Rush H. Limbaugh, R.A. Fulenwider and the Drury Family: the history behind local Chamber awards

Many chambers of commerce around the country sponsor awards and recognition programs that annually recognize members and businesses for their service or contributions to their respective communities.

But only a handful of those awards bear the names of individuals or families as a tribute to their lifetime achievements.

In Cape Girardeau and Jackson, several major awards are named in honor of well-known individuals and families, a testament to their lifelong involvement on behalf of their communities.

The Rush H. Limbaugh Award, presented annually by the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, dates back to 1989, while the R.A. Fulenwider recognition was first presented a decade earlier, beginning in 1978, by the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, a new award, bearing the name of the Drury family, will be presented for the first time this year by the Cape Chamber.

The following is a summary of each award, its criteria, history and selection process.

The Rush H. Limbaugh Award

Limbaugh served as Cape Girardeau’s city attorney, as a representative in the Missouri legislature and as an ambassador for the U.S. legal system to India during the 1950s. He was also president of the Missouri Bar Association and active with Boy Scouting and the Salvation Army.

Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr., was the first recipient of this award in 1989. At that time, it was known simply as the "Award of Merit."

"The reasons behind the selection of Mr. Limbaugh Sr. were his long dedication and service to the Cape Girardeau area," Chamber Chairman Charles Haubold said at the time.

"Mr. Limbaugh has not only served the legal profession in Cape Girardeau, but every segment of the community, as well," Haubold added. "The board could think of no one more deserving than Mr. Limbaugh to receive this first award."

It was the first and last time the recognition would be known as the "Award of Merit," because by the following year, it was renamed as the Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. Award.

Limbaugh Award recipients are selected by previous recipients. The award's criteria states it should go to "an area business person who has expended exceptional effort on behalf of the community for a sustained period of time" and that "age should not be a factor."

Speaking of age, Limbaugh was 97 years old when he received the award in 1989. When he retired in 1994 at age 102, he was reportedly the oldest practicing attorney in the United States. He died in 1996.

Limbaugh started his Cape Girardeau law firm in 1923, and over the course of his long and storied legal career, he served as Cape Girardeau's city attorney, as a representative in the Missouri Legislature and as an ambassador for the U.S. legal system to India during the 1950s. He was also president of the Missouri Bar Association.

In addition to his legal career, Limbaugh was involved in the early development of Southeast Hospital, was active in Boy Scouting and worked with the Salvation Army for nearly 50 years.

The federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau, which opened in 2007, bears his name.

R.A. Fulenwider Meritorious Community Service Award

Fulenwider was a civic leader, political advocate and community supporter who was at the forefront of practically every major civic and industrial development in Jackson throughout most of his life.

Rowland Allen Fulenwider was a pharmacist and founder of Fulenwider Drugs in 1939 at 119 High St. in Jackson, which he operated until his retirement in 1969.

But Fulenwider was much more than a druggist. He was also a civic leader, political advocate and community supporter who was at the forefront of practically every major civic and industrial development in Jackson throughout most of his life.

The Fulenwider Meritorious Community Service Award is presented annually by the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to the betterment of Jackson and the surrounding area -- just as Fulenwider did.

Fulenwider was a devoted member and former president of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and oversaw the construction of the chamber's first brick and mortar location at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Highway 25. He was also president of the Jackson Industrial Development Committee, chaired the Jackson sesquicentennial observance and chaired the chamber's highway committee "with a bulldog determination, prodding and exhorting for road developments he felt necessary for Jackson," according to an article in the May 15, 1978, issue of the Southeast Missourian citing his accomplishments.

He was named Jackson Man of the Year in 1963 by the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, Jackson's Outstanding Citizen in 1966 by the Jackson Journal and Rotary Knight of the Year by the Jackson Rotary Club in 1976.

Fulenwider served on the Southeast Hospital Board of Trustees from 1948 until his death in 1978, serving three years as the board president.

Drury Family Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award

Chuck Drury

The Drury family has been at the forefront of entrepreneurship for many decades and has been instrumental in the establishment of numerous retail businesses, restaurants and hotels not only in the Cape Girardeau area but also across the nation.

The Cape Chamber announced establishment of the Drury Award in 2018 and will present the first award recipient(s) at the chamber's 2019 banquet in November.

The award will "honor the legacy of the Drury brothers whose entrepreneurship, rooted here in Cape, continues to generate opportunities for many in this community," according to Chuck Drury, president and CEO of Drury Hotels, in remarks he made at the chamber's 2018 banquet.

The Drurys opened their first hotel in 1963. "From there and over the next many decades, they put their competitive spirit to work," Chuck Drury said. "Jim (Drury) opened a Burger King, 200 yards away Bob (Drury) opened a Burger Lane, and across the street, Charles (Drury) built a Steak 'N Shake. They developed strip malls and built hotels in close proximity and worked in competition against each other to fill them. All three started their own hotel development companies, their own billboard companies and more."

Chuck Drury, son of Charles, said the three Drurys "weren't afraid to compete against one another and everybody else competing against them ... and the winner ended up being this community of Cape Girardeau."

Criteria for the Drury Family Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award states recipients must be either from the Cape Girardeau area, have studied here or achieved entrepreneurial success in the region. In addition, they must be recognized as an entrepreneur and must have started at least one new venture that was at least regionally successful.

Award recipients will be selected by a committee made up of one representative from each of the Bob, Charles and Jim Drury families, the chairman of the chamber board and one other ad hoc person. In addition, the three previous recipients of the award will be added to the selection committee once there are previous recipients.

Limbaugh Award recipients over the years have been:

1989 – Rush H. Limbaugh Sr.

1990 – Oscar C. Hirsch

1991 – Howard C. Tooke

1992 – Harry Rediger

1993 – Charles L. Hutson

1994 – Joe F. Gambill

1995 – J. Hugh Logan

1996 – Narvol A. Randol, Sr.

1997 – Paul Ebaugh

1998 – Gene E. Huckstep

1999 – Dennis Marchi

2000 – J. Ronald Fischer

2001 – Vernon Auer

2002 – Gary Rust

2003 – Mike Kohlfeld

2004 – Judy Wilferth

2005 – James P. Limbaugh

2006 – Mary C. Kasten

2007 – Albert M. Spradling III

2008 – James A. Rust

2009 – Neal Edwards

2010 – Pete Poe

2011 – Janet Esicar

2012 – Danny Essner

2013 – Maurice “Moe” Sandfort

2014 – Jim Maurer

2015 – Jay Knudtson

2016 – Dennis Vollink

2017 – Charles L. Drury

2018 – Bob Neff

Recipients of the Fulenwider Award are selected by previous award recipients. Those who have received the award over the years are:

1978 – Walter Keisker

1979 – Bernard Schaper

1980 – Perry Grindstaff

1981 – Richard Davis

1982 – Larry Nowak

1983 – Carlton Meyer

1984 – Mysie S. Keene

1985 – Carl Penzel

1986 – Sylvester Northdurft

1987 – Dorothy Phillips

1988 – Melvin Lichtenegger

1989 – Gene Rusty Cracraft

1990 – Robert L. Hartle

1991 – Leonard Sander

1992 – Paul Bruening

1993 – T. Wayne Lewis

1994 – Stone Manes

1995 – Marjorie Grindstaff

1996 – Gene Penzel

1997 – Max Prill

1998 – Paul Sander

1999 – James R. Nelson

2000 – Donald R. Sievers

2001 – David Moll

2002 – Carl Talley

2003 – Arnold T. Strickert

2004 – Patsy Johnson

2005 – Sam Roethemeyer

2006 – John M. Thompson

2007 – Lester Maevers

2008 – Marybelle Mueller

2009 – Jack Litz, Sr.

2010 – Gerald Jones

2011 – David Hitt

2012 – Barbara Lohr

2013 – Dwight Johnson

2014 – Terri Tomlin

2015 – David Reminger

2016 – Val Tuschhoff

2017 – Billy Joe Thompson

2018 – Tom Ludwig