For the third year, Signature Magazine inducted four new members into the Best of the Pine Belt Hall of Fame. Inductions were made during a dinner at 206 Front and sponsored by First Bank, prior to the Best of the Pine Belt Awards Show at the Saenger Theater.
This year’s inductees come from all walks of life. They are: Justin Martin, general manager of WUSM 88.5 radio station; Eddie Holloway, Dean of Students at the University of Southern Mississippi and former Hattiesburg City Council member; industrial/organizational psychologist Robin Wentworth and Abigail Lenz Allen, who was honored with the James “Jay” Slaughter 2018 Catalyst Award for her work with the smART Space program and Hattiesburlesque.
Wentworth, who had been battling ALS since the fall, passed away just 11 days after the awards presentation. His daughters, Brittany and Alex, spoke on his behalf.
In her introduction of Wentworth, Abigail Allen described Wentworth as someone “who loves and lives with all of his heart. This man is celebrating life and having a really good time and in turn, teaching us to celebrate our lives and have a really good time.”
She noted that Wentworth had an army of friends – friends he treasures and shares and holds and honors with every move he makes. In addition, she recognized him as the head cheerleader for Hattiesburg – a fan and rabid supporter of all local music,
David Gustafson, publisher of Signature Magazine and a friend of Martin, sang his praises with the help of Pat Sansone, guitarist for Wilco and former student at USM (and former bandmate to Martin).
"I’m glad to know there is a gathering in downtown Hattiesburg to pay tribute to another American Classic…Will Justin Martin!”
Sansone wrote in his tribute, “You deserve to be celebrated for the amazing work you have done at WUSM, which I know has had a real influence on so many and truly strengthens the cultural fabric of the community. I’ve been a fan of yours since around 1988 when I saw you playing drums with Mexico Set, and was truly in awe then of your musical talent, your fearless enthusiasm, and your truly impressive record collection, and knowledge about ALL kinds of music.
“The first songs I ever wrote, I wrote with you. The first records I ever made, I made with you. My first experiences on stage performing, you were there with me. When I made my first real album of songs, you were there to help lead me to the finish line when I wasn’t sure if I could finish the mixes alone, and there wasn’t anyone else I would have wanted there showing me the way. You encouraged me to keep doing all of these things that I still do today, and to approach them with equal parts seriousness, fun, and continuing curiosity.”
Holloway’s award was presented by his executive assistant at USM, Delores McNair and Wynde Fitts. McNair noted that as a lifelong resident of the Hub City, from an early childhood, he was destined for greatness.
“Ask anyone in the Mobile-Bouie Street area, east Hattiesburg, little Eddie was curious about not only the world around him, but a world beyond his neighborhood. He became a servant leader early in life, helping his friends and neighbors. And he continued his service to not only the residents in his neighborhood, but the entire city of Hattiesburg, as a community advocate, helping hand, bridge-builder, visionary, motivator, encourager…known for working in Ward 2, which he did for 12 years as a city councilman.
“Ask him a question about any person, place or thing in Hattiesburg (except technology) and he can give you facts, figures, dates, places and people.”
She noted the love he has for family, friends and the city of Hattiesburg.
He has managed for almost 40 years to make time for thousands more at The University of Southern Mississippi, his home away from home,” McNair said.
The James “Jay” Slaughter 2018 Catalyst Award Presentation was made by Sarah Newton, last year’s recipient.
The award’s purpose is to recognize a business professional whose volunteer, civic or business engagement makes a significant impact on the overall quality of life in South Mississippi.
“Hundreds of people in this community make a significant impact on the overall quality of life, but we are here to honor one person in particular, whose move to Hattiesburg a little more than 10 years ago, under the most difficult of circumstances, has eclipsed us all.”
Newton described this year’s recipient, Abigail Allen, as a larger-than-life character who has personally touched the lives of more people of all ages, races, shapes, sizes, socio-economic backgrounds, and psychological states than she will every know.”
Allen’s mantra: “Do the next right thing.”
Abigail’s SmART Space program through the HAC has enriched the lives of so many young people in this community through its after-school program.
“Abigail describes SmART Space as a place for children to let their wiggles out, and no one knows about wiggles better, than Abigail! Have you ever seen Abigail sit still? Or be bored and lifeless? Creativity is the wild card that Abigail was born with... and SmART Space is the perfect place for her passionate gift, a gift that she shares freely with those that need it most, adults in recovery, those with physical and mental disabilities, the at-risk youth, and even the most privileged.”