8th Annual Newport Alumni Hall of Fame Banquet

The 8th Annual Newport Alumni Hall of Fame Banquet will be held on Thursday, Aug. 25 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Newport Country Club. Hosted by the Newport Special School District Charitable Foundation, the event will honor the following outstanding graduates with induction into the Newport Alumni Hall of Fame.

Wardell B. “Poppy” Pennington was a member of the Class of 1943 and attended Newport High School through the 11th grade where he lettered in football, basketball and track. Working all the while, it was during this time that he met his first and only sweetheart, Dorothy Collier – the same woman to become his wife of 56 years and mother of their three children. NHS is also where Poppy’s legend started taking hold. He took care of people – especially those who couldn’t care for themselves, and he wouldn’t tolerate a bully. Pop never started fights, but he sure was good at finishing them. Over all of his 93 years, there has never been a story wherein Poppy got whipped.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Poppy didn’t hesitate. Pennington joined the U.S. Air Force as an Engineer and Gunner in the 489th Bomb Squadron. During WWII, the sortie expectation for bomber crews hovered between 25 and 30 combat missions. Poppy flew a staggering 65 missions over the European Theatre, receiving 4 Bronze Stars and numerous medals and commendations.

Though he left the armed services after the war, Poppy never stopped serving. He and Dorothy opened a number of restaurants in Newport, and their burgers became a food-stuff of legend in and around the state. Money & Poppy’s restaurant was the recipient of various “Best Burger in the State” awards, receiving accolades nearly every year they were in business.

Pennington was a very active member of Umsted Memorial Methodist Church. In 1996 and at the age of 81, Poppy had already attempted retirement three separate times. In most recent years, he started volunteering at the local food bank, and continued serving others until his last day – literally.

Bobby A. Huey graduated in 1952 as an honor student and was in the top five of his class. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy-Soils and obtained a Master of Science degree in 1965. In his early years, Huey played semi-professional baseball in the Delta League and in the Southeast Missouri League.

Through the years, Huey got to know the state and its variety of crops through positions as an assistant county extension agent in Cross County, an extension farm management position in Clay County and as an associate county extension agent in Corning. He served as Lonoke County extension staff chairman from 1965-1970. In 1970, Huey became the first full-time rice extension specialist at the university’s rice branch experiment station in Stuttgart, where he would spend the last 20 years of his career.

Huey has helped farmers improve income by incorporating new technology using various methods, working with the entire agricultural industry. He helped develop a unique Rice Information document in 1970 and the DD50 program that are both still being used today. Huey did the first rice verification trails in 1983 that are still in existence, which verifies his work has had lasting value.

Huey presented educational programs in Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. He helped establish a rice production program at the University of Florida and University of Porta Rica. He spent 17 days in Egypt as part of a review team to USAID to review a rice project. Huey was also invited to participate in the International Weed Society meeting at IRRI in the Phillippines.

Honors include the Distinguished Rice Research and Education Award for outstanding achievements and contributions to the American Rice Industry/Rice Technical Working Group, Extension Specialist of the Year, an Arkansas Farm Bureau Service Award, the Arkansas Rice Festival Appreciation Award, John White Outstanding Extension Award, and a “Friend of the Farmer” Award from Riceland Foods, Inc. In addition, Huey was granted “emeritus” rank by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees in appreciation for “contributions to the progress of the University of Arkansas,” and he was recognized for 30 years of service to Arkansas agriculture by the Arkansas Plant Food Educational Society.

Since his retirement in 1990, Huey has traveled to 38 states, written 26 books mostly for fun, and he built a retirement home with his own two hands, which took two years to complete. He currently resides in Jackson County and spends winters in Florida.

Mark “Redbird” Ramsey, a 1977 graduate of Newport High School, came from humble beginnings. His younger sisters (Lisa and Sabrina) and he were abandoned by their parents when he was 6. Raised by his late Grandmother Pearly Mae, Ramsey had to work all through his middle and high school years to help his Grandmother make ends meet. He played and lettered for the Newport Greyhounds football team where he earned his nickname “Redbird” and was voted “Most Likely to be Remembered” by his classmates.

Ramsey was a member of the JROTC throughout his high school career. He enlisted in the U.S. Army while still in school under their “delayed entry” program. He entered active duty upon graduation where he was stationed at Ft Bragg, NC as an 82nd Airborne qualified Helicopter Crew Chief and door gunner. While in the Army, he qualified as an Expert with the rifle, received the Army Commendation for Outstanding Service, and the Army Good Conduct awards. After a weekend trip to the United States Coast Guard Academy to visit his childhood best friend and past Hall of Fame Inductee Charles Ray, Ramsey applied for admission into the Academy and was accepted in 1979. He finished college at Eastern Connecticut State University with a dual degree in Mathematics and Computer Science.

In his 30 + years of professional experience, he has become an industry recognized expert in Information Security and Compliance. He has directed all aspects of information security for several Fortune 500 companies such as Pitney Bowes, General Electric, and Stanley Black and Decker. During his tenure at these companies he received the United Technologies Outstanding Employee Award, and the Pitney Bowes One Standard Excellence Award. Mark was also featured in the January 2006 issue of the Information Security Magazine. He is currently the Chief Information Security Officer for ASSA ABLOY Americas. He is responsible for the implementation and administration of all information security policies and technologies for over 4,000 employees in North, Central, and South America.

In addition to his day job, Ramsey is starting his 31st year as an adjunct professor teaching graduate and undergraduate courses for the School of Engineering at Fairfield University, a top Jesuit College in the U.S. He currently teaches 5 Information Security Courses he developed for the Master Degree students in the Software Engineering Program. He has twice been named to the Who’s Who of American Teachers and has received the Outstanding Faculty Award. He was also awarded the prestigious “Fellow of Institute Award.” Ramsey also serves as President of the Connecticut Chapter of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, which is a public/private partnership between the FBI and the private sector. It is an association of persons who represent businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement/public safety agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the U.S. Mark was just nominated as President of the Year for 2016. He will be honored at their national conference in September in Orlando.

He and his wife Mary live in Trumbull, Connecticut, where they have raised two daughters, Meredith and Emily.

1965 Newport Greyhound State AA Champion Basketball Team was the only state basketball championship Newport has ever won. The team had a record of 27-3 and included Statistician Jimmy Case, Manager Scott Henderson, Ronnie Stites, Freddie Sweat, Phillip Sexton, Coach Butch Duncan, Patrick Brosh, Bobby Blanshard, Robert Chatman, Jimmy Holt, Ricky Canard, Coach Bernis Duke and starters Don Smotherman, Bill Holt, Mike Allen, Bill Osier and Paul Massey. Team members represented the classes of 1965-67. Massey, Allen, Sweatt and Case are gone but will never be forgotten.

The Hounds averaged 70 points per game in the state tournament, breaking the record of 69. The margin of victory of 18 points broke the old record set in 1959. Attendance in the finals of the tournament was 6,145, which beat the old record by 1,143 fans. This was the largest crowd to witness a basketball game in Arkansas history up to that time. They defeated Mountain Home in first game, Mablevale in the second, Greene County Tech in round three, and Harrison in the finals.

“The fan support was incredible, and the lines of Newport cars traveling to and from Little Rock was unforgettable,” said starter Bill Osier. “The huge outpouring of support from the Newport fans made this one of the most remembered sporting events in Newport sports history, not only for fans, but also for the players who have long appreciated this as such an exciting experience.”

The 1965 AA State Basketball Champions had a record of 27-3 and were Region Champs as well as State Champs. Bill Holt and Paul Massey were selected to the All State and All Region teams. Bill Osier was selected to the All State team, and Don Smotherman was selected to the All Region team.

Cheerleaders for that year were Janie Coe Steen, Brenda Hemenway Albright, Connie Davis Cook, Carolyn Cross Jones, Mary Smith Baker, Nan Castleberry Cox, Mary Katherine Beaumont Williams, Becky Travis McCartney, and Cynthia Keedy Smotherman.

The Hall of Fame was created to recognize and honor Newport alumni who have made exceptional contributions in their chosen field while exhibiting outstanding leadership, character and service to his/her community.

Tickets for the event are on sale now at the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce, 201 Hazel Street in Newport, and are $25 per person. Checks can be made payable to the NSSD Charitable Foundation. For more info, call (870) 523-3618 or email newportfoundation@yahoo.com.