Alton Ricks honored by Wesson chamber

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 3, 2001

WESSON — At least one local resident was completely surprisedby the announcement Thursday of the chamber of commerce’s goodcitizen award.

“They kept a very good secret,” recipient Alton Ricks told thegroup of more than 100 gathered at the Thames Center for the 14thAnnual Wesson Chamber of Commerce Banquet.

The recipient of the award, which is given to one citizen eachyear who unselfishly gives of themselves “to make Wesson a bettertown and help make the lives of Wesson’s residents better,” is notrevealed until the annual chamber banquet.

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Ricks, who is a past recipient of the chamber of commerce’scommunity service award, was honored for his many accomplishmentsin Wesson during the last 46 years.

He has been a member of the Wesson Lions Club for over 40 years,and is a member of the American Legion. He was also a president ofthe Co-Lin Athletic Alumni Association as well as being selectedCo-Lin’s Alumnus of the Year in 1983.

Since moving to Wesson in 1955, he has served as a basketballcoach and athletic director, director of student activities,academic counselor and dean of students.

“He helped organize Little League baseball in Wesson and coachedfor a number of years at each level of the baseball program,”Bradley Smith said when introducing the good citizen awardrecipient.

Ricks was also Scoutmaster of Wesson’s Boy Scout Troop 125 for25 years and has won the Silver Beaver Award from the AndrewJackson Council for his scouting contributions.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was the featured speaker for the evening.He touted recent education and economic development achievementsduring his remarks.

“We have a lot of exciting things happening, things I’m proudof,” Musgrove told the group of more than 100 gathered for the 14thAnnual Wesson Chamber of Commerce Banquet.

Musgrove mentioned the Nissan project being named the number oneeconomic project by a national magazine last year. Education,though, was the main topic, with the governor touting the state’steacher pay raise advancing from 49th to 29th in the nation.

“Mississippi was also the first state in the nation to payteachers extra for gaining board certification, and we will be thefirst in the nation to put computers in every classroom,” hecommented.

Musgrove added that despite a tight budget this year, he doesnot plan to cut the education budget.

“Education is the foundation for all of those things we want tomake happen,” he said.

Musgrove also mentioned how deaths on state highways are down 40percent over last year, with seatbelt usage up more than 30 percentin the state.

Mayor Bill Tigner also spoke to the group, mentioning the strongeducation system in the area creating more opportunities forresidents.

“I believe the assets we have in Wesson… really have us poisedto be one of the best bedroom communities in the state,” Tignersaid, mentioning how the education and safe environment of the townhas brought many people to the area to live while working in largercities, such as Jackson.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Howell Garneralso rejoiced over the education in Wesson.

“Enrollment at Co-Lin over the last four years has had steadygrowth,” he remarked.

Garner also spoke of changes at the college that will be neededto handle the growth, including a new men’s dormitory expected tostart construction soon.

Garner, along with Tigner, complimented county and governmentofficials in attendance for their continued support of Wesson.

Ricks was among a number of award winners last night. Otherawards included business of the year, Founder’s Day queen, TeamCity members, educator awards, community service awards and aleadership award.

Rea Insurance Agency which was founded in the mid 1890s, wasrecognized as Business of the Year for being the second-oldestcontinuously licensed agency in Mississippi.

Brittany King, the 16-year-old daughter of Scott and SharonKing, was presented a plaque for her service as Founder’s DayQueen. She was recognized for her many activities, including honorsociety, softball, basketball, dance, church and cheerleading.

Members of Entergy’s Team City were honored as well for theirefforts to improve the community through a variety of programs.

Phillip Knight was given an educator award for his 15 years as amath teacher on the junior high and high school level at WessonAttendance Center.

Knight has also coached football and baseball, as well as joinedseveral organizations. He was the 1996 Teacher of the Year and hasbeen named to Who’s Who Among American Teachers numerous timesduring his career.

Co-Lin sociology/psychology professor Jim Lightsey was alsorecognized as an outstanding educator.

“Certainly Jim has had 30 years of distinguished service atCopiah-Lincoln Community College,” Garner said while presenting theaward to Lightsey’s wife, Martha, who accepted it on his behalfbecause Lightsey was unable to make the banquet due to a teachingduty.

Chamber of commerce members honored Elene Hutson for hercontribution to Wesson over the last 60 years with a communityservice award.

Award presenter Dr. Michael McInnis gave a long list ofactivities Hutson has been a part of during the past few decades,including church and civic organizations. She is also an artist,writer and quilt maker.

Paul C. Cartwright was also recognized for his communityservice, which consists of monumental efforts in the Wesson Libraryand Old Wesson School.

Garner received a leadership award for his “unselfishinvolvement and pride in the community.” Among his accomplishmentsinclude being a member of many local organizations and named toWho’s Who in American Educators.

Nancy Ables received a plaque for her efforts as chairman of theWesson Founders’ Day this year.

Outgoing chamber of commerce directors Lura Greer and Garneraccepted plaques for their service at the award presentations.