Helen Gene Ford Ansari, Lillie Burney, Oliver William Johnson, II and Marjorie & Alfonso Clark

Helen Gene Ford

Helen Gene Ford, a 1971 graduate of L.J. Rowan and Jackson State University student, was crowned the nation’s Miss Black America in 1975.  At Jackson State, Ms. Ford was one of the original Prancing J-settes.

Lillie Burney

Lillie Burney served as an educator for almost half a century.  For 37 years, she was the Principal at Mary Bethune Elementary in Hattiesburg, MS.   She retired on February 28, 1959 which was her 70th birthday.   Her commitment to educating the children of Hattiesburg was so valued that in 1963, the Hattiesburg Public School District named a Junior High School in her honor.

Oliver William Johnson II

Oliver William Johnson II was a Eureka Junior High graduate and a 1958 graduate of Rowan High School.  He attended Alcorn A&M College where he was a drummer in the marching band and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. After graduation from college, he taught various classes and coached several sports at Earl Travilion before becoming a teacher and the baseball coach at North Forrest High School.  At North Forrest, he led his baseball team to four consecutive state championships.  Mr. Johnson was the first African American president of the Mississippi Association of Coaches and became the first African American coach to be inducted into the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame.

Marjorie and Alfonso Clark

Marjorie and Alfonso Clark were educators in the Forrest County Public School System and the Hattiesburg Public School System. In addition to education, they both volunteered with numerous professional and community organizations.  Mr. Alfonso Clark filed a lawsuit against the Forrest County Registrar after being denied the right to vote.  This lawsuit resulted in Mr. Clark becoming one of the first African Americans registered to vote in the City of Hattiesburg.  The activism of both Mr. and Mrs. Clark often put their livelihoods in jeopardy, including job loss.  Their ownership of Clark Funeral Home allowed for them to continue their civil rights activities.  It also allowed for the funeral home to serve as a secret meeting place during the Civil Rights Movement.  Clark Funeral Home was held in such high esteem that it was entrusted to manage the arrangements for slain Civil Rights Leader, Vernon Dahmer, Sr.