This distinguished panel helped our editors determine the inaugural class of Heroes of the New South.

After reviewing hundreds of nominations with our panel of distinguished jurors, we’ve chosen honorees, ages 20 to 93, whose stories inspire us and reflect the rich diversity of the Southern spirit. They are otherwise ordinary folks who have done extraordinary things. They are the 2012 Southern Living Heroes of the New South.

Photo: Robbie Caponetto

William Ferris 
Senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities 

Gerri Combs
Executive director of South Arts, Atlanta; panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts; board member of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

John T. Edge 
Director of Southern Foodways Alliance, Oxford, Mississippi; James Beard Foundation Award winner; editor of the foodways volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture; columnist for The New York Times

Jim Strickland 
President and founder of Historical Concepts, Atlanta; 2010 recipient of the Arthur Ross Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art; member of the New Urban Guild