South Mississippi has long been blessed with good business and community leaders who take an active role in shaping and improving quality of life on the Coast. That’s the reason the Sun Herald and The Journal of South Mississippi Business began a program years ago to recognize community leaders and strong, up-and-coming young business leaders, and to hold them up as examples in the Roland Weeks Leadership Hall of Fame, named for the longtime publisher of the Sun Herald.
BILOXI — The man for whom the Leadership Hall of Fame is named has been preaching the need for vision and community for more than three decades.
For 32 years, Roland Weeks worked tirelessly in the communities that make up the Mississippi Gulf Coast in an effort to bring everyone together. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we must have leaders with a broader vision, leaders with a South Mississippi perspective.
It was Weeks’ leadership that inspired The Sun Herald’s South Mississippi Leaders Hall of Fame.
Weeks constantly spoke about the need to appreciate and respect our differences while staying focused on the common issues that bind us together in this region of the state.
George Schloegel, former president and CEO of Hancock Bank and one of the inductees, described Weeks’ leadership as “a nurturing style of leadership.”
“When Roland first came to the Gulf Coast as head of The Daily Herald, we experienced Hurricane Camille,” Schloegel said. “He made sure the paper got printed every day and gave it away free of charge to everyone who wanted it. It was just a little thing but an important little thing.”
Weeks, Schloegel recalled, worked tirelessly to unify the southern part of the state to rebuild from the storm’s damage. “Much of what he did then,” Schloegel said, “has contributed to the southern Mississippi coalition we have now that is working to bring about change through unity and legislation.”
Schloegel also pointed out that Weeks was instrumental in the formation of Leadership Gulf Coast, which “gives us 40 dynamic leaders who continue their life’s work here.”
Additionally, Weeks served on the State Prison Board that led Parchman State Penitentiary into a new state of modern development, and on Hancock Bank’s Board of Directors, where he “made a great contribution.”
“I’ve known Roland Weeks since the very first day he was in Mississippi, the mid-1960s,” the banker said, “and while we argue like cats and dogs and don’t always see eye to eye, we’re the best of friends.”
For his part, Weeks says his leadership style has been “to hire really good people, help them develop and help them get the job done.”
“Thirty-five years ago when I first came here, I thought it should not be just old, white males, like me, who were leading everything,” said Weeks, who retired as publisher in 2000. “The area suffered a lot because of that and needed to develop a broader leadership, especially with young people.”
Weeks had a vision of widening the base of leadership and is proud to see the involvement of a variety of leaders. He says he is also proud to be involved in this recognition of the area’s leaders and lend his name to the Hall of Fame.
He had carefully planned his retirement from the Fourth Estate and thought he would take it easy, spending more time with his favorite hobby, flying, and maybe ride his motorcycle some, too. He even formed a company at the airport to teach licensed pilots how to fly better. But Weeks was soon tapped by Jerry O’Keefe to be a member of the board of directors of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum.
Weeks continues to be an advocate for a regionalism approach in business and government to make the Mississippi Coast a stronger, more unified force.