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A longtime Forsyth County business leader, philanthropist's challenge to the best-of-the-best
Former American Proteins owner and CEO Tommy Bagwell, alongside his wife, Chantal, remarks during the 2020 Best of Forsyth event Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at the Forsyth Conference Center after receiving the John Hall Leadership Award. - photo by Ben Hendren

Tommy Bagwell, longtime owner and CEO of American Proteins, received the John Hall Leadership Award at the Forsyth County News’ annual Best of Forsyth banquet Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Forsyth Conference Center.

Bagwell received the award which is presented to a Forsyth County resident who has “dedicated their time, energy and servant leadership” to the local community.

Bagwell had a long and successful run leading the company that his father founded in 1949. Bagwell took over when his father died in 1972 and led until the company was bought by Tysons in 2018 for $850 million.

While Bagwell helped American Proteins grow into one of the world’s largest rendering companies, he also supported countless community efforts, both big and small, from founding the first Rotary Club in Forsyth County more than 40 years ago, to establishing a foundation with his wife, Chantal, to provide financial resources for kids in need to attend college.

“His support has been so long-standing and to such a wide array of efforts, that’s it’s probably impossible to accurately measure just how much of an impact he’s made,” FCN Editor Brian Paglia said.

The award was unique for Thursday’s event, which honored the best businesses, organizations and professionals in Forsyth County as determined by votes from the community.

Nominations were solicited last September in 285 categories, and residents voted daily during October. This year’s contest had a record number of voters (39,047) and total votes (425,284).

The winners were honored with a red-carpet affair, which was presented by title sponsor Andean Chevrolet.

Bagwell received the only award not tied to a vote, one named after John Hall, the former publisher of the FCN for 10 years who was also an active member of several civic organizations.

Previous winners include longtime community activist Mary Helen McGruder, Northside Hospital Forsyth Administrator Lynn Jackson and former Forsyth County Fire Chief Danny Bowman.

Bagwell accepted the award, and then implored the crowd of accomplished businesses, organizations and professionals to think beyond just the monetary contributions they can make to their community.

“There are so many studies that when you just touch a kid’s life with a moment of your own insight and influence, you do more than most check-writers,” Bagwell said.

He added, “Make a friend, lend a hand, do some tutoring, to make this a better place, and we will all move forward together.”