The Gulfport Branch NAACP will host its annual Drum Major for Justice Awards Luncheon at noon Feb. 27 at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center, 3312 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Gulfport. Each year the branch honors individuals or organizations in certain fields or community service involvement who have demonstrated what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the drum major instinct" -- unselfish dedication while living their lives to serve others.
Those selected for the 2014 class of Drum Majors have made substantial advancements in community athletics and recreation. Their selection was based on contributions made in improving, creating and sustaining recreational and educational opportunities for the community and enhancing sports and athletics activities.
Luncheon details: 617-0891. Tickets for the event may be purchased at Taylor-Harris Drugs (868-1036) or Fashion Touch Boutique (896-9222).
Recipients of this year's awards are:.
David Sykes is a native of Atlanta. Upon graduation from Georgia Tech, he began working full time for Boys & Girls Clubs of America in various locations. He eventually became the regional vice president responsible for Boys & Girls Clubs in nine western states. After 20 years with Boys & Girls Clubs, he moved back to the South and the Boys & Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, where he is executive director.
Carlos Bell is a volunteer for the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Boys & Girls Club. He was recently named United Way's Volunteer of the Quarter for his work with the Boys & Girls Club of the Gulf Coast. He is a former coach at Central Middle School and has been a volunteer at the Forest Heights Unit since 2010. A graduate of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and William Carey University, he is executive pastor of Grace Temple Baptist Church and an Iraqi War Army veteran. He is regional manager for Waggoner Engineering.
Christopher Fisher, a volunteer at the Boys & Girls Clubs, is an attorney and owner of The Fisher Law Firm PLLC since 2012 and is a former assistant district attorney, 2nd Circuit Court District for Harrison, Hancock, and Stone counties. He is a past president of the Gulfport Branch NAACP and is a subscribing life member, a member of North Gulfport Civic Club, on the Boys & Girls Club Forest Heights Unit Board (since 2004) and Volunteer of the Year 2010.
Valarie Hill is a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast. She also actively promotes Gulf Coast tourism and volunteers time to community organizations, events and activities. She is a member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church where is matron of junior ushers, public information officer and on the kitchen committee. She is a member of the NAACP and serves on the board of directors of Gulf Coast Community Action Agency.
William Prince Jones
William Prince Jones was a coach for the Gulfport High School track team. As Gulfport High School varsity track coach, he led the Gulfport Admirals boys' team to nine state track titles (1987-90, 1993-97) and the girls cross country squad to two state titles. He was inducted into the Mississippi Valley State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. Other honors include induction into the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame; Coach of the Year Award, four times; nominated for National Coach of the Year; and 2014 inductee into the Gulfport Sports Hall of Fame. He is a Sunday school teacher, deacon and trustee board member at Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. He and his wife, Wardie Martin Jones, are the parents of two daughters.
Joe Sam Owen
Joe Sam Owen was a contributing supporter of the Gulfport High School track team under the era of Coach Prince Jones. He established the Jim Rose Track complex at Gulfport High, the Gulfport High/Herb Wilson Baseball Complex, the Gulfport High School football field house and sports initiatives at the former St. John High School. He has been instrumental in the renovations of St. James Catholic Church and St. Therese Catholic Church and is an annual contributor to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He has served as a volunteer and para-professional youth and high school coach in baseball and football for 30 years. He is a senior partner in the law firm of Owen, Galloway & Myers.
In November 2011, Brittney Reese donated 100 turkeys and her time to various homeless and religious organizations as her way of "giving back" to the community that has supported her throughout her athletic career. She created the Brittney Reese Scholarship, which is awarded annually to one male and one female student who has been accepted to a two-year or four-year college. The Gulfport High School, Mississippi Coast Community College and the University of Mississippi graduate is an Olympic gold medalist and a five-time world champion. She is the indoor American record holder in the long jump with a distance of 7.23 meters and is the third youngest champion in the history of the event.
Jonathan Story has provided many young athletes with opportunities to play professional baseball during his career as a major league baseball scout with the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. However, it is the Gulfport native's willingness to volunteer within his own sports community which has prompted his inclusion as a 2014 Drum Major. He has regularly served as a coach in the city of Gulfport's youth sport programs. His minor league baseball career was with the Chicago White Sox. A career-ending knee injury ended his dreams of playing major league baseball, but he has continued his passion for the game as a scout.