Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation announces inaugural HATTIESBURG HIGH Hall of fame CLASS

Fourteen distinguished alumni of Hattiesburg’s city schools will be inducted into the inaugural HPSD Foundation Hall of Fame during a two-day event Oct. 4-5.

Inductees for the first-ever Hattiesburg Hall of Fame class come from the fields of business, politics, education, medicine, entertainment, journalism and sports.

“These individuals are very unique in their accomplishments but reveal a common theme of the excellence that has evolved from Hattiesburg High, Rowan, Eureka, etc.,” said Hugh Bolton, himself a 1972 Hattiesburg High graduate and member of the Hall of Fame Steering Committee. “The process of identifying the individuals for the inaugural class has shown me, to an even greater degree, the number and depth of accomplishments of our graduates over the years.” 

The Thursday, Oct. 4, sold-out gala at the Eureka School Museum, which has recently been restored to historical accuracy by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, is the signature event of the weekend, but the Class of 2018 also will be available at a planned VIP Reception before the banquet and official presentation at the HHS homecoming game on Friday night.

On Oct. 5, the inductees will be introduced at a Hattiesburg Public School District Homecoming brunch, they will be celebrated at an alumni luncheon, they will meet student leaders and they will be recognized at the Hattiesburg High homecoming football game.

All proceeds from the Hall of Fame weekend will go to the Foundation, which gives scholarships, helps teachers, assists with early childhood educational difficulties and provides helps with school extracurricular activities.

For more information, go online to HattiesburgHOF.com or send an email to hattiesburgh-of@gmail.com

Members of the 2018 inaugural class of the Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation’s Hall of Fame include:

James Ray Carpenter (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-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. Later in life, he 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, and national president of PGA (’87-’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.

Rick Cleveland (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 state newspapers.

Dr. Johnny L. DuPree (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, was the Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Mississippi in 2011. 

Harold Jackson (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. After retiring from the NFL as a player, Jackson coached receivers for 10 years with New England, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. He has also been enshrined in the Black College Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Dr. Walter E. Massey (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 and chairman of Bank of America.

Abb Payne (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. His company has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Mississippi by the Mississippi Business Journal every year from 2007 to 2017.  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. 

Doug Rouse, MD (Hattiesburg High, 1966), is an orthopedic surgeon and one of the founders of Southern Bone and Joint Specialists. 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. In 2012, Rouse received the Jack C. Hughston, M.D. Sports Medicine Person of the Year Award by the Southeast Athletic Trainers’ Association. At HHS, he was sophomore and junior class president and student body president, Mr. Hattiesburg High School and also sang in the Meistersingers.

Dr. Martha Saunders (Hattiesburg High, 1966) is one of the top academic officials in the nation, currently serving as the president of the University of West Florida and Professor of Communications. She also has served as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the ninth president of The University of Southern Mississippi. At Southern Miss, Saunders oversaw $255 million in building projects in five years while distinguishing herself as a fierce advocate for academic quality and ethical business processes. She stepped down as the school’s president in 2012 to develop the university’s Evelyn Gandy Women’s Center for Leadership. At Hattiesburg High, Saunders was a Top 20 honors graduate, the managing editor of Hi-Flashes, the school newspaper.

Purvis Short (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 while playing for the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets. Short, whose late brother, Eugene, also was a star basketball player, is now the chief of Player Programs for the NBA Players Association.

Rob Tatum (Hattiesburg High, 1997) has been involved in many business developments, but his most-recent $35 million mixed-use project in Midtown Hattiesburg is the one that has garnered attention in Hattiesburg and throughout the state. Tatum also developed Hub City Lofts in downtown Hattiesburg, along with more than 1,200 apartment units.He sits on the advisory boards of his family businesses, including The Merchants Company and Mississippi Tank Company. Tatum, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of The University of Mississippi, 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.

Craig Wiseman (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 100 singles and 26 No. 1 songs. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton and Blake Shelton. His song “Live Like You Were Dying,” sung by McGraw, remained at No. 1 on the charts for 10 weeks and was named the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Song of the Year and won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song. ASCAP has named him Songwriter of the Year three times and in 2009, he was named NSAI’s Songwriter of the Decade.

Jesse LeRoy Brown (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. Brown, who spoke fluent French by the time he got to Eureka High School, participated in basketball, football and track and field. He went to Ohio State University where he got into a U.S. Navy program designed to recruit college students to become pilots. An ensign, he flew 20 combat missions before his F4U Corsair aircraft came under fire and crashed on a remote mountaintop on Dec. 4, 1950. Brown died of his wounds. The frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.

Evelyn Gandy (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. While there, she co-authored legislation that created the University of Mississippi Medical Center and supported legislation that favored increased funding for education and improved access to human services. Gandy also ran, unsuccessfully, for governor.

Bobby Myrick (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, where he was an All-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. After his baseball career ended, Myrick returned to Hattiesburg to the family business, Economy Supply. Myrick supported the Hattiesburg community in various ways and led a ministry when he died in 2012 while mowing the lawn of a widow.