King left mark on local recreation

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2002

We always enjoyed working with Hansel King. The director ofParks & Recreation had an upbeat, loving spirit. Obviously, heenjoyed his work.

King passed away last week while we were on vacation. A deaconat Easthaven Baptist Church, it was appropriate that visitation washeld Monday in the church sanctuary. A large crowd attended King’sfuneral Tuesday morning. Burial was in neighboring RiverwoodCemetery.

If you are counting years of service, King devoted 36 of them tothe Brookhaven Recreation Department. He enjoyed working withyoungsters of all ages. He served 26 years as the ASA districtsoftball commissioner.

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“Tom, I need you to run something in the paper,” was a typicalKing greeting. He certainly believed in promoting the program.

King realized one of his long-time dreams when the BrookhavenSports Complex was completed eight years ago. Clearing of the landbegan in 1987. He spent many personal hours working on thefacility. Money was short but King persevered. He would ask, begand borrow to keep the project moving.

Recognized as one of the best softball facilities in the state,it features four lighted fields with 300-foot fences, plus acentral concession stand, complete with restrooms and an upstairsconference center. Also on the premises are two regulation-sizedsoccer fields.

Certainly, it has been a boost to the local economy. It gaveBrookhaven the opportunity to host numerous state and regionaltournaments during the summer months. That meant lots of extrafinancial benefits for the business community.

In our opinion, this facility should be named in honor of King.For the city fathers it would be a wise and benevolentdecision.

Last Friday night’s Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductionceremony in Vicksburg could have been mistaken for a BrookhavenHigh School reunion. Folks like Pope Kelly, Roland Wall, Tom Brady,Jr. and Norman Minton made the journey to see Ralph “Catfish” Smithinducted. Lance Alworth, BHS Class of 1958, flew in from Californiafor the occasion. Jimmie “Mississippi Red” McDowell also waspresent.

The 40th induction ceremony was an historic night. A crowdestimated at 1,000 filled the Vicksburg Convention Center to nearcapacity.

Besides Smith, the other inductees were defensive end EarlLeggett of Hinds Community College and LSU, quarterback GlynnGriffin of Ole Miss, Carolyn Henry of Crystal Springs for tennis,Samye Johnson of MUW and Mississippi State for volleyball, GeorgeSekul, player and coach at Gulf Coast Community College; and CoachT.B. Ellis and defensive tackle Verlon Biggs of Jackson State, bothdeceased.

The Rev. Casey Fisher, pastor of Grove Street Missionary BaptistChurch, delivered the invocation. Fisher became famous as a juniorplaymaker guard for the University of Southern Mississippi GoldenEagles when M.K. Turk coached them to the NIT championship in NewYork’s Madison Square Garden, back in 1987

The Central Mississippi Chapter of the National FootballFoundation and Hall of Fame and the Jackson Touchdown Club alsorecognized and honored several athletes during the evening. Therewas a long procession of honorees to start the night’s program.They ranged in age from high school to 70-year-old seniorcitizens.

Who was that young lady with the deep tan and the bulging backmuscles?

It was Jackson native Maggie Bowen, a world champion swimmer anda member of the NCAA champion Auburn swimming team. Bowen waspresented the Mississippi Amateur Athlete of the Year Award byoutgoing TD Club president Phil Quigley.

Bowen humbly accepted the award. “I want to thank Jesus Christ,my lord and savior, for giving me the ability to win this award. Heallowed me to do something I love and that’s swimming.”

A world champion in the 200 medley, Bowen thanked her parentsfor their countless hours of dedication and sacrifice in helpingher maintain a demanding, daily practice schedule. Tears flowed asshe thanked her teammates and coaches, all the way back to theJackson-based Sunkist swimming team she joined as a youth.

It was a tender, emotional moment and the crowd gave her astanding ovation.

Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers quarterback and former USM star,was presented the Mississippi Professional Athlete of the YearAward by TD Club President-elect A.M. Zeidman.

Favre resides in Hattiesburg during the offseason and owns alarge chunk of acreage west of the Hub City on Highway 98. It issurrounded by a tall iron fence, complete with lighted brickcolumns. His sprawling mansion, still under construction, islocated several hundred yards off the highway, concealed bytowering pine trees.