An eye doctor, Grammy-nominated blues musician and former basketball coach were among those inducted into McComb High School’s Hall of Fame during a gala Saturday night at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
Inductees were Dr. Clyde McMorris, Dr. Henry J. Sanders, Vasti Jackson, Benton Thompson, Dr. Reuben Nichols, Bobby Nelson, with a memorial tribute for Larry Johns.
Dr. Clyde McMorris
McMorris is a family practice physician based in Houston, Texas. He graduated from McComb High School in 1997 and completed his doctorate in medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.
McMorris is a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society and the American Board of Family Medicine.
“I am humbled and honored to accept this award among other recipients who have been a significant positive influence in their respective circles,” McMorris said. He thanked the McComb School District, his parents and his wife Arthea.
Dr. Henry J. Sanders
Dr. Henry J. Sanders is an opthamologist at Sanders Eye Clinic LLC in McComb. He graduated from McComb High School in 1989 as an honor student, lettering in football, baseball and tennis. After high school, he attended University of Mississippi, where he majored in history and had a minor in chemistry. He was a member of several organizations and was elected to the student body senate.
Sanders attended the University of Mississippi School of Medicine.
Upon completing his ophthalmology residency, Sanders returned to McComb and devoted his practice to serving his hometown.
He has served as chief of surgery for the Southwest Mississippi Medical Center, president of the Pike County Arts Council and board member of the Rotary Club of McComb, for which he received the Paul Harris fellowship.
“The most important thing I left McComb High School with was my lifelong love of learning that was instilled in me by my teachers,” Sanders said. “That’s what has served me well throughout my life.”
Jackson, known for his “sweat-drenched, soul-ripping live performances,” is a world-renowned guitarist, vocalist and a Mississippi living blues legend.
Jackson has released six solo albums. His most recent album The Soul of Jimmy Rodgers, released in 2016, was nominated in the traditional blues category at the Grammys.
In 2014, Jackson was appointed the cultural ambassador of Mississippi. He is the recipient of the 2015 Albert King Lifetime Guitar Award and 2012 Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame inductee. Jackson studied music at Jackson State University.
“I come from a family of people who did not let me know that I was 5-6, they did not let me know that I was poor. There was never anything instilled in me that said there was something I could never do at all,” Jackson said. “And when I look at my years in McComb High School, I encountered the same thing.”
Thompson graduated from Higgins High School in 1970. After high school, he attended Alcorn State University, graduating with a degree in business administration.
While at Alcorn, Thompson joined the ROTC. Upon graduating, he was commissioned as the second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Thompson then joined the U.S. Army Reserves and served as an officer for the 91st Battalion in California. After being promoted to major, he retired and worked as the management information specialist for Peralta Service Corp. in Oakland, Calif.
In 1993, Thompson joined the ministry and in 1996, received his Ph.D. in theology from the Sacramento Theology School in California.
Dr. Reuben Nichols
Nichols has practiced internal medicine in Chicago for the past 41 years. He graduated from Burglund High School in 1964 as the class valedictorian.
He then moved to Chicago. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Nichols earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Additionally, he has been a part of the speakers’ bureau for pharmaceutical companies and has given multiple lectures about hypertension and cardiovascular disease. He is a senior attending physician at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.
When Nichols moved from McComb to Chicago, there were two school systems: a black school system and a white school system. But nobody used that as an excuse not to succeed, Nichols said.
“When I got to Chicago, I found myself being the only black kid in the classroom, so I was a little intimidated,” Nichols said. “But what I found was that the math, the biology, the English, the history (taught at Burglund) was enough that I was prepared for anything that came along.”
From 1969 to 1979, Nelson coached basketball, taught history, driver’s education and physical education at McComb High School.
With an overall record of 734 wins and 230 losses, he coached his teams to 20 district championships, numerous out-of-state championships and one state championship.
After high school, Nelson attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College on a half scholarship to play basketball. Within a few weeks, he earned a full scholarship.
Upon graduating, he attended Mississippi College, where he continued playing basketball. He received honors as a team captain and graduated in 1962 with a degree in education. Ten years later, in 1972, he earned a master’s degree in administration from Southeast Louisiana University.
Nelson was inducted into the Southwest Mississippi College Sports Hall of Fame in 1974, the Mississippi Association Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 2002 and the State Community College Hall of Fame in 2010.
Serving as chairman of the deacon body of the First Baptist Church of McComb, he was influential in the planning of the Family Life Center, which children in the community use to begin learning basketball fundamentals. Nelson retired in 1995, but remains active in his church and community.
Prior to the induction ceremony, the Hall of Fame gala honored Larry Johns, 48, who died March 11. Johns graduated from McComb High School in 1988. He attended Alcorn State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. His life's work was in history and political science. Johns' history teacher, Vicky Washington, encouraged him to take her place as an eighth-grade history teacher at Denman Junior High.
At Denman, Johns was interested in the history of McComb and the civil rights movement. He was the first teacher at Denman to teach a civil rights and local cultures class. In June 2014, Johns and his wife led a team of five students to become sixth in the nation at the National History Day competition. His work with local history and students piqued the interest of civil rights icons.