Guys We Love 2019

Alex Coats

Alex Coats Photo by Acacia Clark.

Each year around Father's Day, we honor men in the Jackson metro area who are making differences in our community. This year's include ones who are involved music, art, medicine, law and more.

Alex Coats


Alex Coats

by Brinda Fuller Willis

As a box-office manager for Ardenland, Alex Coats likes the challenges of his job, such as helping bring a variety of acts to the Jackson area and aiding in the creation a vibrant music scene in the city.

"I love the fact that I get to be a part of bringing live music to Mississippi while challenging myself to put the spotlight on a place that is so culturally rich and important to the global stage," he says.

The 24-year-old grew up in College Station, Texas, and earned a bachelor's degree in communications with a concentration in public relations from Mississippi State University in 2017. While studying at MSU, he helped organized concerts and other events such as Bulldog Bash, so after graduation, Arden Barnett of Ardenland offered him the box-office manager position.

Through his work there, Coats has helped bring a number of performers to the Jackson metropolitan area. Most recently, he and Ardenland worked with Cathead Distillery to organize Cathead Jam, which included acts such as Jackson-based Young Valley, The Revivalists, Aaron Lee Tasjan and more.

Outside of work, Coats enjoys spending time with friends, getting to know people and spending time with his girlfriend, Katie Demetz. He's an avid Houston Rockets fan, but he says, "I'm pulling for the Raptors, but the Warriors will probably win the NBA championship."

For more information, visit ardenland.net.

Arthur 'Reggie' Dampier


Arthur "Reggie" Dampier

by Dustin Cardon

Arthur "Reggie" Dampier had initially wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon because of his love of sports; however, his plans changed when he participated in a health-career opportunities program at Jackson State University while attending the former St. Joseph Catholic School in Jackson. There, Dampier met Dewey Handy, an optometrist who currently practices at Merit Health Central in west Jackson.

"I wanted to be able to get to know each patient on a one-on-one, direct basis. I saw optometry as a great way to accomplish my goals of being an entrepreneur with my own practice and giving back to my community. I also knew I wanted to (come back to) Mississippi to do it," Dampier says.

He received his bachelor's degree from Xavier University in New Orleans, and then his Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis in 1997. He opened Ridgeland Eye Care Center in 2000. The practice has been in its current location in 2008.

Dampier likes to give back to the community. One way is through Optometry Giving Sight, a global fundraising initiative that helps train eye-care professionals and open optometry schools in countries that lack them. Dampier's clinic also collects donated glasses to send overseas with missionary groups, and in the past, he has given free eye exams through the Madison Lions Club. He is the secretary and vice president for the state board of optometry.

"Taking care of eyes is something I think I could do for free," Dampier says. "It's fulfilling to help people with the precious gift of sight."

For more information, visit ridgelandeyecare.com.

D'Artagnan Winford


D'Artagnan Winford

by Mauricio J. Quijano

It was during D'Artagnan Winford's senior year at Leflore County High School in Greenwood, Miss., that an art teacher gave him a book about jobs in art.

"Before then, I didn't know what I would study," Winford says. "My mom told me to go with my God-given talent so I went with art."

After graduating from high school in 1996, Winford enrolled in Mississippi Valley State University in his hometown, Itta Bena. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in art in 2002. That year, he began working for MVSU as a graphic designer.

Winford went to work at Jackson State University as its art director in 2013, and then started as senior art director for Ramey Agency in 2016, where he works on projects for clients from around the world.

In his spare time, Winford, 41, likes to help artists and those who promote the arts gain recognition.

"If I'm browsing through social 
media, and I see someone trying to get off the ground, and I like what they are doing but see that they could use some creative help, I'll offer my services," he says.

Winford designed the logo for local nonprofit Feed Jackson, which organizes Dining with Dignity, an annual event that feeds the homeless.

Lately, Winford has been using his photography to help promote local artists, including painters, dancers and singers. He opened a studio for his art and 
photography in Jackson in 2018.

"I just want to shine a light on the creative community. Jackson is full of 
talented artists," he says.

Winford has been married to Cheryl 
Winford for 14 years and has four children. While he does not force his children to follow similar paths, they have chosen to be involved in the arts as well.

"I like helping them to explore their creativity," he says of his kids.

Derek Finley


Derek Finley

by Dustin Cardon

Derek Finley, bureau manager of business development at 
Mississippi Development 
Authority, says that volunteering as a softball, basketball, and track and field coach for a Special Olympics team wasn't something he once saw himself doing. That changed in 2009 when he began working with Special Olympics Michigan.

Finley had connections to a nonprofit helping people with disabilities in finding jobs. In 2009, the 
group asked him to help them start a basketball program for Special Olympics.

"(Helping with) something like that was something I had never considered doing before," he says. "But ... I decided to go along with it. Then, once I got involved and saw the wonderful experiences the athletes were having, I knew it was something I wanted to do."

Finley, 45, was born in Michigan and attended Albion College in Albion, Mich., where he received a bachelor's degree in economics in 1995. He later received a master's degree in business administration from the University of Michigan in 2006. He worked as a supply executive for various automotive manufacturers after college, and then moved to Jackson in 2012.

In 2013, Finley helped Special Olympics Mississippi establish a track-and-field program, and a basketball program in 2014. He became an assistant coach in softball and flag football for the organization in 2015. He also serves on Special Olympics' statewide board of directors and as chairman of the board.

"It's great to see athletes, especially from low-income areas without a lot of experiences with structured sports, become more well-rounded, thrive and excel after being exposed to it," he says.

Wayne Ferrell


Photo courtesy Wayne Ferrell

by Mike McDonald

Wayne Ferrell once worked a case litigating a plane crash in Iceland. The plane was refurbished as a former vessel for drug runs in South America.

"The plane was involved in a crash before and should never have flown again," the attorney says.

Ferrell negotiated a sizeable settlement for the people killed 
in the crash.

"We got very close to the families," he says. "We invited them over to the states, went to a baseball game."

For the most part, Wayne Ferrell has remained in Mississippi all his life. He was born in Pascagoula in 1946 and, shortly afterward, he moved to Iowa when he was six months old.

"I was raised as a farm boy," he says. "I knew I didn't want to stay there long because I didn't like the cold."

Ferrell attended high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and then moved back to Pascagoula in 1962.

After earning a bachelor's degree in business and economics in 1969 from Millsaps College, he joined 
the U.S. Air Force.

He graduated from Jackson School of Law, now Mississippi College, with his law degree in 1975. He then 
received his Masters of Law degree 
in air and space law from McGill University in Canada in 1981.

"It seemed right to go into aviation law after the Air Force," he says.

Ferrell has owned his solo practice in downtown Jackson since 1995. His firm focuses on litigation, product liability law, commercial law, aviation law and environmental law.

He has also served with Team JXN since the beginning of the group.

"I've been working downtown since the '80s," he says. "You go to Nashville, and it has a vibrant downtown, very clean. This area should be the center of activity.

"I have (acquaintances) who won't come down here. But I haven't had any problems. We're close to Dallas, Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans. ... Jackson should be the crossroads of the South, there's no doubt in my mind," Ferrell adds.

Hugh Hollowell Jr.


Hugh Hollowell Jr.

by Mike McDonald

Hugh Hollowell Jr. had a job in Memphis, Tenn., earning a six-figure salary. He even dropped out of college because the employment opportunity was so lucrative. However, he began to wonder about his legacy.

"I had one of those quarter-life crises," Hollowell says.

The Byhalia, Miss., native had gone north to attend the University of Memphis from 1993 to 1996. He worked at New York Life and ING from 1996 to 2003, when he decided to quit, choosing instead to open used bookstore Midtown Books there. "I went from earning $100,000 to about $18,000 so it was a big change," he says.

During his time in Memphis, Hollowell also got to know some of the homeless people in the city.

"That's one of the reasons I got interested (in that problem)," he says. He wanted to help them.

Hollowell moved to North Carolina, where he had the opportunity to tackle homelessness. He lived there during his 30s and founded a nonprofit, Love Wins Ministries, dedicated to the intertwined struggle of hunger and homelessness.

He worked and lived in Raleigh for 12 years and then moved to Jackson in 2018 to be closer to his family. When he came here, he also wanted to use his background and knowledge to help solve a problem. Now, Hollowell continues his work to alleviate hunger and food insecurity within the capital city. He directs and operates Jackson City Farm, a collective of land plots in west and south Jackson. One is near the Metrocenter Mall, another near George 
Elementary and the third off Highway 18. The overarching goal of Jackson City Farm is to feed people in need.

"We're partnering with Stewpot to bring those served by the Stewpot organization healthy food which they use to serve meals," Hollowell says.

Jackson City Farm currently has two plots with fruits and vegetables, and the organization is working to clear a third one.

"I want people to know they have options when it comes to fresh food," Hollowell says.

Lance Wheeler


Lance Wheeler

by Dustin Cardon

Lance Wheeler, curator of exhibits at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, credits his love of history to his late great uncle, Clarence Ball, who passed away at age 104 in 2016. Wheeler spoke with Ball, who was a World War II veteran, at length for a college senior 
thesis about the obstacles African Americans faced during the Jim Crow era.

"My uncle had to combat Jim Crow every step of the way, and having him share his experiences first-hand gave me a deep appreciation for our history," Wheeler says of the eye-opening experience.

"Sometimes stories can be lost if we wait too long to hear them, so I'm glad to have gotten that history, the oral history, of my family from him while I could."

Wheeler has held his position since Oct. 1, 2017. He is primarily responsible for maintaining the museum's permanent galleries, as well as overseeing the creation and installation of temporary and traveling exhibitions.

He also organizes programs to accompany exhibits in the permanent galleries. In January 2019, he created MLK Poetry Night, which featured poetry performances honoring civil-rights leader Martin 
Luther King Jr. Wheeler also developed a program for young visitors titled "Read," in which the museum brings in special guests such as Jackson first lady Ebony Lumumba to read books for children.

"Many think history is boring 
because they think it's about dates and dead people," Wheeler says. "It becomes much more personal when you can find personal connections in it."

Travis Crabtree


Travis Crabtree

by Dustin Cardon

Travis Crabtree, who has served as a city planner for the City of 
Jackson since 2018, says he has been fascinated with the idea of public and outdoor spaces since he 
was a child.

"I've always been interested in the variety of different places and 
geographies in Mississippi's landscape and how they all differ, with everything from pine forests to wetlands," he says. "Public spaces and urban design connect everything you see and how you interact with your environment."

Crabtree was born in Dallas and moved to Jackson with his mother as a teenager in the early 2000s. He attended St. Joseph Catholic School and received his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University in 2014. He moved to Detroit after graduating and received a master's degree in urban design from the University of Michigan in 2016.

He fiancee Salam Rida, who is also a city planner, moved to Jackson in 2017.

Crabtree has dedicated his time in Jackson to developing public spaces such as parks and working to bring more public transportation into the city.

After he took office, Crabtree partnered with Rida and City Department of Planning and Development Director Mukesh Kumar to establish the city's long-range planning division.

Crabtree has overseen the transformation of a parking area on Congress Street into a small park called a parklet; a bike and foot traffic-friendly transportation corridor called ONELINE; and the 
Fertile Ground initiative, which created murals and art installations throughout the city to raise awareness about food access.

Crabtree, Rida and others are also 
developing the Ecoshed near Fondren.

"I want to help people be engaged with their city and create places that can be both be productive and serve as a place where people can gather and interact," Crabtree says of his passion.

Joshua Wright


Joshua Wright

by Donna Ladd

Joshua Wright was a Clinton High School sophomore when he showed up for the Mississippi Youth Media Project, which I founded, in 2016. Over two summers, I watched Wright grow into a leader. Then last summer, he was a paid video mentor for other YMP students, modeling more than technology.

"I'm learned how to not always push my ideas," Wright says. "I learned to listen to other people's ideas, get constructive criticism. Let people get their ideas out. To step back." He now confronts problems head-on, such as talking directly to 
students who don't act ethically or fairly.

Now 18, and headed to Rust College on a full scholarship, his mother Venetia Miller raised him alone, and well. "I was trying to find who am I as a person—who do I want to be and what do I want to accomplish after high school?" he says.

Wright will study broadcast communications, then work in radio or TV. He prepped by taping football games and practices, livestreaming events, and working on yearbook and newspaper staffs.

"I started growing as a person," he says. "I started speaking in churches. I got the call. I also got the call that I wanted to do media work, camera work."

Wright also had to find a way to pay for college. "School is expensive," he says.

He landed at least six scholarship offers, four of them full rides. He plans to get involved in Rust student government and the local NAACP chapter, and is already selected to sing in the a capella choir.

"It's good to get away and branch out," Wright says. "At the same time, I hate to leave my mom alone."

Wyatt Waters


Wyatt Waters

by Brinda Fuller Willis

Wyatt Waters's favorite way to paint is plein air, or on location.

"I like looking at life as it is," Waters says.

Jacksonians often see him in different locations in the city, painting different scenes, whether it be the Walker's Drive-In sign or even on location at events such as the annual WellsFest Art Night.

Eudora Welty's book "One time, One Place," was an inspiration for Waters when he was studying art at Mississippi College.

"She took photographs of people and places just as they were, no frills, no added prompt and circumstance," he says.

The Brookhaven, Miss., native moved to Florence and then Clinton as a teenager. He received a bachelor's degree in art from Mississippi College in 1980. While at MC, Waters studied under Sam Gore, who inspired him to experiment with watercolor.

Waters' need to paint "en plein air" has led him to different places, including cities around Mississippi such as Oxford and other countries such as Italy. His work has been featured at locations such as the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, the Meridian Museum of Art and the Jackson Municipal Art Gallery.

Waters collaborated with chef and friend Robert St. John on four books: "A Southern Palate," "Southern Seasons," "An Italian Palate" and "A Mississippi Palate." His new book "An Italian Travel Journal" arrives in October 2020.

"I take pleasure in just looking at things as they are," Waters says. "Things are never the way we think they are; there's always a story inside of what you are looking at."


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