David Sanders' idea "will benefit generations of Marshall Countians," Betty Ann Ogilvie, chairwoman of the Outstanding Citizen Committee, told several hundred members of the Chamber during their breakfast on Friday.
Sanders, 56, is the well-known English and drama teacher at Marshall County High School, and he characteristically explained his career and vision after the breakfast by saying, "I've been singing, acting and performing ever since I've been on the planet."
The Skyline Drive resident is the son of another Outstanding Citizen, Phil Sanders, proprietor of Home Supply Co. on West Commerce Street from 1946 to 2006.
David Sanders' "history of contributing selflessly to his community" earned him such distinction, Ogilvie said in her introduction describing the outstanding citizen as "a teacher who motivates, inspires and challenges his students."
Sanders' "love of reading" led to his career starting in his own way; "I was a teenager going on 56."
Marshall County Community Theater started in 1981 with early productions at venues big enough for a stage. They included the Gas Department building, the Courthouse and what's now Lewisburg Middle School.
Big productions such as the "Sound of Music" and "Into the Woods" revealed limitations at the school.
"We got tired of tearing everything down" after shows, Sanders recalled of the lack of storage for sets, props, costumes and related materials.
"So we asked ourselves if we were tired enough to go out and beg for money," he explained of how the movement started to establish a permanent stage.
There were grants from the Tennessee Valley Authority at the time and TVA helped, but it was the Marshall County community that made it happen, he said.
But such an effort needed a leader and benefactors, according to Ogilvie's introduction of the outstanding citizen.
"He energetically sold his idea to a number of people from all sectors of the community," she said. "With lots of work, the strong support of others and the generosity of many, his dream took shape.
"From this dream came the reality of the resurrection of the Dixie Theater," Ogilvie said.
Sanders recalls the movie house as having closed in the mid-1980s. It was owned by "Carolyn Hawkins, Mrs. Thomas Hale Hawkins, and before that she was a Boyd. They were the people who had the movie theater business."
Acquisition of the building brought audiences back to the Courthouse square when their motive didn't include litigation or judgment.
That's come after "backbreaking, sweaty work," Sanders said.
"We tore out what was worn out," he said.
They used what they had. Their first show was lit by two stage lights, he said. Now, the theater has hanging lights.
"And we have as good a sound system as the Schermerhorn (Symphony Center,)"
Sanders said in a reference to the new concert hall in Nashville.
Since the community theater found its home, storage facilities have been added. Sanders now wants to add "some trap doors" to the stage he said. They'd be needed if there's a reprise of "The Wizard of Oz," an early production that followed "A Hundred Years of Broadway."
"It's just gone boom from there," Sanders said.
"'A Christmas Carol' with a different twist" is an upcoming production, he said.
Sanders is a 1969 graduate of Marshall County High School who subsequently majored in English and drama at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
He's "a dedicated choir member at the First United Methodist Church, a Democrat and a fun person," Ogilvie said..