JANS – The SWAC Alumni Association held its Annual Legends Awards and Roast May 20, 2023, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Ridgeland, MS. It was the association’s first sold out event.
In the hot seat this year was SWAC giant, Dr. Walter Reed, former player and director of athletics at Jackson State University as well as FAMU. Roasters tasked to keep the guest of honor and attendees needing stitches were: W.D. Belt, high school classmate and deacon colleague at Mt. Helm Baptist Church; Evelyn Bishop, goddaughter and member of Mt. Helm Baptist Church; Dr. William Rush, retired Jackson State professor/faculty athletics representative and deacon, Mount Helm; and Eddie Payton, former Jackson State football player, NFL Hall of Famer, and former championship golf coach at Jackson State University.
The 2023 recipient of the Charles “Chuck” Prophet Wagon Master Award is Adeanah Pooler, SWAC Associate Commissioner/Senior Woman Administrator.
Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Dr. Tracy M. Cook, Alcorn State University Vice-President/former football player; Walter Payton (posthumously), former Jackson State University and NFL legend; and Harlan S. Robinson, Texas Southern University Marketing, Promotions and Operations Manager. The Dennis E. Thomas Distinguished Service Award was presented to Roynell Young, former Alcorn State University, NFL great, and founder/CEO of Pro-Vision, Inc.
Master of Ceremony/Roast Master was Rob Jay, Jackson State University Assistant Athletics Director for Broadcast and Video Services. Other program participants were: Alvin Moore, SWAC Alumni Association Treasurer/Business Manager; LaRita Greer Davenport, SWAC Alumni Association Administrative Assistant, Sam Jefferson, SWAC Alumni Association Board Member; Lonza Hardy Jr., SWAC Alumni Association President; Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner; and Erick Wright, SWAC Alumni Association Parliamentarian.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Walter Reed said, “It’s always good to be honored in your hometown and especially by an organization you helped founded.”
The brainchild of the late W.C. Gorden, winningest football coach at Jackson State University, the SWAC Alumni Association was founded in the late 1990s at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham, AL; Roscoe Nance served as its first president and Gorden and Reed were co-treasurers. Of the eight founders, only Dr. Reed and Lonza Hardy Jr. are still living.