By Morgan Bryce

Pastor Rusty Sowell of Providence Baptist Church was recognized with an FBI “Director’s Community Leadership Award” Friday morning in a ceremony held at the Lee County Justice Center.

Sowell quickly became the face of the recovery efforts in Beauregard following the March 3, 2019 tornado that ravaged the community. Through he and his church’s efforts, the western campus of Providence served as a control center and a place where survivors could pick up supplies in the days after the storm.

Sheriff Jay Jones acknowledged those facts in kicking off Friday’s ceremony.

“We are recognizing someone with this award that was of so much help and comfort to the citizens here in Lee County, especially in Beauregard,” Jones said.

James Jewell, special agent in-charge of Mobile’s FBI Dvision, presented Sowell with the award, which was given recognition of “(Sowell’s) outstanding service to the local community and his enduring contributions” and signed by current FBI Director Christopher Wray.

After accepting the award, Sowell took a moment to express his gratitude and thanks to those who contributed their time and efforts to assist in the recovery process.

“I feel very overwhelmed and humbled, somewhat stunned,” Sowell said. “But really, in terms of response, it worked because we all came together. Law enforcement came from all over the state … and I was also overwhelmed by the response of our faith community who came from places as far away as Louisiana and Texas to help.”

Sowell concluded his acceptance speech by informing the audience of an event that will be held on March 3 to honor that infamous day in both Beauregard’s and Lee County’s history.

“It’s going to be a time to remember and focus on the fact that everybody was on level ground that day, and from that day on,” Sowell said.

To learn more about the award, visit

Morgan Bryce
Opelika Observer
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