SWAC Announces 2011 Hall of Fame Class
The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced its Hall of Fame class for 2011. The six inductees; Jesse Mason (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Richard Stebbins (Grambling State), Jessie L. Harris (Mississippi Valley State), Wilbert Ellis (Grambling State), Lonnie Walker (Alcorn State) and Lewis Tillman (Jackson State) will be enshrined in the SWAC Hall of Fame on Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. The induction is set to begin at 6 p.m. with a reception.
Mason was a standout player for UAPB (A.M. and N. College) in the late 1950's. As an All-SWAC performer in the 1959-60 season, Mason captured the conference scoring crown, averaging 26.7 points per contest. He was an All-Conference pick 1958, 1959 and 1960. Mason was inducted into the UAPB Hall of Fame in 2007.
Stebbins made his mark at Grambling in track and field and later in professional football. From 1963 to 1967, Stebbins and his teammates vaulted Grambling in the annals of SWAC, NAIA, the United States and International Track and Field. Among his many accomplishments, Stebbins was a 4-time NAIA All-American, 3-time All-SWAC and a Gold Medalist on the World Record U.S. Olympic Men's 4x100 meter team at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Following a stellar collegiate career, Stebbins drafted by the New York Giants and played two years with the Giants and Houston Oilers. Later, Stebbins served as Head Track Coach at Grambling before joining the football coaching staff of SWAC Hall of Famer Doug Porter at Howard University.
Harris coached the MVSU women's basketball program for 28 years (1973-2001). During that period, he took the Devilettes to new heights winning three SWAC championships (1988, 1989, 1993). He was named SWAC Coach of the Year three times (1982, 1987, 1988) and BCSIDA National University Coach of the Year in 1988-89. He led two MVSU teams to the Women's Basketball National Tournament and the AIAW and Black College National Tournaments. He is a member of the MVSU Athletics Hall of Fame and MVSU National Alumni Hall of Fame.
Ellis was an assistant baseball coach at Grambling State for 17 years and the head coach for 26 seasons (1977-2003). He earned SWAC Coach of the Year honors seven times (1981-Western Division, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1991, 1998, 1999). His teams made three NCAA Tournament appearances. He amassed a record of 745 wins, 463 losses and one tie in his career at GSU. He has been honored by the NCAA as one of the Top 50 coaches with 200 wins. Ellis is a member of the GSU Alumni Hall of Fame as well as the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Honored by GSU in May 2011, the Tigers' Basetball Complex is now known as the RWE Jones and Wilbert Ellis Baseball Field.
Walker was a four-year starter at Alcorn State (1964-68) He was Freshman of the Year (1964-65), All-SWAC 1965-66 and a member of the Braves' SWAC Championship teams in 1966-67 and '67-'68. Walker also lettered in Baseball and Tennis at Alcorn State.
Tillman had the task of following in the footsteps of Jackson State and Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton. After a red-shirt season in 1986, he recorded the "best year ever for a Tiger running back", shattering Payton's 13-year-old single season rushing record by more than 300 yards. He gained a SWAC best 1,474 yards. When he completed his career at JSU, he held the school career rushing record of 3,989 yards, breaking Payton's mark of 3,563. Tillman was named SBN-All America and SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1987. He was also a Walter Payton Award finalist, Walter Camp All-American, Jake Gaither Award Winner and 2-time Kodak All-American. He was the MVP of the East-West and Blue-Gray All-Stars games and is a member of the JSU Sports Hall of Fame. Tillman was drafted in the fourth round of the 1989 NFL draft by the New York Giants. He played for the Giants five years and two years for the Chicago Bears.