
He is on the Newton Medical Center board of directors, the Bank of North Georgia board of directors and is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association and Georgia Dental Association.
Baker is a past recipient of the I Have a Dream Award given to the community member who has kept alive the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. through community service. He recently received The Legends Award given by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
He is a member of the Newton County Community Band and of St. Paul A.M.E. Church, where he serves as a Sunday School teacher and superintendent of Sunday School; director for the Christian Education Department; a member of the steward board and of the male choir.
Baker was previously a member of the Oxford Transportation Committee and the committee that spearheaded the local YMCA in the late '80s.
He is a graduate of Clark College in Atlanta where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology and of the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry. He served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Dental Corps from 1974 to 1976.
Baker has three sons and four grandchildren.