The Hattiesburg Hall of Fame exists to recognize graduates of the Hattiesburg's city schools who have gone on to make great strides in their chosen career fields. It is sponsored by the Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation. The inaugural event was held in 2018.
(Hattiesburg High, 1945) was a standout basketball player in high school, but he rose to fame in another sport, serving as the national president of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America in 1987-88. Carpenter was an All-Big 8 Conference selection as a basketball player at HHS, signing with Mississippi State University and transferring to Mississippi Southern. Later, he served as the longtime pro at Southern Miss’ Van Hook Golf Course. Carpenter became President of Mississippi PGA, President of Gulf States PGA, Mississippi PGA Professional of the Year, Gulf States PGA Professional of the Year, National Vice President of PGA, Chairman of 1985 Ryder Cup, National President of PGA (’87-’88), Mississippi Pro Sportsman of the Year by the Jackson Touchdown Club (’87) and Golf Person of the Year by Southern Golf Journal (’88). Carpenter also is enshrined in the halls of fame of Mississippi Sports, the PGA of America, Southern Miss M-Club and the Gulf States PGA. Carpenter served as Director of Golf at both Timberton and Shadow Ridge golf clubs in Hattiesburg.
(Blair High, 1970) was the sports editor of the Hattiesburg High School newspaper, Hi-Flashes, and went on to become a 10-time Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year. Cleveland, who began his journalism career at age 13, is the most awarded sports writer in Mississippi history. He began his career at the Hattiesburg American newspaper and became the sports editor. After working one year in Monroe, La., Cleveland moved back to Mississippi to Jackson to write for the Jackson Daily News and The Clarion-Ledger, where he served as sports columnist and sports editor. He later became the executive director and historian of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (2012-16) before joining Mississippi Today as its sports editor. Cleveland, who is also a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, has written four books and also writes a syndicated sports column that is published by several Mississippi newspapers. While at Hattiesburg High School, he played on the school’s golf team.
(Hattiesburg High, 1972), a track athlete and member of the student council in high school, has served his community in government service for more than 30 years, becoming the first African-American mayor for the city of Hattiesburg. DuPree was appointed in 1987 to the Hattiesburg Public School Board and, beginning in 1991, he served as District 4 supervisor in Forrest County for three terms. For five years, DuPree was on the Hattiesburg Public School District's Board of Trustees. He was elected mayor of Hattiesburg in 2001 and served in that position for the next 16 years. During his time as mayor, DuPree helped bring more than $30 million of federal and state funding to Hattiesburg for housing and infrastructure development. DuPree, who also was in a choral group and played a little basketball in high school, also became the president of the Mississippi Municipal League in 2007 and was the Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Mississippi in 2011.
(Rowan High, 1964) played on some great football teams at Rowan and took his skills all the way to the National Football League, where he was selected to play in five Pro Bowls. Jackson went from Rowan to Jackson State, where he led the SWAC in receiving in 1965 and 1966. He was drafted in the 12th round of the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. In the NFL — playing for the Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks — Jackson caught 10,372 yards of passes and scored 76 touchdowns. He averaged 17.9 yards per catch. In the 1970s, Jackson led the NFL in receptions, yards receiving and touchdowns by a receiver. After retiring from the NFL as a player, Jackson coached receivers for 10 years in the league, with New England, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. He served as the receivers coach at Baylor and as the head coach at Jackson State. He is in the Black College Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
(Royal Street High School, 1954) is an American educator, physicist, and executive who was so brilliant in the 10th grade at Royal Street High School that he was awarded a scholarship to Morehouse College, and later he became president of the school. Dr. Massey has been chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2016 and previously served as its president, beginning in 2010. He is also chairman of the board overseeing construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope and serves as trustee chair of the City Colleges of Chicago. Massey was Morehouse president for 10 years and he is also a former head of the National Science Foundation, managing director of Argonne National Laboratory and chairman of Bank of America. He also has served on the boards of several major multi-national corporations. Massey is the only individual to have received both the Enrico Fermi Award for Science and Technology from the Chicago Historical Society and the Public Humanities Award from Illinois Humanities.
(Hattiesburg High, 1994) is President and CEO of Camellia Healthcare. A three-year starter on the Hattiesburg High baseball team (1994 state champion) and a member of the HHS Debate Team, Payne has led Camellia Healthcare for 16 years. The company operates 38 home health, hospice and private duty locations in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, employing more than 1,200 caregivers. Payne was awarded a Top 40 Mississippian's Under 40 Award in 2006. Camellia Healthcare was named one of the Best Places to Work in Mississippi by the Mississippi Business Journal every year from 2007 to 2017. Inc. Magazine recognized the firm as the fastest growing business in Mississippi and one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2013 and 2014. Mississippi Business Journal has awarded Camellia Healthcare as Fast 40: Mississippi's 40 Fastest Growing Companies. Payne, who played a role in the play “A Few Good Men” at HHS, received the Sales and Marketing Professionals’ 2017 Bud Kirkpatrick Practitioner Award and is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Area Development Partnership. He currently serves as the Mississippi Chairman of the Young Presidents’ Organization." Payne is also the Founder of InfusionPlus, a multistate specialty pharmacy provider of highly complex, specialized intravenous drugs. Inc. Magazine names InfusionPlus the fastest growing company in Mississippi and 9th fastest growing healthcare company in America.
(Hattiesburg High, 1966) is an orthopedic surgeon who was one of the founders of Southern Bone and Joint Specialists, P.A., in Hattiesburg. Rouse played football, baseball and basketball at Hattiesburg High and football at Southern Miss and received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi. He completed a fellowship in arthroscopy and sports medicine at the Toronto Western Hospital and has practiced orthopedics in Hattiesburg since 1981. Rouse has served on various committees and boards in the community, including The Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, from which he recently retired as president. He is a member of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Alumni Hall of Fame and is a member of the President’s Circle of the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation. In 2012, Rouse received the Jack C. Hughston, M.D. Sports Medicine Person of the Year Award by the Southeast Athletic Trainers’ Association.
(Hattiesburg High, 1974) learned to put a little arc on his jump shots while playing for the Tigers, and he went on to become a prolific scorer in the National Basketball Association. Short, who led Hattiesburg High to its last boys’ state championship, in 1974, played 12 seasons in the NBA and scored in double figures in 11 of those seasons. For his NBA career, the 6-foot-7 forward played in 842 games and averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while playing for the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets. In 1984-85, he averaged 28.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists. On Nov. 17, 1984, playing for the Warriors against the Nets, Short scored a career-high 59 points. Short also played three seasons at Jackson State University, averaging 28.5 points in 1978, before being the fifth overall player selected in the NBA draft. Short, whose late brother Eugene also was a star basketball player, is now the Chief of Player Programs for the NBA Players Association.
(Hattiesburg High, 1997) has been involved in many business developments but his latest, Midtown, is the one that has garnered plenty of attention in Hattiesburg and throughout the state. Tatum is the local developer for the $35 million mixed-use project, which includes a hotel, restaurants, shops and apartments. Tatum also developed Hub City Lofts in downtown Hattiesburg, along with more than 1,200 Class A apartment units. He sits on the advisory boards of his family businesses, including The Merchants Company and Mississippi Tank Company. He also serves as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church, is on the board of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association and the Trustmark National Bank Advisory Board. He also serves on the steering committee for the Endowment Campaign for the Edwards Street Fellowship Center. Tatum, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of The University of Mississippi and later attended the AB Freeman School of Business at Tulane University. At Hattiesburg High, Tatum was on the swim team and played on the 1997 state championship baseball team and had a role in the HHS musicals The Wiz and Guys and Dolls, which was featured on the international broadcast of The American Teacher Awards. He is the recipient of Sales and Marketing Professionals’ 2017 Bud Kirkpatrick Practitioner Award and was recently selected as William Carey University’s Small Business Leadership Award.
(Blair High, 1981) grew up in Hattiesburg writing and playing drums, then he moved to Nashville, where his passion became legendary. He’s not done yet, but Wiseman already has been named the Songwriter of the Century by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Wiseman has more than 300 cuts, 100 singles and 26 No. 1 songs. His Grammy-winning songs have been recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton and Blake Shelton. He opened his own publishing company, Big Loud Shirt Publishing, in 2003 and in the first year, his song “Live Like You Were Dying,” sung by McGraw, was No. 1 for 10 weeks. It also was named the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Song of the Year and won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song. In 2003, 2005 & 2007, ASCAP named Wiseman Songwriter of the Year. In 2009, he was named NSAI’s Songwriter of the Decade and he won the 2014 Heritage Award from ASCAP as the most performed country songwriter of the century.
(Oct. 13, 1926-Dec. 4, 1950, Eureka High School, 1944) was a brilliant student, the salutatorian of his high school class, and went on to become the first African-American pilot in the United States Navy. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and was the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War. Two United States presidents, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, praised Brown for his service and sacrifices. Brown, who spoke fluent French by the time he got to Eureka High School, where he participated in basketball, football and track and field, went to Ohio State University, where he got into a U.S. Navy program designed to recruit college students to become pilots. Brown earned his pilot wings on Oct. 21, 1948. Brown, an ensign, flew 20 combat missions before his F4U Corsair aircraft came under fire and crashed on a remote mountaintop on Dec. 4, 1950, while supporting ground troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Brown died of his wounds. The frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.
(Sept. 4, 1920-Dec. 23, 2007) (Hattiesburg High, 1938) broke glass ceilings in government and politics throughout her life, serving as Captain of the HHS Debate Team and later as the first female insurance commissioner, state treasurer and lieutenant governor of Mississippi. She was the only woman in her graduating class from Ole Miss Law School and the first woman editor of the Mississippi Law Review. In 1947, Gandy was elected to the state House of Representatives from Forrest County. She co-authored legislation that created the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Gandy, also a lawyer, supported legislation that favored increased funding for education and improved access to human services. Gandy also ran, unsuccessfully, for governor. She won numerous awards, including the Mississippi Woman of the Year Award in 1980 from Mississippi State University; Mississippian of the Year in Government in 1981 and the Mississippi Women's Political Caucus Susan B. Anthony Award for Outstanding Service to the State of Mississippi in 1984. Gandy was named to the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 1985.
(Oct. 1, 1952-Aug. 23, 2012) (Blair High, 1970) was a baseball phenom in his younger years and turned his ability into getting to the major leagues as a left-handed pitcher. Myrick was a three-sport star at Hattiesburg, also playing football and basketball, before concentrating on baseball at Mississippi State University, where he was an All-Southeastern Conference pitcher. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 20th round of the 1974 Major League Draft and made it to the big leagues in 1976. He pitched three seasons, mostly as a reliever. He went 1-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 20 relief appearances in 1976. After his baseball career ended, Myrick returned to Hattiesburg to the family business, Economy Supply Co. He also performed in several local theater productions and was an excellent singer. Myrick supported the Hattiesburg community in various ways and led a ministry when he died in 2012 while mowing the lawn of a widow.
Raylawni Branch (Rowan High, 1959) was a pioneer in the civil rights movement who also made an impact in nursing and the military. As a Rowan student, Branch competed in track and was a member of Tri-Hi-Y, all while working seven days a week as she was the oldest of 10 children. Branch was one of the first two African-American students, along with Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong, to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi, in 1965. She also was involved as secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP, helped in voter registration, was a member of the Council for Federated Organizations, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Branch spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel. She was commissioned first lieutenant in the Air Force by President Gerald Ford, she was on flying status and was a chief nurse and the director of an operating room. Branch also served as a registered nurse in Hattiesburg and was instrumental in establishing training for Red Cross volunteers. She is certified in special care, recovery room, in-patient and out-patient operating room and blood banking.
Charles J. Brown (Rowan High, 1958) is a Hattiesburg resident known nationally for his valor in the Vietnam conflict, as he was featured in The History Channel’s documentary “Vietnam in HD.” Brown, who was Senior Class President at Rowan, joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school. He began his Army career with the 101st Airborne Division and later served as Platoon Sergeant in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After taking shrapnel in both legs, Brown returned to the front lines and fought in the battle of Dak To in 1967. He risked his life to rescue wounded soldiers during the battle, and was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his leadership role and courage. In 1994, he was honored as Hattiesburg's first Veteran of the Year. Following his military career, Brown went to William Carey University, graduating in 1973. Brown worked for the Mississippi Employment Security Commission for 27 years and was Counselor of the Year twice. Brown was one of the original commissioners in 1991 to serve on the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, and in 2011 was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship Award as the Hattiesburg Rotary International Non-Rotarian of the Year.
Dr. Richard Clark (Hattiesburg High, 1947) is an esteemed surgeon who collaborated with others in the opening of Hattiesburg Clinic, later serving as its second president. Dr. Clark also was instrumental in the formation of the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District in 1971, and served it for 25 years as President of the Board of Directors and off-line medical director. He joined Forrest General and Methodist Hospital’s medical staffs in 1961, with particular interest in thoracic and vascular surgery. Dr. Clark has served as Medical Director and President of the Board of Directors at Hattiesburg Clinic. He was active in Boy Scouts, making Eagle Scout, and at Hattiesburg High he played football and basketball and ran track and was in the Hi-Y and Science clubs and was in the junior play and Boys State. Dr. Clark also served as Captain and Chief of Surgical Service in the U.S. Air Force and is in the Forrest General Hospital Foundation Doctors Hall of Fame. He has earned the Hub Award and has been on the Board of Directors of Bancorp South Bank, the Area Development Partnership, the USM Foundation, the Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation and others.
Janet L. Gurwitch (Hattiesburg High, 1970) is the founder and former CEO of Laura Mercier Cosmetics & Skincare, a global brand of high-end niche cosmetics, and an operating partner of Castanea, a private equity firm with focus on the beauty consumer space. Prior to founding Laura Mercier, which she sold in 2008, Gurwitch was the Executive Vice President of Neiman Marcus, where she established the merchandising strategy from 1992-95. Today, Gurwitch is an investor in and on the boards of Drybar and Tatcha. She formerly served on the boards of Dollar Shave Club, Urban Decay Cosmetics and First Aid Beauty. In 1999, she was named a finalist for Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” for Houston. In 1994, Business Week included her as one of the “Top 50 Chief Executive Prospects in the Nation.” Gurwitch’s personal community involvement includes supporting the Menil Collection, Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera and Hermann Park Conservancy. She is also an investor in and on the Board of Directors of the Houston Astros baseball team. At Hattiesburg High, Gurwitch was on the Student Council and was in the Sock & Buskin Club and the Purple and Gold Revue.
Dr. Eddie A. Holloway (Rowan High, 1970) has made a tremendous impact in his life, serving 40 years as an administrator at the University of Southern Mississippi and 16 as a Hattiesburg city councilman. The first African-American assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Southern Miss, Holloway retired from USM this year. A lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Holloway earned four college degrees, including a doctorate in educational administration. He is a 2004 inductee of the Southern Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame and served as dean of students, assistant vice president for student affairs, counselor and instructor/assistant professor of psychology, assistant dean of students and interim dean of students. Holloway was the first elected African-American member of the Hattiesburg City Council, serving from 1985 to 2000, and during that time served as council president and vice president. He also was a charter member of the Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation. Holloway is a member of the Mississippi Civil Rights Commission and the Area Development Partnership. He received the Jaycees’ Outstanding Mississippian award in 1989 and the Juneteenth Committee Humanitarian Award in 2000. At Rowan, he was active in band, drama and the student council.
Steve Knight (Hattiesburg High, 1974) is the record-setting basketball coach at William Carey University. Knight was named All-Big 8 Conference and All-State in basketball at Hattiesburg High and started on the 1974 state basketball championship team. He played basketball and baseball at Southern Miss and spent two seasons pitching in the Seattle Mariners organization. Knight became the Carey men’s basketball coach at age 25 and became the all-time winningest basketball coach for four-year colleges in Mississippi history in 2010. His overall record in 37 seasons, is 705-479. Last season, Carey advanced to the NAIA Final Four. His team in 2013-14 went 28-3, 18-0 in the conference, and Knight was named the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Coach of the Year. His Carey teams have won 20 or more games 20 times, have won 13 conference or district championships and have advanced to national tournaments 13 seasons. He has been named the conference Coach of the Year 11 times. While athletic director, Knight increased Carey from five sports teams to 17. Knight is the only person with Carey ties in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Dr. Lynn McMahan (Hattiesburg High, 1964), a former Hattiesburg High Tiger football player, served as Chief Resident in Ophthalmology at the University of Alabama and later founded the world class Southern Eye Center in Hattiesburg. Dr. McMahan, who is now retired, has lectured on four continents and published more than 60 articles in national publications. Serving on the National Council of the American Board of Ophthalmology, he received the Distinguished Service Award and has served on boards of the Society for Excellence in Eye and the Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society. Dr. McMahan, a glaucoma specialist, founded Gift of Sight, a program dedicated to providing eye care procedures to underprivileged individuals, and was awarded the Mississippi Governor’s Give Award and a citation from the Mississippi House of Representatives for his charitable work. Dr. McMahan received a Distinguished Citizen award from the Boy Scouts of America, has been named as one of the Best Doctors in America and has been a benefactor to numerous schools, clubs and groups in the Pine Belt community through the McMahan Family Charitable Foundation. At Hattiesburg High School, Dr. McMahan was a member of the prestigious Key Club.
Carlton D. “Corky” Palmer (Hattiesburg High, 1972) coached baseball, and he coached it well. After playing catcher at Hattiesburg High and the University of Southern Mississippi, Palmer became a coach, starting in high school at Newton, going to Columbus and Columbia, moving on to Meridian Community College and finally taking charge of the University of Southern Mississippi baseball program. His overall 32-year career coaching record in high school, community college and Division I college was 946-493. He coached USM to its only berth in the College World Series, in 2009. That team finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country, the highest USM has ever finished. His teams won numerous championships and he coached Southern Miss to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including seven in a row. In 2003, Palmer was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year. He also served on the coaching staff of a team of U.S. all-stars that played in Tokyo in 1996. Palmer, now retired, also is in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Southern Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the USM Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
Ora Lee Shaheed (Rowan High, 1969), secretary and queen of her senior class at Rowan High School, began working at Forrest General Hospital as a nurse in 1975 and during her 44 years at the Hattiesburg hospital rose to become Vice President/Chief Nursing Officer. Shaheed, the only African American who was a member of the Forrest General administrative staff, was named Vice President of Patient Care Services in 2002. In 1978, Shaheed became manager of the Cardiac Unit, a department that she helped pioneer, where she was a flight nurse. In 1985, she opened and managed Forrest General’s Open Heart Surgery Unit. In 1988, Shaheed became the manager of the Intensive Care Unit and in 1989 was named Critical Care Director. Shaheed was promoted to Director of Nursing in 1989. Also a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard, she is a board member of the Forrest General Foundation and a member of the University of Southern Mississippi Nursing Advisory Council. Rasheed won the Forrest General Spirit of Women Award in Healthcare in 2007. At Rowan, Shaheed graduated with honors and also played on the badminton team. She retired earlier this year.
Randy Swan (Hattiesburg High, 1965) is the most recognized person in Hattiesburg television journalism history. Swan, who was in the Debate Club at Hattiesburg High, started as a DJ at age 15 for WBKH radio station and now has more than four decades of broadcast media and journalism excellence, 38 years as the news director and anchor with WDAM, five years at WABG in Greenville and now as the news director with FOX 23. He has received numerous honors, including being inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi’s Journalism Hall of Fame in 2010, the Mississippi Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007 and The Associated Press Hall of Fame in 2006. Some of his most memorable interviews include former United States Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford. Swan appeared in 2015 Hattiesburg High School revival of the national docudrama, The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water. Swan serves as the board chair for The Extra Table and is a board member for the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation and the Hattiesburg Concert Association. He continues to be involved in numerous community organizations and events, including the fight against heart disease and cancer.
Lawrence W. Warren (Hattiesburg High, 1959) is president and CEO of Warren Paving, Inc., of Hattiesburg and Gulfport and The Slats Lucas Quarry of Kentucky. Warren has held key positions in the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Mississippi Asphalt Pavement Association, the Association of General Contractors and the Mississippi Road Builders Association. Warren has served on the boards of the Pine Belt Boys and Girls Club, the Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Economic Development Council and Trustmark National Bank. Warren’s civic involvement has also taken him to serve the Salvation Army Board of Directors and the Forrest County Industrial Park Commission Board. He was inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame in 2004. Warren has received the ADP Chairman’s Award for Excellence, was named Volunteer of the Year by the Mississippi Economic Development Council and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Pine Burr Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He also has been given the “Friend” of the University of Southern Mississippi Award — being a board member of the University Foundation and Athletic Foundation and one of the organizing members of the Circle of Champions — and has received numerous other honors.
is an attorney in Hattiesburg who also is a representative of District 103 in the Mississippi State House of Representatives. Watson, a graduate of the University of Iowa and the Iowa College of Law, has been a representative since 1980. He is currently serving his 10th term. In the Legislature, Watson is the vice chairman of the Ethics Committee and also is a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Appropriations Committees. He is the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Watson also studied at the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. Watson also is a member of the Alaska Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the American Judicature Association, the Hattiesburg Chamber of Commerce, the Iowa Bar Association, the Jesse Brown Lodge, the Mississippi Bar Association, Mississippi Legal Services, the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association the NAACP, the National Bar Association and Phi Beta Kappa. Other civic and community involvement for the former Student Body President and Honor Society member at Rowan High School include Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Regions Bank Advisory Board and Chairman of the Board of Deacons at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Peggy Jean Gould Connor (Oct. 29, 1932—Jan. 13, 2018) (Eureka High, 1950) was the owner of a beauty shop on Mobile Street in 1962 when she became a pioneer in the civil rights struggle. First, she became a citizenship teacher, helping students in registering to vote and teaching them how to understand, interpret and apply the Constitution. In 1964, Connor helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a political party that would be open to all, regardless of race. Connor was named chairperson of the “library precinct” in Hattiesburg, and eventually became the executive secretary of the MFDP. Connor was also one of the MFDP’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 1964, which resulted in a refusal to accept the two-seat compromise offered by Democratic Party leaders. In the mid-60s, Connor and others filed suit against Mississippi Gov. Paul B. Johnson to protest the legality of multi-member districts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Connor v. Johnson that the apportionment provisions in the Mississippi Constitution and statutes contradicted the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and were therefore unconstitutional.
Jackie Dole Sherrill (March 26, 1951-Dec. 31, 1984) (Hattiesburg High, 1969) had a life full of accomplishments, particularly when it came to breaking glass ceilings in the field of law enforcement. She was the first female to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Criminal Justice program, the first female officer to join the ranks of the Hattiesburg Police Department and was the first female promoted to sergeant and detective in the Hattiesburg Police Department. In her spare time, Sherrill was an advocate for children and women in crisis situations. She spent time speaking to civic and women’s groups about rape and the prevention of it and she played a critical role in the establishment of the Hattiesburg Rape Crisis Center, which is known today as the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention. At Hattiesburg High, Sherrill was on the Red Cross Council and a member of Sock and Buskin. Sherrill lost her life in the line of duty on Dec. 31, 1984, at the age of 33 after serving more than 10 years with the Hattiesburg Police Department. The Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center in downtown Hattiesburg is named in her honor.
(Feb. 2, 1936-April 4, 2019) (Royal Street High, 1954) was an accomplished civic official in both Hattiesburg and San Jose, Calif. Williams was the first African-American woman elected to the Franklin-McKlinley School Board and the first African-American woman on the City Council in San Jose, where she served for 12 years. She also served two terms as Vice Mayor of San Jose. After moving back to Hattiesburg, Williams became the Director of Recreation and Community Relations for the city of Hattiesburg. Following that, she was Executive Director of the African-American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg. Williams was President of the EURO alumni group and was a catalyst in progress for the Sixth Street Museum District and the Eureka School Museum, as well as being a commissioner on the Hattiesburg Convention Commission from 2004 to 2013. She helped start a local lunch program for seniors impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, In 2016, she received a lifetime achievement award from the African-American Community Service Agency in San Jose. Since then, the award has been given in her name. Williams died earlier this year.
(Hattiesburg High, Class of 1991) is a human rights advocate with the United Nations managing celebrity Goodwill Ambassadors such as Ben Stiller. As an external relations officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she solicits celebrity involvement in supporting the UN Refugee Agency. She encourages celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Scarlett Johansson and Meryl Streep to use their influence in the mission of protecting and assisting refugees around the world. Abraham was also involved with events in New York and Los Angeles that raised $1.5 million and $1.2 million for UNHCR. In addition to her work in the United States, Abraham has traveled throughout the world in an effort to make people’s lives better. In a previous job, Abraham managed the day-to-day business affairs of five-time Grammy-winning singer Christina Aguilera. At Hattiesburg High, Abraham was in Student Council, Mu Alpha Theta, Youth Congress Delegate, National Honor Society and was the valedictorian, a cheerleader and on the homecoming court.
(Hattiesburg High, 1974) is a former model with Ebony Fashion Fair and businesswoman, but she changed directions after her youngest son was born with a liver disease. That’s when Butler became a champion in raising funds for the medical community. Over 30 years, Butler raised more than $22 million. She sold cosmetics in her younger days in Hattiesburg, and later founded the Alabama Chapter of the American Liver Foundation and served on the executive committee of the National Board of the America Liver Foundation, becoming responsible for 25 chapters. She started the fundraising arm for the Liver Center at the Alabama-Birmingham Hospital and raised more than $800,000. For her efforts, the hospital established the Rosie M. Butler Endowed Support Fund for Viral Hepatitis in 2008. Butler, who has faced several health issues and is now semi-retired in Texas, was active in pageants and talent shows during her school days.
(S.H. Blair, 1970) is Vice-President and co-owner of Doleac Electric Company, Inc., who spent decades running Hattiesburg’s Dixie Youth Baseball program. Doleac Electric’s main markets are industrial, heavy commercial and government work. It is one of the largest electrical contracting companies in the South. Doleac became a coach in the Hattiesburg Dixie Youth Baseball Association in 1983, was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1985, became director of the program in 1990, was co-chairman of the Dixie Youth World Series in 1989 and chairman in 1998. He spearheaded a campaign to create a youth baseball complex at Tatum Park in 2008. Now named the Larry Doleac Youth Baseball Complex, it hosted the Dixie Youth World Series in 2015. Doleac has served as the president of the Hattiesburg Exchange Club three times and is past president of the Hattiesburg Country Club. Doleac was in the Tigermen and Sock & Buskin clubs in school.
(Hattiesburg High, 1972) has been a broadcast journalist on radio for 45 years and has done political commentary with CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC. Time Magazine says Gaddis is one of the most politically astute minds in southern Michigan, where she has lived for decades. Her career began in 1975 at KENR Country Radio in Houston, then she spent 10 years at KMOX radio in St. Louis. She moved to Detroit after that and became well known for her “Mildred in the Morning” radio show. Gaddis has been news director at Booth Broadcasting at WJLB-FM and has served as host of “The Mildred Gaddis Show” and has been Director of Community Affairs for Radio One’s radio cluster. Gaddis also is president and owner of Media Advantage One imaging and marketing company and is a communications professor at Wayne County Community College.
(Hattiesburg High, 1995) is co-founder of Spartan Mosquito, a South Mississippi company that has seen tremendous growth since its conception just a few short years ago to become one of the fastest growing businesses in the country. While Hirsch’s goal was to control the mosquito population in back yards without using chemicals that are harmful to humans, his efforts have led him around the world in an effort to save lives. He has built a school in Laos and has hosted Mississippi teachers there to help educate students in learning English during summer workshops. Hirsch’s company has made donations to multiple natural disaster relief programs, veteran support through free product giveaways, law enforcement, assistance for local school and community athletic programs, the Civitan Camp and Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi. His recent philanthropy includes an effort to close the loop on unbanked economies from Asia to Africa via his international leadership in cryptocurrencies, including but not limited to Bitcoin. At Hattiesburg High, Hirsch was a thespian, cast in two plays, “A Few Good Men” and “The Diviners.”
(Hattiesburg High, 1964) was Governor of Boys State who became Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Oceaneering International, Inc., a company that employs more than 12,000 people. Huff retired as active CEO in May and is now Chairman Emeritus of Oceaneering, which provides technical solutions for industries working in harsh environments, principally underwater to the offshore oil and gas business. Huff, who played football, basketball and baseball at Hattiesburg High and was All-Big 8 Conference in football, currently serves as Chairman and CEO at Huff International, a company that invests in international energy and technology opportunities. He has been inducted into the Ocean Energy Museum Hall of Fame, the National Academy of Engineering and the Georgia Tech Engineering Hall of Fame and earned a Financial World CEO of the Year Bronze Award. Huff said his greatest accomplishment was having his family say that he is “a good man.”
(L.J. Rowan High, 1964) played tuba in the Rowan and Morris Brown College bands but made a name for himself in the field of banking. In 1971, after Harvard Business School, James became President and CEO of Carver State Bank in Savannah, Ga., one of the oldest African American-owned commercial banks. With 50 years at the helm, he is the longest serving African American bank president. James also served as Chairman of the National Bankers Association, purchased two newspapers in Georgia and was Chairman of the Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Georgia. James was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony Magazine in 2003, and has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the National Bankers Association. At Rowan, James was also in the Esquire Organization for Males, the Glee Club, played baseball, was the Student Council President and was the Mississippi State Student Council President.
(L.J. Rowan High, 1967) is a Professor and Dean Emeritus at Texas Woman’s University since his retirement in 2016. He has published referred articles and book chapters in the areas of children and youth development, family and juvenile justice. Other jobs in LeFlore’s career were Executive Assistant to the President and Assistant Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Southern Miss and Chair and Professor in the Department of Family Sciences at TWU. He also was Regional Director of the Mississippi Department of Youth Services and held posts at West Virginia University. Leflore, who ran track at Rowan, has received a Most Distinguished Alumni honor from William Carey and is in WHO’S WHO Among Black Americans. He has served on multiple boards, including the Pine Belt Boys and Girls Club, the District Boy Scouts of America and the Greater Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership.
(S.H. Blair, 1971) is a former high school cheerleader, teacher and show choir director who became a playwright, a national bestselling author and more. One of Smith’s books is “Momma Dean’s Southern Cooking at Meador Homestead.” Meador Homestead is a bed and breakfast that Smith owns on the outskirts of Hattiesburg that was ranked the No. 1 bed and breakfast in Mississippi. She also owns Simply TeaVine, which has been ranked the No. 1 tea room in the state. Smith wrote a play, “Riding the Wind,” about the Meador family, one of the oldest in Hattiesburg, and has served many years at various church positions and as an English Language Institute instructor at Southern Miss. Smith taught in several public schools, including Hattiesburg High and Rowan Junior High. She was a sophomore class favorite, a Key Club sweetheart, Miss Hawkins Junior High, on the Student Council and in the All-School Productions, Mam’selles and Meistersingers.
(Hattiesburg High, 1979) began working in the commercial real estate business when he was in high school, got his real estate license two years after graduating from Hattiesburg High and has been in the business ever since, with London & Stetelman Commercial Realtors. He has served on the Hattiesburg Area Association of Realtors Board of Directors and was president in 1992. Stetelman also was the Hattiesburg Realtor of the Year and was the first Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors Realtor of the Year, also in 1992. In addition, Stetelman has been named the William Carey University and Area Development Partnership Small Businessman of the Year, a Chamber of Commerce Leader for a New Century, is a member of the Forrest County Economic Development Foundation and numerous other boards and is in the University of Southern Mississippi Hall of Fame. He also was the recipient of the prestigious 2019 Hub Award.
(Hattiesburg High, 1990) played nine years in the National Football League, was selected to the Pro Bowl twice as a special teams player, and also played in the 1997 Super Bowl. Whigham helped the Tigers to a South State title and later played at Pearl River Community College, where he made the state all-star team as a defensive back. Whigham signed with Northeast Louisiana, starting as a safety. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks but was cut and claimed by the New England Patriots. There, in 1996, Whigham was voted by NFL players as the American Football Conference Special Teams Player of the Year. He made the Pro Bowl twice, once for the Patriots and once for the Chicago Bears. Whigham, who has coached football at several schools, including Hattiesburg High, is in the Pearl River and Mississippi Community College Sports Halls of Fame.
(Hattiesburg High, 1978) is a Distinguished Professor of History and Founding Director of the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Wiest has written several books, including “The Boys of ’67,” which had a National Geographic “Brothers In War” documentary based on it. Dr. Wiest was lead historian for the documentary, which received an Emmy nomination. His “Vietnam's Forgotten Army” won the Society for Military History's Distinguished Book Award. Wiest was Chief Historical Consultant for the Vietnam in HD documentary, which won the New York Film Festivals Gold World Medal. Dr. Wiest, who has written 14 historical books, coaches youth baseball and basketball and plays drums and sings in the popular local band The Mississippi Tornados. At HHS, Wiest was in the Key Club, the band and all-school productions and won the Leadership and Social Studies awards.
Fifteen distinguished alumni of Hattiesburg’s city schools will be inducted into the 2019 Hattiesburg Hall of Fame by the Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation.
Inductees for the 2019 Class, the second ever announced, come from fields of business, politics, education, healthcare, journalism and sports.
“These individuals are unique in their accomplishments but reveal a common theme of the excellence that has evolved from Hattiesburg, Rowan, Eureka and Royal Street high schools”, said Hugh Bolton, a member of the Hall of Fame Steering Committee. “I encourage our community to embrace and acknowledge these worthy individuals and their accomplishments.
”The Foundation’s Hall of Fame Steering Committee, with help from Primary Publicity Partner Pine Belt News, gathered nominations from the community. This year alumni and community members were also able to nominate via the online public engagement vehicle at HattiesburgHOF.com. The public is encouraged to nominate school alumni through this online opportunity.
The 15 alumni selected, including 3 posthumous nominees, for the Hattiesburg Hall of Fame Class of 2019 are:
Lt. Col. Raylawni G.A. Branch, Ret., Civil Rights Pioneer
Charles J. Brown,Bronze Star Veteran
Dr. Richard Clark, Founder, Hattiesburg Clinic
Janet Gurwitch, Cosmetics CEO
Dr. Eddie A. Holloway, University Dean of Students
Steve Knight, Most Basketball Coaching Wins in State History
Dr. Lynn McMahan, Founder, Southern Eye Clinic
Carlton “Corky” Palmer, College World Series Baseball Coach
Ora Lee Shaheed, Healthcare Administrator
Randy Swan, Television News Anchor/Director
Lawrence Warren, Paving Magnate
Percy Watson, State Legislator
Peggy Jean Connor, Civil Rights Activist
Jackie Dole Sherrill, First Female Sergeant/Detective, Hattiesburg Police Department
Iola Craft Williams, Executive Director, African-American Military History Museum
The HPSD Foundation hosts the Hall of Fame gala as a scholarship benefit, with proceeds going to students and staff of Hattiesburg Public School District. Funds generated by the event are earmarked for student scholarships, teacher grants and early childhood education readiness.
The event will be staged on Thursday Night, October 24, at Eureka School Civil Rights Museum, which has recently been restored to historical accuracy by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. The black tie dinner and reception are ticketed events but the public will have an opportunity to meet the Class of 2019 when they are presented pregame during Homecoming Activities at D I Patrick Stadium on Friday Night, October 25.
A Thursday Downtown Hattiesburg Luncheon and a meet-the-students Friday morning brunch at Central Office are also planned during the two-day event.
“The number of worthy graduates seems to be inexhaustible and others will certainly be recognized in future classes,” said Jerome Brown, President of the HPSD Foundation. “While the spotlight will be on Hall of Fame inductees, our hope is that the current HHS Student Body will notice the success of these graduates,” adds Dan Kibodeaux, Executive Director of HPSD Foundation.
Retired Educator and Event Chair Michael Marks acknowledges the Hall of Fame’s mission. “We are excited to join Hattiesburg Public Schools in their effort to reclaim alumni who typify national standards of excellence.” In a nod to the recent Masters Golf Tournament outcome, Marks adds, “The Tiger is back!”
Business patrons and alumni who would like to become official sponsors for the scholarship gala should go online to HattiesburgHOF.com or request more information at HAttiesburgHOF@gmail.com.
For more information on the Hattiesburg Hall of Fame, please visit: http://hattiesburghof.com.
Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation is a non-profit organization that was created to provide resources and support to administrators, teachers, and students of Hattiesburg Public Schools. The foundation fulfills its mission by providing scholarships to our students, rewarding our outstanding employees. and helping our teachers secure grants.