Howard Dean Sessums - Harperville (deceased)
Howard Dean Sessums earned a distinguished career in basketball while playing on the local and collegiate levels as well as in the military as a proud native of Scott County.
Sessums was born in 1931 in Harperville and graduated from Harperville High School in 1949. He signed a basketball scholarship with East Central Junior College in Decatur and following an All-State freshman season, he and other players joined the U.S. Army where they served and played basketball for the Special Training Regiment in the Fort Jackson League from 1950-1952. After returning for his sophomore year, Sessums earned first team as junior college All-American honors. The team won the Mississippi Junior College Championship and the regional championship before finishing fourth in the national tournament.
Sessums moved to the University of Mississippi where he continued on a basketball scholarship in 1953 but left before his first season to join the Mississippi College team where he averaged 25.8 points per game and averaged 30.8 points per game in his senior season which was fifth in the nation. He set several Mississippi collegiate records in 1955: most points in a season (770), most points in two seasons (1,420), most points in a game (54), and most points scored in a game in Mississippi (51).
After being named to the All-American team in 1955, Sessums was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Knicks where he spent a short time before returning to Mississippi to become the head basketball coach at Pelahatchie High School in 1956. He led the Chiefs to the state basketball tournament four of the next five years and coached six all-state players and was named coach of the Mississippi All-Star Basketball team in 1959.
Off the court, Sessums earned a Masters degree in education from Mississippi College and was on the faculty of Hinds Community College when he was killed in an automobile accident in 1963 in Scott County.
David Farris - Morton
David Farris was an outstanding player on the Morton Panthers hardcourt and later became a Bulldog on the collegiate level where he continued to excel in basketball.
Farris played three seasons for the Panthers 1968 to 1971, and helped Morton to a 58-12 record. He earned recognition on several all-tournament teams and All Little Dixie conference during his junior year, averaging 10 points and seven assists per game.
During his senior season, Farris won recognition for multiple all-tournament teams, All Little Dixie, MVP of North Little Dixie, All-State, and played in the All-Star Game in 1971. He averaged 15 points and 12 assists per game.
Farris traded his blue and gold for maroon and white at Mississippi State University where he signed on to the Bulldogs basketball team as a walk-on. He earned a three-year scholarship to continue playing. He finished at MSU as a two-year letterman and later served as a graduate assistant coach and earned a master’s degree.
Stanley G. Douglas - Forest
Stanley G. Douglas enjoyed a remarkable career on the football gridiron where he excelled for the Forest Bearcats and continued his commitment to excellence through service to his community after completing his education and athletic career.
Douglas was raised in Scott County and lettered four years at Forest High School. He scored 87 points in his sophomore season and 103 points as a junior. He finished high school scoring 102 points during his senior season. He tied for first place as “Most Outstanding Runningback.” Bearcat fans witnessed Douglas run for about 4,000 yards during his four years as a Bearcat athlete.
Douglas moved on to East Central Junior College where he started and earned letters as a Warrior. He then attended Louisiana College in Pineville, La., and lettered each year during his stay.
After college, Douglas married Jowanna Looper of Alexandria, La., and have been married 55 years having two children and six grandchildren. Douglas pursued a business career in insurance with State Farm Mutual, going on 48 years.
Douglas has served in leadership roles in Parkview Baptist Church and School. He has served as a deacon for 30 years, Sunday School director, and school board member. He helped organize the Southeast Kiwanis Club of Baton Rouge, serving as president, treasurer, and secretary.
Douglas is active in weekly nursing home outreach programs where he volunteers his time. Douglas keeps residents’ spirits high with bring coffee, celebrating birthdays, and spending time in conversation.
Douglas has not forgotten about his Scott County roots. He established the Marion Bernie Whatley Scholarship Award which assists qualifying Forest High School students with a $1,000 stipend to recognize their hard work as a football or baseball player or band member.
Lee Dukes - Forest
Lee Dukes was a standout athlete at Forest High School where he participated in football and track. He was also a well respected and outstanding student leader among his peers.
As a wide receiver on the gridiron, Dukes helped the Bearcats finish 11-0 and win the 1970 Little Dixie Conference Championship. He was elected student body president and inducted into the FHS Hall of Fame in 1971.
A large part of his athletic career centered on track activities. Dukes excelled as a member of the cross- country track team and placed twice in state track meets. Although he had offers to play college football, Dukes received and accepted a scholarship at Mississippi College. He chose to concentrate his efforts on track and field competition.
At Mississippi College, Dukes led the Choctaws to the state collegiate cross-country championship three times, defeating teams from Ole Miss, Miss. State, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Delta State each year. He earned individual state honors his junior year, finished second as a sophomore, and placed seventh his freshman season. He missed the state meet his senior season due to an injury.
Additional highlights at Mississippi College include first place in 3,000-meter steeplechase in Gulf South Conference; selected All Gulf Conference in track and cross-country events; finished sixth in steeplechase at national championships; just missed qualifying to represent the U.S. in the Olympics; set Mississippi College records in steeplechase; two-mile, three-mile and distance medley relays.
In recognition of his track achievements, Dukes was named to the All-American Track Team and was inducted into the Mississippi College Sports Hall of Fame. He earned a bachelor's degree at Mississippi College and a master's degree in business administration from Temple University.
Dukes athletic activities did not cease with college as he continued to remain active as part of his professional career. He served as the first executive director of Mississippi Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In that role, he initiated the State Games of Mississippi, the first Mississippi High School All-State Soccer Game, and served as vice-president of the National Association of Governor’s Councils. He also initiated the first Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon, the longest running triathlon in the 48 contiguous states.
In addition to other health and fitness related positions, Dukes shares his expertise in physical fitness by serving as a frequent speaker on worksite wellness topics at regional and national meetings.
Dukes continues to compete in road races, trail races, and track meets. Recent finishes include second place in steeplechase at the USATF National Track and Field Championships in 2013 and first place in 2014; World Championships in Lyon, France; 18th in steeplechase in 2014 – one of three on U.S. Team and finished ahead of runners from France, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, India, Canada, Greece, and Germany. He finished first in age group each time in the 2013 Kauai Half Marathon, 2015 Louisiana Half Marathon, 2018 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon, and 2018 Hogeye Marathon. He also qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2019.
Dukes and his wife, the former April Denson, reside in Ridgeland and they have two children, Erin and Kyle; and four grandchildren.
Jake Nester - Lake (deceased)
Lake High School’s favorite native son Jake Nester was an outstanding player for the Hornets and later returned to serve as a successful coach in his professional career and was loved and respected by many in leading his alma mater’s baseball program.
In football, Nester was a four-year starter and lettered during the same four years. He earned All-District honors for three years and All-State one year. He led the Hornets to state playoffs three years.
In baseball, Nester was a five-year starter and lettered during the same time. He earned All-District four years and All-State for two years. As a junior, he helped the Hornets win the state championship in 2000 under the leadership of Coach Wyatt Tullos and finished runner-up as a senior. He was selected to play in the DM Howie All-Star game.
After graduating in 2001, Nester advanced to East Central Community College on a baseball scholarship and started both of his seasons for the Warriors. He was named to the All-State team during his sophomore season.
Nester graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in education and returned home to teaching and coaching at Lake High School with the baseball, softball, and football teams. He eventually took the reins as head baseball coach.
Nester also loved to play golf and he loved his family very much.
A lifelong resident of Lake, he was a member of the First Baptist Church of Lake.
Nester, 38, passed away on May 21, 2021.
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Perry Fletcher - Morton
Perry Fletcher served his alma mater of Morton High School both as an outstanding basketball player and coach and has continued to distinguish himself as a mentor of young men throughout his career in athletics as a coach at several high schools in Central Mississippi.
Fletcher started his career with the Morton Panthers where he played from 1994 until 1997. During that time, he was named to the All-Division Team three times and was named District MVP twice and to the All-State Team twice. He made two appearances in the MHSAA state tournament. He was named MVP twice in the Scott County Tournament and received the Lindi Callahan Scholar Athlete Award. He graduated from Morton as a top five Honor Graduate in 1997.
Fletcher moved to the collegiate level at Jackson State University on athletic and academic scholarships and played from 1997-2001. He was a two-year starter for the Tigers and a member of the 2000 SWAC championship team while making an appearance in the NCAA tournament also in 2000. He was a three-year College Scholar Athlete of the Year and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 2001.
He advanced to Alcorn State University where he earned a Master of Science in secondary education, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2002. In more recent years he has worked toward a Master of Divinity degree at Wesley Theological Seminary.
In his coaching career, Fletcher has spent time leading teams at Morton High School, Forest, Newton, and Murrah High School. He led the Bearcats to the 3A state championship final before heading to Murrah. At Newton, Fletcher helped the Lady Tigers win the 2A girls state championship during his two years there, leaving with a 52-7 overall record including 29-2 in the second year.
Culminating in 321 wins and 120 losses over 14 years, Fletcher’s coaching ledger is full of success on the courts. He has five MHSAA state tournament appearances, 2017 Class 6A state championship runner-up, 2016 Class 3A state championship runner-up, two South State 3A championship titles, and MHSAA 2019 Girls Coach of the Year.
Fletcher holds two titles for the Region 5-3A district championship titles and two Region 6-6A tournament championship titles. He was named Coach of the Year for Region 5-3A in 2014 and 2015. He was named Coach of the Year for Region 4-2A in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
On the collegiate level, Fletcher served as assistant head coach in 2001-2004 at Alcorn State University.
Off the court, Fletcher is the author of “24- A Coach’s Devotional” which is rated as Mississippi coaches top devotional.
Fletcher moved on to serve as assistant principal and head boys basketball coach at Terry High School. He also serves as pastor at Greater New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and resides in Brandon.
Sandy Puckett Keenan - Scott Central
Sandy Puckett Keenan was a scoring machine for the Scott Central High School Rebelettes during the mid-1960s as she represented her schools in the athletic arenas and beyond.
Keenan averaged 36 points per game during her senior season and tallied more than 50 points on three outings. She outscored the total of the opposing team’s points 10 times also as a senior. Keenan’s number 10 jersey was retired and remains on display in the trophy case at Scott Central.
At 5 foot 6 inches, Keenan had all the height needed to score 1,279 points as a senior who knew how to find the basket from all areas of the court. Her achievements were more notable considering there was no such thing as 3-point shots.
Often referred to as that “Flashy Rebelette Forward” or “Dandy Sandy,” Keenan scored 57 points in a 93-28 victory. It was a school record that stood for decades until Victoria Vivians broke it. Keenan met Vivians at Mississippi State University a year after she had tied a state single game scoring mark with 68 points in the 2014 South State Championship. Keenan informed Vivians it was her record she had broken and got a kick out of Vivians’ response: “You scored 57 points? But you were so little!”
Keenan helped to lead Scott Central to a 35-4 record as the 1965-66 Rebelettes won several invitational tournaments and the first Cherokee Conference title. Keenan scored 34 points, making 18 of 18 free throws to take a 1-point victory in a district championship. Keenan averaged 39 points, scoring 48 points in her final high school game.
Keenan received All-District, All-State, All-South, and MVP honors. She scored 14 points and made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to secure a 40-38 win for the South in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game.
Keenan finished her last two years of high school with the Rebels after transferring from Morton where she was the only freshman to receive an award at their athletic banquet. During her sophomore year at Morton, Keenan tallied 365 points averaging 15.2 points per game with a best outage of 29 points.
On the collegiate level, Keenan participated in basketball, tennis, and volleyball at East Central Junior College. She averaged 27 points in her freshman season on the hardcourt. As a sophomore, she scored 54 points as a record that still stands as the most points scored by an East Central women’s basketball player. Among many honors, Keenan was inducted into the East Central college’s Hall of Fame.
Keenan played basketball and served as a student instructor in tennis at Mississippi College. She earned a bachelor's degree in physical education and later a master’s degree in counseling at Southeastern Louisiana University. She earned an Educational Specialist degree in counselor education from Mississippi State.
Keenan spent much of her professional career as a counselor and test coordinator with the West Jasper School District in Bay Springs. She resides in Jasper County with her husband, John. They have three children, Kate Covich (Sean), Lyle Keenan (Tina), and Tina Bonner (Bruce); five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.