The 9th Annual Newport Alumni Hall of Fame Banquet

The 9th Annual Newport Alumni Hall of Fame Banquet will be held on Thursday, Aug. 24 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.


John Robert Purdy, Jr., a 1958 graduate of NHS, grew up on Walnut Street in Newport and became an Eagle Scout under the direction of Scoutmaster Ray O. Fann. Following high school, Purdy attended the University of Arkansas where he was a member of the Fabulous XI of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.


In 1961, he joined his parents at Purdy’s Flower Shop, which was established by his mother in 1931.  For the next 50 years, John and his wife Rosanna, expanded from the original flower business to include a large selection of gifts.  In 2012, the couple sold Purdy’s, which remains the oldest single family-owned business in Jackson County. The Purdy family served the families of Jackson County for 81 years.


Over the years, Purdy was active in both professional associations and community service.  He was a member and past president of the Board of Directors as well as served as Chairman of Advertising and Communications of the Arkansas Florist Association.  He was a member of Rotary International for over 50 years where he was a past president and a Paul Harris Fellow.  He also served as a member of the Rotary Regional Selection Committee for Group Study Exchange in Northeast Arkansas.


Purdy donated countless hours over the last seven years as President of the Walnut Grove Cemetery Association.  He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Newport, the Methodist Men and a leader of Methodist Youth Fellowship.  He will be remembered for his strong work ethic, his commitment to excellence in all of his endeavors and, most importantly, as a true friend.  Family, friends and the Newport community was extremely important to Mr. Purdy, and he believed that Newport was the best place in the world.


Austin Grimes, MD graduated from Newport High School in 1946 and was president of his senior class.  He was an Eagle Scout and junior assistant scout master under Charles Brosh at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  Dr. Grimes received flight training at Newport Auxiliary Airfield during WWII, and was licensed as a pilot in 1945.  He was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at the University of Arkansas where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1950.  He went on to graduate from UAMS in 1955, interned for one year at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami before joining the Air Force.


Dr. Grimes graduated from Flight Surgeon School at Randolph Air Force Base, served two years active duty and returned to Jackson Memorial for three years as a resident in general surgery and orthopedic surgery.  He was recalled to USAF for the Bay of Pigs affair, then returned to Little Rock to complete the four-year residency.  He practiced solo for five years before forming the Little Rock Orthopedic Clinic with two others.  Dr. Grimes retired from surgery at age 65, saw patients for another five years and volunteered with St. Vincent free clinic for another three years until retiring fully at age 70.


Life didn’t quite slow down after retirement for Dr. Grimes.  He completed a second term on the vestry at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock, took art classes and was trained as a docent at the Arkansas Arts Center where he led tours for six years.  He became a founding member of an art co-op in Little Rock after he began painting in oils.  His work has been included in calendars for the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association and for CARTI.  A highlight of recent years has been his participation in the Delta Visual Arts Show in Newport.


Joseph Wayne Black, NHS Class of 1970, received a Bachelor of Science in Business from Arkansas State University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Mr. Black has been an Arkansas Congressional Office Manager for U.S. Representative Blanche Lincoln, worked for the Department of Economic Development at Arkansas State University, served as a professional consultant for numerous businesses and organizations, and has worked as a local farmer.  He has served on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and many other local, state and national committees and boards, which have all resulted in invaluable worldwide travel and networking opportunities.


He was a member of LeadAR (Leadership Arkansas), Phillips County Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge and PLUS (Professional Leaders United for Service) Club.  He has served as Jackson County president and a former state board member of the Urban League and as a board member of Delta LISC, a non-profit provider of affordable housing in the Delta.


He is retired president of Southern Bancorp Financial Partners, a non-profit for economic development and subsidiary of Southern Bancorp, which is the largest rural development bank in the country.  Capital Partners helps develop economies and schools in struggling areas.  In 2011, Governor Mike Beebe appointed Mr. Black to a seven-year term on the Arkansas State Board of Education.


Dr. Patti J. Mullins, DDS was valedictorian of the Newport Class of 1975.  She was also a member of the inaugural class of Newport Greyhound Whippets. She attended the University of Arkansas for three years and completed college at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a degree in chemistry.  Following college, Dr. Mullins attended the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry where she graduated in 1983.  She returned to Newport to practice with Dr. Mike Brown before opening her own practice where she has been for the past 34 years.


Dr. Mullins has been very active in the Newport community.  She has served on the boards of the United Way, Newport Area Chamber of Commerce, American Cancer Society, Jackson County Council on Tourism, Newport Hospital, ASU-Newport Patron Series and the ASU Developmental Board.  She is a member of the Newport Rotary Club, where she has served as president and is a Paul Harris Fellow, as well as a member of Chapter R PEO, the Jackson County Council on Tourism and Newport First United Methodist Church.


She was a member of the 8th New Vision Newport leadership development class.  Dr. Mullins served four years as a PortFest Festival director in charge of the Captains Ball and remains a PortFest volunteer.


Dr. Mullins created the Newport Christmas Decorating Fund approximately 13 years ago, which has resulted in an ever-growing collection of Christmas displays in and around Newport including 125 pre-lit Christmas trees, the Nutcracker exhibit at the farmers market pavilion, displays at the Jackson County Courthouse and Iron Mountain Depot, and the newest display at the new downtown veteran’s park.  In addition, she provides the largest private Christmas display in the region at her home that includes a life-size nativity scene, a talking Rudolph and a virtual Santa that attracts both the young and the young at heart.


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