Alumni Applause

Dionne Jones Woody

May 5th, 2016 by giving

Dionne Woody

Upon walking through the large doors and entering into the corridors of Key Elementary School where Dionne Woody is the principal, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear the tune You Are My Sunshine that is being sung to the scholars and school’s staff or see her  tutoring a group of students her office.  Mrs. Woody can be heard saying Key is the “School Where Everybody Is Somebody & AEIOU:  Academic Excellence IS Our Ultimate GOAL”.  Surely these occurrences may initially appear to be a bit unorthodoxed, but to know her  is to know that she often take an unconventional approach in serving the scholars, staff, and community of any school where she has served as administrator.

Mrs. Woody practices her motherly instincts far beyond the realm of her Ridgeland (Madison) home.  She takes enormous pride in knowing all 400 scholars and their parents by name.  She always endeavors to educate the whole child rather than merely focusing on strictly academics.    Mrs. Woody often says…..“I treat all children as though they’re my own biological children”.  Mrs. Woody believes she is well respected by her staff, colleagues, and superiors for exhibiting a very hands-on, compassionate, and approachable demeanor with the scholars, their families, and staff members. While quite simple in words, her mantra is “we not me,” has profound meaning to those who she work alongside.  

Mrs. Woody’s compassion and devotion to others can be traced back to her upbringing in Columbus, Mississippi.  Both her parents, Henry and Linda Jones served as educators in the Columbus (MS) Public School District for a combined 65 years.  In addition to following in her parents’ professional footsteps, she is a contributing member of the communities in which she work and live.  Mrs. Woody is a product of the Columbus Public School District and received both a Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education Leadership from Jackson State University.

Mrs. Woody is an active member of Pilgrim Rest M. B. Church and the Madison County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, where she is involved with numerous community service oriented projects and partnerships. Mrs. Woody was named Administrator of the Year for Jackson Public Schools in February 2016, she has been featured in the “Jackson Free Press News”, educational magazines, numerous times she has been featured on the news for her success in schools she has been the administrator, WJTV News Channel recently broadcast a Success Story for Key Elementary for being an integral part with scholars academically.

When she is not wearing her principal’s hat or working in the community, She and her husband (James) can be very easily heard cheering for their boys (James and Jarvis) with basketball, baseball and football.  Should you see two other women looking identical to Mrs. Woody, do not become alarmed; it’s not an April fool’s Day joke!  Even though she was born on a national day of practical jokes, April 1st, she is one-third of a set of triplets. Her sisters are Dewanda Jones Nelson and Denise Jones Gregory who both live in Birmingham, AL and members of Delta Sigma Theta and also careers are  in education.

Working with children is part of Mrs. Woody’s daily life.  She says …children are a gift!  It makes her feel proud knowing she has reached a child.  She is a strong advocate for children being treated fairly, academically and socially.  Also, she believes in the old African Proverb: “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”.  



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Dr. Rhea C. Williams-Bishop

May 5th, 2016 by giving

Rhea Bishop

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Dr. Rhea C. Williams-Bishop has been named the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s (WKKF) new director of Mississippi and New Orleans Programs, effective May 16, 2016.

Currently, Williams-Bishop serves as the director of the Center for Education Innovation in Jackson, Mississippi, a nonprofit education intermediary focused on impacting and transforming education through engagement and innovation.

“We are delighted that Rhea will now be a part of the WKKF team,” said Joe Scantlebury, the foundation’s vice president for program strategy. “Rhea brings tremendous knowledge of Mississippi and New Orleans as well as a proven track record of partnering with community residents and organizations to improve the lives of all children. We couldn’t feel better about the newest member of our team.”

Prior to her work at the Center for Education Innovation, Williams-Bishop held many positions at the Children’s Defense Fund, including: the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) administrator, executive director of Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) and the deputy director of Southern Regional Office.

“After spending over 15 years in my career as a child and family advocate, I am very excited about my new role with the foundation and looking forward to leading its efforts in Mississippi and New Orleans, working to improve the conditions for children and families,” Williams-Bishop said. “I hope to build on the rich legacy of support and commitment that the Kellogg Foundation has provided to communities all across this region.”  

Williams-Bishop obtained her Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from Jackson State University, where she earned a Master of Public Policy & Administration degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation 
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.

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Alferdteen Brown Harrison

May 5th, 2016 by giving


Alferdteen Brown Harrison built a prominent, decades-long career as an academic leader in history on a foundation laid at McPherson College.

Brown Harrison, a 1961 history graduate of McPherson College now living in Jackson, Miss., was recently honored for her career achievements with her induction to the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame.

“It lifted my spirits for sure,” Brown Harrison said. “I had no idea that I would ever be considered for such an honor.”

Since 1970, the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity has selected a few outstanding women with a connection to the University of Kansas by inducting them to the Hall of Fame.

“These women are exemplary members of society in both overall impact and outstanding character,” said Kathy Rose-Mockry, the center’s director. “Many inductees accomplished feats in their respective fields at times when it was practically unheard of for a female to make such progress. The influence of their numerous contributions and achievements is immeasurable, and these women serve as awe-inspiring role models.”

After her graduation from McPherson College, she received a master’s degree from Wichita State University. She later became the first African American to earn a doctorate in history from KU and helped to establish what, today, is the African and African American Studies department at KU.

She was also a professor of history and the director of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State University. She also co-founded the first museum in Mississippi to focus on African Americans in the state – the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. She is author of multiple books and continues as a prominent advocate for the documentation and preservation of African American History.

She has also returned to serve her alma mater at McPherson College in recent years in leadership roles on the college’s Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2011. McPherson College has been a lifelong influence on her, Brown Harrison said, because of her teachers’ mentorship and MC’s strong foundation in Christian ethics.

“I think that I had great role models there in all of my teachers, and it was a very nurturing environment,” Brown Harrison said. “McPherson College helped develop the moral compass for my life – a God-centered lifestyle.”

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Sandra Hodge

April 14th, 2016 by giving

Sandra Hodge

On March 14, Dr. Carolyn Meyers announced Mrs. Sandra Hodge as the new lead for the Division of Institutional Advancement.

Dr. Meyers stated “Mrs. Hodge is an experienced professional and known throughout JSU and our greater Jackson community for her good works and effective leadership.”

Prior to joining JSU, Mrs. Hodge served as the Chief Executive Officer for the American Red Cross Mississippi Region, with oversight of leadership teams in support of achieving targets for service delivery, fundraising/revenue, communications and branding, and community engagement and mobilization. She had a distinguished career in management and administration with service to the City of Jackson, Tougaloo College, Mississippi Department of Human Services and Jackson State University.

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Coach Robert “Bob” Braddy

April 14th, 2016 by giving

Robert Braddy

Jackson State’s legendary baseball coach Robert “Bob” Braddy was recently named by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame for its 2016 Induction class.

After graduating from Jackson State, Braddy spent the next 34 years in service to his “dear old college home,” as either the baseball coach or Athletics Director. During that time span he participated in and oversaw some of JSU’s greatest successes.

Braddy is the winningest baseball coach in Southwestern Athletic Conference history (824 wins). Between 1973 and 2001 his teams won 12 conference championships, more than any other coach in league history, and he led the Tigers to three NCAA Tournament appearances, two NCAA play-in games and four NAIA Tournaments. He was named SWAC Coach of the Year nine times. During his 28-year coaching career, 52 of his players reached the professional ranks, producing two first round draft picks in David Clark (1983) and Earl Sanders (1986).

This year’s National College Baseball Hall of Fame class includes Matt Desalvo (Marietta College), JD Drew (Florida State), Augie Garrido (San Francisco State/Cal Poly/Cal St. Fullerton/Illinois/Texas), Rick Monday (Arizona State), Tom Paciorek (University of Houston) and Tommy Thomas (Valdosta State).

For more information about the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, please visit:

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Barbara Blackmon

April 14th, 2016 by giving

Barbara Blackmon (1)

Barbara Blackmon earned a B.S. degree from Jackson State University when she was 19 years old. She furthered her education at the University of Alabama where she obtained a Master’s in Business Administration at age 20. Barbara then worked as a college instructor where many of her students were older than she. Continuing her thirst for learning, Barbara began her studies at the University of Santa Clara Law School and completed them at the University of Mississippi where she garnered a Juris Doctorate Degree. She was on the University of Mississippi Law Journal staff. Always striving to achieve more, Barbara was admitted to the prestigious New York University Tax Law Program and received a LL.M. degree in Taxation. Barbara Blackmon is a distinguished member of the Mississippi State Bar as well as the New York State Bar. Barbara was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tougaloo College.

Barbara returned home to Jackson, Mississippi and began her legal career developing tax clients and providing competent and courteous representation. Always aware that to whom much is given, much is required; Barbara was compelled to use her expertise to educate her community about the importance of asset building, estate planning and tax planning.

Barbara Blackmon is presently the Managing Partner of Blackmon and Blackmon, PLLC, a small, but aggressive law firm in Canton, Mississippi that does plaintiff and defense work, representing many Fortune 500 clients. Barbara, along with her husband, Edward Blackmon, Jr. is the General Counsel for the General Missionary Baptist State Convention as well as County Attorney for Claiborne County.

Breaking barriers come easy to Barbara Blackmon. In 1992, she was elected the first Black woman to represent Madison, Yazoo and Holmes counties in the Mississippi State Senate.

Barbara Blackmon initially represented Madison, Yazoo, and Holmes County in 1993. As a result of redistricting, she was pitted against the President Pro Tempore of the Senate the same year and defeated him representing Madison, Humphreys and Yazoo Counties for 12 years.

As a state senator, she worked to increase funding for all of Mississippi’s state colleges and universities. She supported the Mississippi Adequate Education Plan to provide equity to poorer school districts and was a champion for senior citizens and children by being a strong and effective voice for sound health care policies. Lt. Governor Eddie Briggs recognized Barbara’s vast business and legal capacity and because of her significant business background, Senator Blackmon was appointed to the powerful Senate Finance Committee where as a newly minted senator she was appointed Vice Chair where she advocated for more economic development in the poorer areas of the state as well as record construction investments at Mississippi’s universities and junior colleges. Lt. Governor Eddie Briggs, also, appointed Barbara to the Legislative Budget Committee and was the first female ever appointed to the Committee from the State Senate. She still holds that distinction. The Committee sets the State’s Budget prior to the Legislature convening. Barbara Blackmon was the first Black in the Senate to be appointed to a subcommittee chair on the Appropriations Committee where she oversaw over $350 million in agency budgets.

As a continuation of her public service, Richboy Entertainment, Inc. launched “The Barbara Blackmon Show” which aired April, 2006 as a news program featuring local and state policy makers, discussing the issues of the day and educating Mississippians on public policies that would enhance the quality of life in the state. The show aired in 68 of the state’s 82 counties each Sunday morning.

Barbara Blackmon served as President of the National Black Caucus of States Institute, a public policy think tank which developed parallel to the National Black Caucus of State Legislators from 2002-2010. She is a former Co-Chair of the National Campaign for Jackson State University’s $50 Million Campaign for scholarships, endowments and programs and served on the Board of Directors for the Jackson State University Foundation. She served on the steering committee for the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi. She has served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Capitol Area, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Mississippi, the Stewpot of Canton, the American Red Cross Central Mississippi Chapter and as President of the Foundation for Education and Economic Development among other community and professional associations.

Barbara and her husband Edward Blackmon, Jr. received an award for Black Philanthropy for having given $1,000,000.00 to Tougaloo College, $750,000.00 to Jackson State University, and providing scholarships and awards to 53 students through their previous Foundation.

She was the 2003 Democratic Nominee for Lieutenant Governor of the State of Mississippi. Barbara Blackmon was the first Black ever to hold that honor. Her run inspired young people of all ages to dream and know that you can achieve that dream. Blackmon is an attorney who lives in Canton and is married to State Representative Edward Blackmon, Jr., who is also the Senior Partner of Blackmon and Blackmon, PLLC. They have two sons, Madison Edward and Bradford Jerome and one granddaughter, Enyla Chenise. The Blackmon’s are members of Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.


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DeMarco Morgan

March 23rd, 2016 by giving

Demarco Morgan (1)

DeMarco Morgan was named a correspondent for CBS News, based in New York City. Morgan, who joins later this year, comes from WXIA the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, where he has been a reporter and main co-anchor of the station’s weekday newscasts since 2012.

After graduating from Jackson State University, Morgan landed his first reporting job at CBS affiliate WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2004, he joined ABC's WISN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, co-anchoring alongside Portia Young and serving for three years.

In 2007, he joined NBC's WTVJ in Miami, Florida, as an anchor and reporter. In December 2008, he joined WNBC in New York City. Morgan began his broadcasting career while working on his Master's Degree at Columbia, while in the Graduate School of Journalism he covered the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Morgan taught journalism at JSU for two years and taught English at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Morgan has also taught at Spelman and Morehouse College in Atlanta.

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Dr. Rosie L. T. Pridgen

March 23rd, 2016 by giving

Dr. Rosie Pridgen

Dr. Rosie L. T. Pridgen, a Jackson State University alumna, is the new Chairman of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) Board of Commissioners.

Rosie L. T. Pridgen, Ph. D is a native Mississippian. She has been a resident of Jackson since 1970, after graduating from Jackson State University. In addition to earning the Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Educational Specialist, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Jackson State University; Dr. Pridgen also obtained the Masters of Education degree in Blind Rehabilitation, with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility for the Blind from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has also studied at other Mississippi universities. Dr. Pridgen has been a teacher, substitute teacher, assistant principal, principal, interim superintendent and superintendent. In 2013, she retired from the position of Superintendent of the Mississippi School for the Blind, a position she had held for 15 years. During two and one-half of those years, she concurrently served as Superintendent of the Mississippi School for the Deaf. She is a graduate of Leadership Greater Jackson, an avid volunteer, and a supporter of programs and projects that aim to improve individuals and communities. She is a member of Mt. Carmel Ministries. She has a blended family of four children and eleven grandchildren.

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Michael Daniels

March 23rd, 2016 by giving

Michael Daniels photographFifth Third Bank’s Georgia affiliate, which has locations in the Marietta and Kennesaw areas, announced that Michael Daniels has joined the bank as vice president and business banking relationship manager, focusing on midsized companies with annual revenues up to $10 million. In this role, he is responsible for facilitating new banking relationships in the areas of manufacturing, distribution and professional services.  

Daniels, a Lithonia resident, has more than 10 years of experience in the financial industry. He was previously a business banking relationship officer with SunTrust Bank in Midtown, where he was awarded with President’s Team Retail Banking and MVP Commercial Banking.    

He received a Bachelor of Arts in marketing from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and a master’s degree in management from the University of Phoenix. He is actively involved with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, United Way and the bank’s LGBT affinity team. 


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Mayor Errick D. Simmons

March 23rd, 2016 by giving

Errick D. Simmons

Attorney Errick D. Simmons is the City of Greenville, Mississippi’s second African-American Mayor (first black male). First elected as a city councilman on January 2, 2008, Mayor Simmons served on the Greenville City Council for eight (8) years where he served as Vice-Mayor his last year on the city council.  As city councilman, Simmons served on the charter and ordinance committee, finance, public safety committee, education, and airport committees.  During his tenure as city councilman, Simmons has balanced eight (8) city budgets totaling over 500 million dollars and managed over $100 million dollars in grants awards.  Simmons is a firm believer that a life lived in service to others is a life worth living. 

Attorney Simmons matriculated through Greenville Public Schools where he graduated second in his class at T. L. Weston High School in 1995, second to his twin brother and law partner, Mississippi State Senator Derrick T. Simmons.  Attorney Simmons later studied at Jackson State University, where he received a Bachelor in Business Administration in Economics in 2000. In 2002, Councilman Simmons received a Masters in Arts in Economics from Howard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and received his Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law (HUSL) in 2005.  As the team captain of the nationally-acclaimed HUSL Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Mock Trial Team, Attorney Simmons led the team to victory defeating two-time reigning champion Harvard Law School to become the first historically black law school to win the American Bar Association International Mock Trial Competition.  Attorney Simmons is a recipient of numerous community services awards by local, state, and national organizations and has been featured in several local, state, and national publications, including but not limited to, Jet Magazine, Dallas Examiner, Chicago Defender, Time, Diversity and the Bar, interviewed by Host Ed Gordon on National Public Radio, congratulated in the United States House of Representatives, and recently featured on the cover of Mississippi’s edition of Attorney-at-Law Magazine for being the Attorney of the Month for November 2014.

After graduation from law school, Attorney Simmons returned home to Greenville to use his educational preparation, professionalism, passion, and dedication to serve the people of Greenville, the Mississippi Delta, and the South as a whole. 

As a leading Mississippi trial lawyer, Simmons is the co-founder/co-owner of Simmons & Simmons, PLLC in Greenville (, an aggressive law firm concentrating on the areas of personal injury and criminal defense. As a trial lawyer, Errick leads the civil division of Simmons & Simmons, PLLC and have achieved results in and outside the courtroom for his clients.  Notable successes include a seven-figure settlement for individuals receiving personal injuries and property damages from exposure to toxic chemicals that were allowed to migrate offsite from a chemical plant.  Simmons also recovered damages for a mother and child while during a traumatic labor the child suffered an Erb’s proximal brachial plexus palsy injury. 

Simmons’ strong advocacy and commitment to our youth have afforded him gubernatorial appointments and national affiliations with some of the leading foundations, non-profits, and private organizations.  Attorney Simmons was named by the National Bar Association and IMPACT as one of 2011 Nation’s Best Advocates: Top 40 Lawyers Under 40.  

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