POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College honored five outstanding alumni Thursday, April 13, with induction into the PRCC Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.
They are Lamar County educator Carolyn Lott Adams, retired PRCC instructor Dr. James “Jimmy” Barnes of Poplarville, Grenada physician Dr. Thomas Holden, business executive Bill James of Leesburg, Fla., and Slap Ya Mama founder and attorney Tony Walker of Ville Platte, La.
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 with a secondary purpose of linking them to the PRCC Honors Institute.
“We’re going to use you,” said PRCC President Dr. William Lewis before they were inducted. “You’ve become role models for our students. The purpose of this event is far-reaching.”
Adams attended Pearl River in 1958-59. She retired from the Lamar County School District after almost 40 years as a teacher and administrator and was elected in November 2016 to the county school board.
“This has really touched me,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I first put my foot on the Pearl River campus. I loved it. It set the stage for me for the rest of my life. I have had a passion for education.”
Barnes played basketball at Pearl River in 1955-57 and returned to spend 37 years as a science instructor and department chairman. He also served as alderman and mayor in Poplarville.
“My graduate work at the University of Southern Mississippi was primarily done based on what I learned at PRC,” Barnes said.
As department chair, he served on visiting accreditation teams for the Southern Association of College and Schools.
“I wanted to visit other schools in other states and see how we compared,” he said. “I found out PRC was very competitive.”
Holden grew up on campus where his parents, Dobie and Earlora Holden, were football coach and instructor, respectively. He played football and tennis in 1956-58 and was charter president of Phi Theta Kappa honor society before becoming an obstetrics-gynecology physician.
“I climbed on the roof of every building,” he said of his childhood. “I climbed the water tower. I’m grateful to have lived in that golden era, the ‘50s. I’m honored to be selected as one of the inductees.”
James, starting quarterback for the Wildcats in 1954-56, spent his career as an executive in the electric utility industry in Florida and Indiana and teaching as an adjunct college instructor.
“I was very humbled to receive an award like this,” James said. “Pearl River set a pattern. I’ve been a big supporter of the community college as the middle stick.”
He encouraged the Honors Institute students to learn all their lives.
“People graduating from college today have to be thirsty learners … because the world is changing at a tremendous pace,” he said.
Walker also made a mark as the starting quarterback in 1974-76 before returning home to Louisiana and spending 28 years as an assistant district attorney. He also founded Slap Ya Mama, a family business which manufactures Cajun products.
“It was 40 years ago that a skinny kid with a lot of curly black hair showed up at Pearl River Junior College,” Walker said. “I settled down and realized that things would have to happen if I wanted to go anywhere in life. It’s a team effort. There’s a lot of members to everybody’s team. Pearl River Junior College was there for me.”
Alumni inducted into the Pearl River Community College 2017 Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame are, seated from left, Grenada physician Dr. Thomas Holden, Lamar County educator Carolyn Lott Adams; standing, business executive Bill James of Leesburg, Fla.; educator Dr. James “Jimmy” Barnes of Poplarville and Slap Ya Mama founder Tony Walker of Ville Platte, La.
PRCC Public Relations photo