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Builder’s work for equality honored

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A local executive who exemplifies the power of people working together to help Columbus is this year’s recipient of the William R. Laws Human Rights Award.

Tom Harmon, chief executive officer of Taylor Brothers Construction Co., will receive the award at the Columbus Human Rights Commission annual dinner 6:30 p.m. April 9 at The Commons.

Harmon is being honored for his work behind the scenes to bring together community residents to work toward a common goal of inclusion and equality, something that embodies all William R. Laws espoused, said commission director Lorraine Smith.

Laws, who helped create the human rights commission, was a strong advocate of civil rights in the 1960s while he was pastor at First Presbyterian Church.

“Laws was a strong convener of people,” Smith said, adding that Harmon has the same skill.

“Tom has done a significant amount of work behind the scenes on issues dealing with inclusion and diversity,” she said.

Harmon has led CAMEO, the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization, and still works closely with the Columbus Young Professionals and Leadership Bartholomew County. Bringing these diverse members of the Columbus community together to find partnerships and opportunities for dialogue is considered one of Harmon’s strengths.

Harmon also is being honored for his efforts to bring together the families who formed the African American Fund of Bartholomew County, which will provide grants to educate, inspire and help African-Americans in education, leadership development, economic and career development, health awareness and arts and culture.

“He (Tom) had this idea, this spark, that created the initiative to assist the African-American community,” Smith said. “He knows that when you uplift one group, you can do nothing but help the broader community at the same time.”

Harmon was selected from about eight nominees for this year’s award. Nominations come from the Columbus community and a committee chaired by Ian Kohen, a Cummins Inc. employee.

The committee immediately realized Harmon has been involved in multiple groups, in multiple levels on a wide spectrum of humans rights organizations, Kohen said.

“He’s not just a participant,” Kohen said. “He’s the facilitator for getting many groups together. And he has a unique perspective of the community.”

Harmon also serves as vice president of Harmon Construction Inc. and president of Harmon Steel Inc. He is president of Columbus Regional Health Foundation, chair of the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County’s Outreach Committee. He also serves on the Columbus Area Sports Advisory Committee.

Using his business acumen, Harmon developed a business plan that led to producing a welcoming guide to Columbus that highlights ethnic and community connections, according to the commission’s announcement.

“He was one person, a nominee who really just excelled,” Kohen said.

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