Pearl River Community College honored five outstanding alumni Monday with induction into the PRCC Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.
The inductees include Douglas Daniels, Dr. John Grant, Major General Hudson Holliday, Dr. Charles Pigott and Jim Walt.
The college selected them based on success in their professions after getting their start at Pearl River. PRCC began the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Let me thank you for serving as an example for our past current and future students,” Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. “Our roles as educators have never been more challenging or more important. Your legacy and commitment to your craft motivates us to be better educators and embrace the challenges we may face, to find solutions in the face of adversity and to remove the barriers that impede education for our current and future students. Your service provides an example of excellence that will transcend your local community and will serve as a testament to the thousands of Pearl River Community College students who will one day reside around this great nation and even around the globe. Your impact on our college and the lives of our students is immeasurable.”
“It means the world to him to be honored like this,” Douglas Daniel’s son Bryan Daniels said. “Dad’s memories of his time studying here at Pearl River, working on the farm, playing under Coach W. Holton, those are just special lifelong memories to him. He’s lived here in Poplarville ever since and I think his involvement in the college and the friendships he’s had with people here have been so meaningful to him and to be honored like this is really special.”
Daniels first attended classes on campus at Pearl River Community College in 1948 as a 15-year-old junior at Poplarville High School, playing his first full season of football as a halfback and linebacker. Following his senior season with PHS, he played under Coach Dobie Holden for two years at Pearl River, as a halfback, safety and quarterback.
Daniels was named to the All-State First Team as quarterback and was awarded the J.J. Holcomb Most Outstanding Athlete Award both at PHS and PRC. He would later be inducted into the Pearl River Community College Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Community and Junior College Sports Hall of Fame.
Daniels was recruited by multiple universities including Southeastern Louisiana University, where he continued playing the positions he had played at PRC, helping SLU win the Gulf States co-championship both of his seasons there. After receiving his BS in mathematics, he joined the army in 1954.
While stationed in Germany, he played baseball and football for the 12th infantry. His football team was the only undefeated team in Europe in 1955, and Daniels was selected as the Northern European All-Conference First-Team quarterback.
Building on his background in athletics, Daniels accepted the position of Head Coach and mathematics instructor at Poplarville High School in 1956, coaching football, baseball and teaching five math classes daily. The 1957 and 1959 PHS baseball teams won the DeSoto Conference Championship. In 1959, he was named “Coach of the Year” when Poplarville celebrated their first undefeated/untied football season.
Daniels obtained a Master’s degree and AAA certification toward his Doctorate at USM, and in 1966, he became District Director of Guidance, a position he held until his retirement in 1995. During his tenure he received one of Mississippi’s three “Most Outstanding Counselors” awards presented by USM.
In addition to his success and investment in athletics and education, Daniels spent his summers during his college and coaching years managing the Poplarville Community Center serving as a lifeguard, supervising a little league program and coaching a youth baseball team. He also served as president of the North Pearl River County Chamber of Commerce and served on the Hancock Bank Pearl River County Advisory Board of Directors for 22 years. He was named Poplarville’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1979.
“My dad loves athletics,” Bryan Daniels said. “It taught him a commitment to education but also that character that had developed in him on and off the field really made him into the person he is and he’s really thankful for that.”
Daniels and his wife, Phyllis, who was a business instructor at PRCC for 36 years, have been married 53 years and have three children, 16 grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
Daniels was unable to attend the event. His son Bryan Daniels accepted the award on his behalf.
“It’s easily one of the greatest honors I’ve had,” Grant said. “It’s hard to put into words but Pearl River Community College has meant so much to me in so many different ways, almost all my life, and to be honored this way is one I really appreciate. It’s a tremendous honor.”
Grant, Jr. was born in Tupelo but has been a lifelong resident of Poplarville since childhood.
Grant is a graduate of Poplarville High School and Pearl River Community College before continuing his education at the University of Mississippi where he received his Bachelor of Science in Physics. He received both his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Science Education with emphases in Physics and Earth Sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Grant served a total of forty-three years in public education in Mississippi. From 1968 to 1971 he taught Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics at Harrison Central High School and then at Poplarville High School from 1971 to 1979. During this time, he was also head baseball coach at HCHS. He was selected Star Teacher five times and was recognized as an Outstanding High School Physics Teacher by Mississippi Association of Physicists.
Grant returned to Pearl River as an instructor from 1979 to 2000 during which time he taught Physics, Mathematics and Engineering Mechanics. He took on the role of Chairman of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in 1990 and held that position until 2000 when he transitioned into the position of Dean of Academic Affairs. He then accepted the role of Vice President for Instruction in 2003 and continued until 2011 when he retired. He continues to operate the PRCC astronomical observatory and to serve on the PRCC Institutional Review Board.
During his career, Grant was also an Adjunct Instructor of Physics, Astronomy and Science Education at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also was a part of a NASA Faculty Fellowship at Stennis Space Center working with geographic information systems in 1995 and 1996.
Grant has been an active part of his community in various ways throughout the years. He is a member, Deacon and past Chairman of Deacons of the First Baptist Church of Poplarville and has sung in the choir for many years. He served as an Alderman of the City of Poplarville for five terms. He was Commissioner for over thirty years and currently is Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Pearl River County Soil and Water Conservation District. Grant is a member and Past President of the Rotary Club of Poplarville and currently serves as Club Historian. Grant is also a member of and Photographer for the Poplarville Historical Preservation Society.
“Pearl River is a huge part of my life in so many different ways,” Grand said. “I can’t really measure how much this means to me. Of course it’s changed so much through the years, but in other ways it hasn’t changed at all. It’s still people doing what they do and doing it very well.”
Grant and his wife, the former Gwen Gandy, are the parents of two children, Arthur Brennan Grant and Mary Jessica Perry. He is also a proud grandfather of two boys.
“It’s just such an honor,” Holliday said. “I wasn’t expecting this. When I was in school here I wasn’t necessarily a stand out academically or a sports star. I’m just proof that a regular country boy can make it.”
Holliday is a graduate of Poplarville High School, Pearl River Community College, The University of Southern Mississippi and the prestigious United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Shortly after graduating from USM and completing basic training in the Mississippi Army National Guard, Hudson joined the Boeing Company, working on the Saturn Program. By the end of the program, he was the Administrative Assistant to the Manager of Industrial Engineering and Production Control. Having deep roots in south Mississippi, he elected not to pursue a career with Boeing, but rather return home and establish Holliday Real Estate in 1975. In addition to his real estate business, he founded and operated Holliday Air Service (a crop-dusting service), became a licensed home builder, developed subdivisions and operated a cattle farm. Working with others, he owned and operated a sheet metal contracting business, two ready mix concrete plants and a large wetland mitigation bank.
Holliday’s military career began in 1965 when he joined the local 1065th Transportation Company, Mississippi Army National Guard. After attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant, he attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, graduating as a Second Lieutenant in 1971. During his career, he commanded two companies, a battalion and a brigade. He served as Assistant Adjutant General before returning to command the 184the Transportation Brigade as a Brigadier General. Holliday is credited with bringing about force structure changes that resulted in the 184th becoming one of the largest logistical units in the entire army. Holliday retired in September of 2004 with over 38 years of continuous service. He was promoted to Major General upon retirement and was inducted into the Fort Benning, OCS Hall of fame.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated south Mississippi, Holliday was called on to help organize the recovery effort. He secured the first two tanker loads of fuel into Poplarville, personally guaranteed payment for the 18,000 gallons of fuel and specified that it was for use by the general public. General Holliday was elected to the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors in 2008 and served for four years before qualifying to run for Governor. He lost his bid for Governor, but did win Pearl River County where he was well known. He was re-elected Supervisor in 2015 and again in 2019. He is currently serving his third term as District Three Supervisor.
The list of accomplishments of the Board of Supervisors during his tenure are many and include: rebuilding of Chimney Square in Picayune, hard surfacing all existing gravel roads, construction of a criminal justice center in Millard, securing three emergency shelters, renovating the Main Courthouse courtroom, and construction of the recently completed 40,000 square foot Courthouse Annex. He also worked to reopen the Poplarville Hospital emergency room, expand the fairground facilities, add a walking tract and constructed a pavilion at the Poplarville Park, establish a County Court, streamline land use regulations and establish an Economic Development Commission.
“Pearl River is such an asset to this community,” Holliday said. “It’s able to attract businesses, train the workforce and retrain people and give people the opportunity to make a living. I’ve been to other schools but Pearl River has always been home.”
He is married to the former Joan Paulette Kirkland and they have three children: Bradley, Heather and Michael. They also have three grandchildren: Zack, Elizabeth and Gunner. Hudson and Paulette will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary later this year.
Holliday is a life-long member of the First United Methodist Church in Poplarville where he has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Finance Chairman. He is presently serving his 26th year on the Hancock Whitney Bank advisory board. His hobbies include restoring old cars, flying airplanes and riding his Harley.
“I was really surprised and humbled,” Pigott said. “I was like ‘wait a minute, I’m not done yet,’ so I was very surprised and very honored to have this award.”
Pigott, M.D., F.A.C.S., grew up on a farm near Picayune, MS. He attended Picayune Public Schools and earned a football scholarship to Pearl River Community College playing on the Wildcat football team in 1975 and 1976. During that time, he was named Permanent Team Captain of the 1976 State Championship Wildcats along with gaining All-State and All-Star Honors.
Following that, he attended Delta State University on a football scholarship where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology in 1980. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1985. He continued his training at the University of Mississippi Medical Center completing his surgical internship and residency from 1985-1990.
In 1990, Pigott joined the Surgery Clinic of Tupelo and began his surgery practice at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1991. While on staff at North Mississippi Medical Center, he served as Chair of the Medical Staff and as Chair of the Credentials Committee. He has been Co-director of the Trauma Service at NMMC since 1999. He was appointed to the initial Mississippi Trauma Advisory Committee in 1999 by Governor Haley Barbour and helped with the inception and creation of the Mississippi Trauma System. He continues as a clinical instructor in Surgery of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine Surgical Residency Program. He is also a member of the American College of Surgeons, Fellow of James D. Hardy Society and a member of Mississippi State Medical Association. Pigott was inducted into the Pearl River Community College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. He served as the medical director of the North Mississippi Trauma Region from 2010-2020 and currently still serves on the Mississippi Trauma System Performance Improvement Committee.
“I started to come to Pearl River when I was three years old to watch my older brother play football and for a long time my goal in life was to play football. I was able to continue my education here and make lifelong friends. It was a good place to grow up.”
He continues his practice today as a General and Acute Care Trauma Surgeon at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, MS and Hamilton, AL. Pigott is married to Jessica Dillashaw Pigott of Tupelo. They have five children including Greg Pigott, a teacher in the Madison County school district; Katie Hood, a teacher in Nashville City School district; Peyton Pigott, a student at Mississippi State University; Marley Pigott, a student at University of Mississippi and Meri Parker Pigott, a student at Saltillo High School in Saltillo, Mississippi. In his free time, Dr. Pigott enjoys fishing, boating, duck hunting and the outdoors.
“This means a whole lot to me,” Walt said. “Back in the early 80’s when I attended Pearl River, it gave me the foundation of the success of why I’m here today. I am very humbled to receive this award tonight.”
Walt graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1980. After this he began his higher education at the University of Southern Mississippi but after one year received a call from Ned Eades, head coach at Pearl River Community College, to play baseball. In the fall of 1981 he started a most memorable two years of college at Pearl River. After leaving Pearl River he continued his higher education journey at USM and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Administration.
“Once I came to Pearl River, it was like a family,” Walt said. “Just about every event that you went to everybody went to like athletics, college functions even picnics. You got to know everybody which was much different than what I experienced going to a major university.”
In 1989 Jim joined Valley Services as a Food Service Director managing a college account. Walt progressed upwards through various management positions to become Valley’s Director of Operations for its Dining Services Division in 1995.
Walt’s commitment to genuine customer service and efficient operations led to his promotion to Senior Vice President of Dining and Health Services in 2000 and he eventually took on the role of President/CEO and Stakeholder of Valley in 2004.
Walt stretched Valley beyond its southern presence to operate over 250 accounts within twenty-one states. Valley’s distinct senior nutrition division also filled the need to feed the growing aging population. During this time Valley launched its Traditions Meals Solutions Brand to serve elderly in their homes. In 2012 Walt also played a key role in Valley’s merger with TrustHouse Services Group.
After almost 30 years of dedication to Valley Services, Walt decided to retire in 2018 to enjoy traveling outdoors and spend more time with his family.
He has basically had only one job throughout his career and will never forget that without that call to attend Pearl River in 1981 none of this would have been possible.
Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute students were given the opportunity to interview the honorees about their lives, studies and accomplishments before the ceremony and also helped during the event.