The City of Spartanburg’s 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Week Humanitarian Award was presented to former Denny’s Chief Executive Officer John C. Miller and former Spartanburg Mayors James Talley, Bill Barnet, and Junie White. Presented on Monday, January 16 during the 36th annual Unity Week Celebration, the award recognizes people and organizations who have made a positive impact in advancing racial equity and promoting diversity in the Spartanburg community.
During his 11 years leading Denny’s, John C. Miller gave the company slogan, “America’s diner is always open” a new meaning when it came to supporting and promoting diversity and inclusiveness in Spartanburg. Indeed, Denny’s is always open for Spartanburg. Our city has had no stronger corporate partner when it comes to ensuring that our city is a welcoming place for all. Over Mr. Miller’s tenure, Denny’s facilitated the creation of a new public play space on their downtown campus, generously supported the City’s annual International Festival, and became a critical partner in our Unity Week celebration activities, with Mr. Miller serving as keynote speaker for our Unity Breakfast event in 2020.
Between them, former Spartanburg Mayors James Talley, Bill Barnet, and Junie White represent 29 years of our city’s unprecedented progress, with their tenures stretching from the very beginnings of Downtown Spartanburg’s revitalization and through a period that has seen our neighborhoods strengthened, our residents become more prosperous, and our community brought together as never before to address our challenges.
While their tenures were marked by numerous generational milestones in Spartanburg’s growth, all three of these men’s legacies will be defined more by their connection to the people of our community as by their connection to any particular project or development. They all carried into office a dedication and devotion to serving people — to moving Spartanburg closer to the ideal of a place where everyone can realize their potential and prosper.