MLK Black Tie Banquet welcomes former Hattiesburg mayor

Former Mayor of Hattiesburg, the Honorable Johnnie Dupree, is the keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr., Black Tie Banquet, sponsored by the West Point Chapter of the NWPA, Inc. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

The National West Point Alumni, Inc., will hold its largest fundraiser of the year in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr later this month.

The NWPA awards scholarships to help graduating seniors with college tuition. The is the 22nd annual MLK Black Tie Banquet to be held in West Point.

The banquet is at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at the Community Counseling Gymnasium with the keynote speaker, the Honorable Johnny Dupree, former Mayor of Hattiesburg. The evening's theme is "Dreaming the Possibilities."

Jermaine Jackson will be providing the entertainment during the event.

"We are very pleased to have the Honorable Johnny Dupree as our speaker," Chapter President Bettye Swift said. "We are looking forward to hearing from him, what his plans are for the future. He is always working on the improvement of our state."

Dupree became the first African-American mayor of Hattiesburg in 2001, after winning 53% of the vote. He was very popular as mayor and was re-elected twice in the next decade. During his first campaign for mayor, Dupree ran on a platform of improving the educational opportunities and protecting small business.

"We are hoping Johnny Dupree will continue to be in Mississippi politics," Swift said. "He is well respected for what he accomplished in Hattiesburg."

The MLK Black Tie Banquet has a change of venue, according to Swift. It will be held at the Community Counseling Services Gymnasium at the former Mary Holmes College.

"We always have great support from our community," Swift said. "We want to be able to give young people that little extra nudge to attend college after graduating from high school. Even if they are awarded other scholarships and grants, there are always more expenses than can be anticipated."

Swift said the members not only buy tickets and attend the banquet, but many provide the food, as well. Allowing for funds raised to go strictly for the scholarships.

"We usually honor someone in the community that goes above and beyond," Swift said. "This year it is not a person. We want to honor and give our thanks to Northside Christian Church."

Northside hosts many community events throughout the year, such as hosting many members of the Historically Black Universities and Colleges, so area young people could talk to them about what they offer in the way of higher education.

"That was such an important thing to offer young people," Swift said. "Northside offers a health fair each year to everyone who wishes to come. It is a wonderful thing for our elderly and those who are underserved medically. They brought Mike Espy to speak at their banquet last year and have Bern Nadette Stanis coming this year. They offer Tuesday Morning Sunday School, just so much that Northside does for those who are not members of their church."

The NWPA will also be paying tribute to the late Cyril Chandler, a man of character and persistence who supported the organization.

"He always supported us with our procurement of plaques, making sure everything was accurate," Swift said. "And he would help with our programs for events. he meant a lot to us. We miss him."