BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference has announced its 2022 SWAC Hall of Fame Class which is set to be enshrined on Friday, Dec. 16 in Atlanta.
The newest members of the SWAC Hall of Fame were chosen from a list of nominees who were submitted by their respective institutions and selected by the SWAC Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
“We’re extremely excited to welcome another stellar class into the SWAC Hall of Fame,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “We look forward to formally recognizing each of their respective contributions to our league at the upcoming SWAC Hall of Fame Ceremony in Atlanta.”
The 2022 Hall of Fame Honorees includes Alcorn State’s Ella Williams along with Lawrence “Larry” Watkins – Legend, Alabama State’s Rickey Jones, Grambling State’s Robert J. Williams – Legend, Mississippi Valley State’s Jerome Blake along with Robert “Hitman” Gaddis – Legend, and Southern’s Rickie Weeks.
Williams played for the Lady Braves’ Women’s Basketball program from 1980-84. She was named to the All-SWAC team three consecutive times (1981-82, 1982-83, and 1983-84) and was named SWAC Player of the Year (1983-84).
She joined the Braves’ record book as an all-time leading scorer with 2,111 points (1980-84), and rebounder with 1,058 rebounds. In addition, she recorded the most points (791), and tallied the highest points per game average (26.4), while also setting marks in field goals made (320), and rebounds with 291 (3rd from 1983-84) and 265 (7th from 1981-82).
Lawrence “Larry” Watkins, Legend
Watkins became a member of the first football class recruited by the late legendary coach, Marino H. Casem at Alcorn State University. During his four years at Alcorn, Watkins managed to break many barriers and shatter many glass ceilings. Some of his stellar accomplishments include Watkins being named Co-Captain of the football team. Other honors that he received include helping Alcorn win its first SWAC Championship in 1968.
In 1969 Lawrence signed his first contract as a free agent with the Detroit Lions. His hard-hitting blocking became an asset for each team that he would have the privilege to play on for a total of nine (9) seasons. During his football career in the NFL, he played with the following football clubs/teams: the Detroit Lions (1969), the Philadelphia Eagles (1970-1972), the Buffalo Bills (1973-1974) and the New York Giants (1975-1977).
Jones played for the Hornets’ football team from 1988-1991 as the team won the SWAC title in 1991. In addition, the Hornets won the Black College National Championship in the first Heritage Bowl in 1991. He is Alabama State’s all-time passing leader and all-time leader in total offense.
Throughout his collegiate career, he earned MVP of the Turkey Day Classic (1988, 1989, and 1990); MVP of the Steel City Classic (1991), and MVP of the Black College National Championship (1991). In addition, he was named to the 1990 and 1991 All-SWAC Second Team. Jones was drafted by the LA Rams in 1992 in the eighth round and later played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL from 1993-95. The Eskimos won a Grey Cup Championship in his debut season.
Robert J. Williams, Legend
Williams was instrumental in Grambling State’s run of four straight SWAC titles during 1960-64. He was an outstanding pitcher who maintained and established a record of 35-1. In addition, he was honored and selected to be a member of the All-American baseball team for three years. He later played in the Minor League and coached American Legion Baseball during the summer. In addition, Williams had a heart for little league sports as he coached Little League Football and East Baton Rouge Parish Summer Youth Program.
He worked as an educator and administrator with the East Baton Rouge School System for 36 years. Upon his retirement, he continued to work as an administrator. He retired with a total of 50 years as a mentor, teacher, principal, community advocate, and educator. He is a member of the NAACP, AARP, Life member of Grambling State’s Alumni Chapter, Grambling Legend Hall of Fame, Chaneyville Alumni Association, and the National Education Association (NEA).
For over 30 years, Blake’s voice has been heard over the public address system at Mississippi Valley State University and SWAC events. During his time at MVSU, he served as the master of ceremony during the Hall of Fame banquet, athletic banquet, and SWAC Basketball Tournament while also serving as the announcer during MVSU’s Volleyball, Softball and Baseball games.
Blake has also worked as the host of “The Final Score” radio show for the past eight years. Prior to his time at MVSU, he started as a public announcer at Amanda Elzy High School. Blake has over 35 years of experience as a communication specialist. He successfully handles a wide range of functions using a combination of creative and organizational skills as an administrator.
Robert “Hitman” Gaddis, Legend
Gaddis, a five-year CFL veteran who won a Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouette (1977), also was a First Team All-American (1974) on top of being recognized as that season’s Pittsburg Courier National Receiver of the Year.
The 1975 13th-round pick of the Pittsburg Steelers was awarded the NAIA Freshman of the Year (1970) before impacting the league by leading the nation in yards per catch during the 1971 and 1972 campaigns as well as leading the SWAC in that category all four seasons at MVSU with three All-SWAC selections.
Weeks was a prolific All-American hitter who set two NCAA records that are still on the books at Southern. Weeks had a batting average of .465 and a career slugging percentage of .927. The Florida native played for ABCA and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Roger Cador from 2001-03 before embarking on a 14-year Major League career after being drafted second overall in 2003 by the Milwaukee Brewers.
That year, Weeks was the Baseball America Player of the Year, and he won the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy as the Nation’s Top Player. Weeks was the first and only HBCU player to win the coveted Golden Spikes. He was also the SWAC Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Hitter.