In its 125 years Gulfport has produced many notable people. Some are well known and others, while not famous, made important contributions to the city, state, and country that are still being felt today. Others continue to work toward making the city a better place. Here we present just a few outstanding names representing history, government, sports, modeling, writing, education and aviation. The list is by no means complete.
Born Lemuel Barney in Gulfport in 1945, he played football at Jackson State University and for the Detroit Lions where he was Rookie of the Year. He was noted for his exceptional skills as a defender. Barney played in six Pro Bowls and after retirement was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.
Also born here in 1945, Karen Graham graduated from Ole Miss and headed to New York City planning to be a French teacher. While shopping she was discovered by Eileen Ford of the well known Ford Agency. Graham became a model and was featured on the cover of Vogue magazine 20 times. During the 1970s, she was the model/spokeswoman for Estee Lauder cosmetics. She is also known for her avid interest in fly fishing.
Byron Patton Harrison represented the state in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a Democrat. He was chairman of the influential Senate Committee on Finance, and was instrumental in the passing of several New Deal legislative acts including Social Security. In 1939, Washington correspondents named him the most influential senator. Because of his distinguished service, the Pat Harrison Waterway District was named for him. This district includes flood control, water management and recreation.
A graduate of Gulfport High School and the University of Mississippi, Brittney Reese is an inspiration to young people. She is the indoor record holder for long jump. An Olympic gold medalist, she is a seven-time world champion. Now retired, she is an assistant track and field coach in California.
Chris Jackson (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf)
Jackson played basketball at Gulfport High School, Louisiana State University and for the NBA. In his two years at LSU he was a leading scorer, named SEC player of the year and consensus first team All-American both seasons. In 1990 he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. A first round pick, he played for the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies. After converting to Islam, he changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Known as an editor of newspapers in Mississippi, Clayton Rand was a columnist, writer, publisher and public speaker. He owned the Dixie Press in Gulfport and founded Coast tourism publications. A graduate of Mississippi State University and Harvard Law School, he is best known as the author of Ink on my Hands.
The Rev. Dr. Jane Stanley is a standout in education. She founded Westminster Academy which operated for 45 years, was curriculum specialist at Mississippi State University and assistant to the vice chancellor for university affairs at the University of Mississippi. Twenty-six years ago she and Dr. Gail Cotton established The Nourishing Place in a shed as a nondenominational church and outreach ministry. No longer meeting in a shed, they nourish minds as well as souls with their tutoring program in reading and math and their food and clothing distributions.
Joseph Thomas Jones
As co-founder of Gulfport, Joseph Jones’ statue overlooks the park and harbor he built. An entrepreneur who made his fortune as an oil producer, Jones saw opportunity in South Mississippi. He funded construction of the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad and the Great Southern Hotel. Jones’ heir, Grace Jones Stewart, donated to the city a tract of land along the water to be used for recreational purposes. Many residents and visitors continue to enjoy Jones Park.
William Harris Hardy
The co-founder of Gulfport and founder of Hattiesburg, Hardy has quite a few namesakes in both cities. He was a businessman and lawyer who served in the state legislature, as a circuit judge and built a railroad from Meridian to New Orleans. In 1945, the USS William Harris Hardy, an 18-thousand-ton cargo vessel was christened in Pascagoula.
John C. Robinson
Interested in airplanes from an early age, Robinson was inspired by flights he saw in Gulfport and did much to open aviation to Black people. He graduated from Tuskegee Institute and began an aviation school. He is referred to as the father of the Tuskegee Airmen because he inspired this group of pilots who saw service in World War II. He is best known for his service in the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force against Fascist Italy, earning the nickname Brown Condor. He was also instrumental in establishing Ethiopian Airlines.