Alexander honors its graduates

Published 8:00 pm Friday, July 27, 2012

     Editor’s note: Today The DAILY LEADER continues a series highlighting the 16 inductees into the 2012 Alexander High School Hall of Honor. Four honorees are being featured each day during the series.

 Velma Smith Lee, Gloria Jean Smith, Annie Lou Dillon Tillman and Charles Herman Wilson Sr. will be inducted into the Alexander High School Hall of Honor during a reception and program Friday at the Old National Guard Armory, 689 Highway 51 North, Brookhaven, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, July 27. The program will start at noon.

Velma Smith Lee

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     The late Velma Smith Lee was the daughter of Jessie Smith and Mary Cain Smith of Lucien. She attended school at Mt. Olive School in Lincoln County, Prentiss Institute in Jefferson Davis County and graduated from Alexander High School in 1945. She was a 1949 graduate of Jackson State College, now Jackson State University, with a major in Elementary Education. She furthered her education by also attending Tennessee State University and Oregon State University.

     Lee taught for 31 years in the Brookhaven School System. She was named 1973 “Teacher of the Year” for Mullins Elementary School and 1975 “Teacher of the Year.”

     She served the Saint James Missionary Baptist Church for many years. At Saint James, she served the Sunday school as a teacher and superintendent; she was a member of the usher board, a choir member and president of the junior and senior missions.

     Honoree Lee was member of the Brookhaven Chapter of the Jackson State University Alumni Association, National Educators Association, Mississippi Teacher Association, president of the Brookhaven Federated Credit Union, 7th Educational District Teachers Association, association program chairman of the Mississippi State Federation of Colored Women’s Club Inc., and local chapter president. She served as president of the Sparklers Club of Bethel A.M.E. Church, matron of the WIA of the Brookhaven Educational Home Mission District Association and the Lincoln County Retired Teachers Association, NAACP, executive director of the Martha Sykes Widow and Orphans Center and trustee of Sophia Sutton Mission Assembly in Prentiss. She was a member of the Alexander High Homecoming Reunion Committee.

     She was married to Sherman Lee. Mrs. Lee was a member of Mount Wade Missionary Baptist Church, where she was a member of the Senior Women Mission. She departed this life on June 7, 2007.

Gloria Jean Smith

     Gloria Jean Smith is the daughter of the late Fred H. and Thelma “Honey” Smith. She is a 1959 graduate of Alexander High School, where she played basketball for Coach Zip Thompson and Annie Bertha Purnell Sullivan. In addition, she was also a member of the track team and the band. After graduating from high school, she accepted a basketball scholarship to Grambling State University. After Grambling closed the girl’s basketball program, she transferred to Alcorn on a music scholarship. Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science and Physical Science from Alcorn Agricultural & Mechanical College, now Alcorn State University. She received a Master of Science degree in Urban Education and Physical and Driver’s Education from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill. She did further study at the University of Chicago.

     Her first job was as a teacher and coach at Parrish High School in Hazlehurst. After teaching for one year, she enlisted in the United States Army. She was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. She moved to the “Windy City” and became a physical education and driver’s education instructor with the Chicago Public Schools. Smith retired from Carver High School with 39 years of experience in Chicago.

     Honoree Smith received the Golden Apple Award for Teacher Educator’s Award, Teacher of the Year and the Life Time Coaching Award.

     One of her most significant accomplishments was having coached two students who excelled to professional basketball. Yolanda Griffith is a former student from Carver High School that went on to play professional basketball in both the ABL and WNBA; Kisha Lee is presently playing basketball in Russia.

     Smith is presently a member of True Believers Baptist Church in Chicago, where she was a former usher. Because of her illness, she now is a proud and faithful bench warmer.

     Presently, she serves as the assistant director for human relations of True Transition. This program provides assistance for battered women and alcohol and drug abused women. It is the goal to provide these women with educational and training opportunities to re-enter the workforce.

Annie Lou Dillon Tillman

     Annie Lou Dillon Tillman, a retired educator, always distinguishes herself in whatever she endeavors. She is the daughter of the late Felo and Viola Washington Dillon and a member of the AHS Class of 1958. Tillman furthered her education at Jackson State College, now Jackson State University, where she earned a B.S. degree. She has done further studies at Alcorn State University, Mississippi College and William Carey College.

     Honoree Tillman has worked for the Lawrence County School System, the McComb Public School System, Amite County School District, Lincoln County School District, Hazlehurst School System and the Brookhaven School District. Tillman’s teaching career has been as an English teacher, a librarian, and special education teacher. She retired in 2004 with 32 years of experience.

     Since her retirement, Tillman has worked with Project Recovery by assisting a family affected by Hurricane Katrina. She graciously allowed a young man to live with her to complete his high school education. She has also worked with the Mississippi Department of Employment Service WIN Job Center as the out of school youth coordinator. This allowed her to match 18 to 21 year old youth with local employers for summer jobs.

     Tillman attends her childhood church, Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in the Greenwood community; she has been a member of the Senior Choir, assistant financial secretary, chairperson of the Single Ministry program, custodian and is the director of Vacation Bible School.

     She is the mother of Jeffrey M. Dillon, the Rev. Kevin Maurice Tillman and Erica Denene Tillman Patton. She is a grandmother of seven grandchildren.

     Tillman is very community conscious. She is a member of the Jackson State University Alumni Association, Deborah Chapter No. 81 OES, and a volunteer for the Hospice Ministry. Many honors have been bestowed upon her, some of which include Girl Scout Certificate, a plaque from the Greenwood M.B. Church Senior Choir for 50 years, Community Competitive Class and she was honored as a DAILY LEADER “Unsung Hero”. She was named the grand marshal of the Eva Harris and County School Parade in 2011 and received her Golden Diploma from Jackson State in 2012.

Charles Herman Wilson Sr.

     The late Charles Herman Wilson Sr., churchman, civic leader, humanitarian, public servant and coach, can be appropriately described as a Godly man who vigorously pursued a Godly path toward a Godly cause. This chosen course of action made him unique, and set him remarkably apart in God’s orchard as an abundantly productive fruit bearing tree whose leaves of concern for human betterment never withered, and whose inward and outward prosperity never waned.

     Born in 1932 in Brookhaven, where his long residence was marked by good citizenship, he was the son of the late Jimmy Wilson and Beatrice Jackson Wilson. He was a former member of the St. James Missionary Baptist Church of Brookhaven, and later united with White Star Missionary Baptist Church where he served faithfully and with distinction as a deacon and trustee. His guiding qualities of a Christian gentleman inspired many to loftier aims and nobler endeavors.

     Honoree Wilson married the former Dorothy Gaddy of Laurel and to this union three children were born.

     A man of great ambition and dreams, his formal education began at Fannie Mullins Elementary School and Alexander High School in the Class of 1952. After high school, Wilson attended Alcorn Agricultural & Mechanical College, now Alcorn State University. He was later drafted into the United States Army and was honorably discharged after three years of service. He returned to Alcorn where he received a B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education. A master’s degree in Health and Physical Education was later earned at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

     His teaching career began in 1959 at O.M. McNair High School in Belzoni. There he served 27 years as a coach, physical education and science teacher. He was highly respected for his rare acumen and tireless energy that built solidly every task he undertook. He received numerous awards, certificates, citations and accolades for his diligent work.

     Wilson was a member of several civic and fraternal organizations and generously supported many charitable causes. His membership was of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., M.U.L.C.H. (Men United to Labor for Christ and Humanity), White Star Missionary Baptist Church Men’s Choir, Elks Lodge No. 811, and Masonic Temple No. 124.

     He received the following awards, Elks Lodge No. 811 Humanitarian Award (1988), Delta Valley Conference/Coach of the Year (1971-72; 1976-77; 1979-80), president of the Delta Valley Conference (1982-83), Outstanding Achievement/Basketball (1963-65), BPW Sports Award (1989), Outstanding Leadership Award/McNair High School (1988), A Winning Coach Award/Humphreys County Cheerleaders (1986), Boys Basketball Coach of the Year/Delta Valley Conference (1976), Teacher of the Month/Humphreys County Junior High School (2000), State of Mississippi/House of Representatives /Resolution (1977-78), Sports Hall of Fame/Football/Alcorn State University (1999), and the Outstanding Leadership and Dedication/Meritorious Award/ O. M. McNair High School and Community (1998).

     He is survived by his wife, children and six grandchildren.