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Posted: February 15, 2011 4:43 p.m.

Melvin Baker has strong roots

Family, community are cornerstones to local dentist Melvin Baker

William Brawley/

Family and community are watchwords for Melvin O’Neal Baker.

The Covington dentist is firmly committed to both.

He’s chairman of the board of the Washington Street Community Center and a steward of St. Paul AME Church, helped bring the Family Y to Covington, served on various other community and professional boards and has helped in innumerable ways to make his hometown better.

For his efforts, Baker in January was named the winner of the R.O. Arnold award, given annually by the Covington/Newton Chamber of Commerce.

"It gives me a good bit of satisfaction that somebody thought enough to nominate me, and then the chamber thought enough to give me this reward," he said.

Baker is just giving back to a community he’s called home for most of his life.

The Cousins High School graduate earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Clark in Atlanta in 1971, then earned his degree in dentistry in 1974 from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He spent two years in dentistry in the Navy before returning to Covington.

"This was home and I loved the community," he said.

The end days of Jim Crow occurred as Baker came of age. He participated in a civil rights march in Covington, an experience that earned him a bit of time in jail. He was on spring break from college at the time.

"I did it once and after that, my dad put me on the bus and told me not to come back down here," he said.

They were arrested on a Friday night and out Sunday morning. It was a profound, positive experience.

"We really enjoyed it," he said. We were singing and talking and developed a bit of fellowship that particular time."

Baker has practiced dentistry here since 1976.

His community work has earned him other honors along the way. Last year, he won the prestigious Martin Luther King I Have A Dream Award and also a Legends award from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Past recipients of the chamber’s Arnold award include Rob Fowler and T.K. and Louise Adams.

"They were really stalwarts in our community. They were really some of the people that I looked up to," Baker said. "It’s kind of humbling to think that people think that much of you, so I really appreciate it."

Success is twofold for Baker.

"I guess success is maybe setting some goals and being able to achieve some of those goals," he said.

It’s also all about family, living life shared.

"Whatever joys you have in life, to be able to experience it with somebody."

The way to achieve success for Baker has been to have goals. And to achieve your goals, you have to write them down.

"I’ve found that when you write things down, you generally come closer to achieving than you do when you just muddle over it in your mind and daydreaming," he said. "I always believed that if you’ve got a dream, if you’ve got something you want to do, write it down."

Some are unmet, but Baker said he’s met most of his goals. Life has been good, and he has few complaints.

"All I’ve ever wanted to do is just be able to make a living, make a decent life, make a contribution, and things like this Arnold award make it even better because things like that you don’t even anticipate."

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