UTICA – Among those to be honored at the March 25 Hinds Community College Utica Campus Vice President’s Scholarship and Hall of Honors Gala are Congressman Bennie Thompson and U.S. Attorney Greg Davis. The gala will honor 14 distinguished graduates and supporters of Hinds’ Utica Campus, including two husband-and-wife teams, as well as raise money for student scholarships.
The gala is 7 p.m. Friday, March 25 at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson. An individual ticket is $100 with opportunities for sponsorship packages that include multiple tickets.
“Throughout our history, we have relied on partnerships and community leaders to build effective programs to serve our students. We ask that you consider partnering with us to help send a student to college. A higher education prepares our students for today’s careers,” said Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson, vice president for the Utica Campus. Mays-Jackson is an alumna of the campus.
The honorees include:
Retired Utica Campus Vice President Dr. George Barnes: Barnes, a native of Collins, served as a professional educator and administrator for 50 plus years at Hinds Agricultural High School, Utica Junior College and Hinds Community College before retiring in June 2013. He graduated from Carver Central High School in Collins. He earned degrees from several different colleges/universities: Jackson State College (BS, mathematics); Louisiana State University (MA, mathematics); Mississippi State University (EdS, Community College Education) and University of Southern Mississippi (PhD, Educational Administration). He did further study at the University of Illinois and Auburn University.
Dr. Barnes landed his first position as a mathematics teacher at Hinds Agricultural High School in 1962. This began his 51-year profession and family life in Utica. Among his many positions, he served as assistant basketball coach, college math instructor, Hinds AHS principal, academic dean, acting president of Utica Junior College. When he retired, he was vice president for Utica/Vicksburg-Warren Campuses and for Administrative and Student Services.
Pastor Phillip A. Burks, alumnus: Burks began his education at Hubbard’s Elementary School in Edwards and later Mixon Elementary School in Utica. He graduated from Hinds AHS in May 1974. He later attended Utica Junior College, majoring in Auto Body Repair. He played in the concert band and marching band. He also ran track.
After graduating, he established Burks Body Repair Shop in Vicksburg. He furthered his studies at Jackson State University and received a state teacher’s license for Auto Body Repair. This certification allowed Burks to teach at Oakley Training School in Raymond. He retired from Oakley in 2006 after 28 years of service.
Being led by God, Burks accepted his calling to preach in April 1998 and several months later was elected pastor of Belmont Missionary Baptist Church where he has served dutifully for the past 17 years.
Dr. Bobby G. Cooper, the director of the renowned Jubilee Singers on the Utica Campus: Cooper, a Bolton native, is currently chairman of the Humanities Division for Hinds Community College-Utica Campus and is also director of Choral Activities. He also teaches voice, piano and courses in music theory. He is director of the Wesley Foundation, a ministry of the United Methodist Church.
He has taught at Hinds Community College for 43 years, where he has been instrumental in developing the music curriculum in 1974. Prior to Hinds, he began his teaching career at E.T. Hawkins High School in Forest where he was the choral director and biology teacher.
Cooper was inducted into the Tougaloo College national Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005 and is an active member of the Southwest Chapter of TCNAA. He holds a B.S. degree from Tougaloo College, an M.S. degree from the University of Illinois, and both the Ed.S, and Ed. D. degrees from the University of Colorado. He has done additional studies in Music at Chicago Musical College.
Alumnus Gregory Davis, U.S. attorney for the Southern District: Davis is a native of Utica where he attended Utica Junior College from 1980 to 1981. He attended Mississippi State University and received a degree in chemical engineering in 1984. He continued his studies at Tulane Law School, where he graduated cum laude in 1987. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in October 1987.
President Barack Obama nominated Davis for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi on June 29, 2011. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 29, 2012, and entered duty on April 11, 2012.
As U.S. Attorney, Davis serves as the chief law enforcement officer for the Southern District of Mississippi. He is responsible for prosecution of all federal crimes, the defense of the United States in civil cases, and the collection of debts owed to the United States. The district he serves includes 45 counties and more than 2 million people.
Community supporters James Drake and alumna and former instructor Rebecca Drake Rebecca Drake, a native of Ellisville, is a graduate of Louisiana State University School of Music with a master’s degree in piano performance. She arrived at Hinds Junior College in 1965, pursuing a teaching and performing career. She chose to stay connected to Hinds and taught at her alma mater for 20 years.
James Drake, a native of Reading, Mich., is a graduate of Michigan State University with a master’s degree in civil engineering He joined Waterways Experiment Station in 1965 as a research engineer. In 1983, he joined Applied Research Associates, Inc., a national engineering firm, as senior vice president and technical director.
The couple married in 1969 and has lived in Raymond since that time. A primary interest they share is helping to educate those who are talented and desire an education but need financial support. The Drakes created a scholarship in honor of Dr. Bobby G. Cooper, choral director at Hinds Community College Utica Campus and director of the famed Jubilee Singers.
Alumnus and supporter Jimmy Harris, who is being honored posthumously: Harris, who died in 2014, was a native of Lauderdale County who moved to Edwards at a young age. He attended Hinds AHS from 1966 to 1969 where he was active in band and played football.
He then attended Alcorn State University where he also played in the band. He and his wife LeeVella met at Alcorn.
A year after graduating, he was employed with Mississippi Valley Gas, now Atmos Energy, where he worked for nearly 40 years.
He was involved in a number of community organizations, including his church, New Lake Church of Christ Holiness USA and Habitat for Humanity. He was also active in Masonic organizations and was a member and worked with Rissah Temple #130, Jackson Consistory #117 and Flaming Sword Lodge #101. Additionally, he was active in the Shriner’s Motorcycle Club, Mississippi Valley Gas Credit Union, Hinds County PTA, Jackson Heart Study and helped to feed the football team every year for Hinds AHS.
After retiring, he returned to Edwards where he joined with his brother Otis to establish the Edwards Revival Center.
Alumna Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, Tougaloo College president: Hogan has served as president at Tougaloo College since May 2002. She is the first woman and the 13th president to lead this historic institution.
A native Mississippian, Hogan attended high school at Hinds AHS. Hogan earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Tougaloo College and master’s in public policy and administration from Jackson State University. She has done additional studies at the University of Southern Mississippi and University of Georgia. She is engaged in further doctoral studies in human development and organizational leadership at Fielding Graduate University.
Hogan serves on numerous state, regional and national boards including the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. Hogan was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs and was selected by the Department of Defense to serve on the National Committee for HBCU/MI Programs.
Hogan is also a founding member and former president of the Central Mississippi Chapter, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Links, Inc.
Dr. William H. Holtzclaw, the founder of Utica Normal and Industrial Institute, who is being honored posthumously: Holtzclaw founded the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute for the Training of Colored Young Men and Women in 1903 in a rented log cabin. From 1903-1910, the school operated in the town of Utica near St. Peter M.B. church.
About 1907, Holtzclaw sought property on which to relocate the school in order to move away from the distractions of the town and to be near subterranean water. By 1910, Holtzclaw had raised $25,000 from friends to purchase 2,000 acres of land located about five miles south of Utica. Holtzclaw guided the Utica Institute for 40 years. In his educational outreach, he organized the Farmer’s Conference to help raise the standards of Negro farms and farming at The Institute. He also organized the Black Belt Society to encourage economic self-sufficiency among rural Negroes through the sale of land to farmers.
In 1915, Holtzclaw wrote and published “The Black Man’s Burden,” making him one of the first Negroes to publish a book in Mississippi. In 1925, he organized the Utica Institute Jubilee Singers, a group of male singers who toured various cities to help raise funds for The Institute.
Holtzclaw died in 1943. In 1946, William Holtzclaw Jr. and his mother, Mary Ella Holtzclaw, agreed to donate the school and property to Hinds County.
The County Board of Trustees assumed control of The Institute, and the school’s name was changed to Hinds County Agricultural High School, Colored. Eventually the school became Utica Junior College, which became the Utica Campus of Hinds Community College in 1982.
Alumnus and former athlete Dr. Lacey Reynolds, Assistant Professor for health and kinesiology at Texas Southern University: Reynolds attended Utica Junior College from 1970 to 1972 and has been a member of the Friends of the College since he graduated. He was an honor student, a member of Who’s Who in 1972 and played basketball.
After graduating, he attended what was then Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs. He received a master’s degree in physical education from Delta State University in 1975.
He has had numerous assistant and head basketball coaching jobs over the years. He began his career at Mississippi Industrial College where he was head basketball coach and athletic director. He was an assistant coach and physical education instructor at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis from 1977 to 1983. He was head coach at Grambling State University from 1995 to 1999 and was head women’s basketball coach at Texas Southern University from 2000 to 2003.
He is now an associate professor in the College of Education at Texas Southern University after receiving his doctorate in education from TSU in 2007.
Alumnus Delmer Stamps, state resource conservationist and member of the Hinds Community College Foundation board: Stamps of Jackson attended Hinds AHS from 1970 to 1973 and Utica Junior College from 1973 to 1974. He has been a member of the Friends of the College since 1970. He received academic awards in chemistry, zoology, biology and botany and was one of two students enrolled in a pre-agronomy program with Alcorn State University.
He graduated from Alcorn State University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in agronomy.
Among his many honors, he was inducted into the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association Hall of Honor in 2001 and received the Sen. Henry J. Kirksey Trail Blazer Award presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards Committee in 2007.
He received a number of awards from the USDA, including Outstanding Performance award for leadership provided while serving as the state of Mississippi USDA point person in coordinating the development of the 2015 Gulf Restore Plan.
He is currently a member of the Hinds Community College Foundation Board of Directors.
After a 39-year career, he is retired as state resource conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. He is owner and manager of Stamps Livestock, Forestry, and Hunting Farms in Learned.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, alumnus: Thompson is the U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s Second Congressional District, serving since 1993. In 2006 he became the first Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and he has been the ranking member of the committee since 2011. He has also served on the Agriculture, Budget and Small Business committees.
He is the longest serving African-American elected official in the state of Mississippi.
Thompson is a lifelong resident of Bolton, near Jackson. He attended Hinds County Public Schools and Hinds AHS before earning a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Tougaloo College in 1968 and a Master of Science in educational administration from Jackson State University in 1973.
Thompson initially worked as a schoolteacher before entering politics. He served as an alderman from 1968 to 1972 and then mayor of his hometown of Bolton from 1973 to 1980. From 1980 to 1993, Thompson served on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors and was a founding member and president of the state’s Association of Black Supervisors.
Alumnus Col. (retired) Paul Willis and alumna Dorothene Willis, owners/operators of Gazebo Lake Ranch in Utica Torry-Willis is from Utica. She is a 1975 graduate Hinds AHS and a 1978 Utica Junior College graduate with an Associate of Arts Degree in Social Services. She continued her studies at Alcorn State University and Chicago State University. Most recently she worked as the Regional Family Support coordinator for the Mississippi Valley Division Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.
Col. Paul L. Willis hails from Edwards. He graduated from Hinds AHS in 1975 and Utica Junior College in 1977 where he was Mr. UJC and co-valedictorian. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Alcorn State University in May 1979.
In May 1989, Col. Willis received his Master of Science Degree in Education from Chicago State University. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps.
Col. Willis retired from active duty in August 2004 after serving more than 25 years. He assumed his current position as director of Army Instruction in Jackson Public Schools in July 2004.
Mr. and Mrs. Willis are the owners/operators of Gazebo Lake Ranch in Utica.
For information about the gala, see http://hub.hindscc.edu/gala.
In 1903, William Henry Holtzclaw founded the Utica Campus as the Utica Normal and
Industrial Institute (UNII), later transitioning to Hinds County Agricultural High School / Utica Junior College. As a student of Thurgood Marshall, Holtzclaw was challenged to go into a rural area and educate the underprivileged while also providing meaningful services. He opened the doors of UNII to local farmers and their families.
From its humble beginnings through the court-ordered merger with Hinds Community College in 1982, the Utica Campus of Hinds Community College continues to serve the community 113 years later in a Historically Black College & University (HBCU) status.
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with more than 170 academic, career and technical programs. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolled nearly 12,000 credit students in fall 2014. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.