Louisiana native, Willie Shepherd began his journey to making Jackson, Mississippi history after graduating from Ferriday High School. An athlete to his core, Willie made the Northeastern University basketball team as a walk-on—but it was his transfer to Jackson State University that would change his life forever.
Before graduating in 1980, Shepard earned a full ride to JSU; his immense ability gained Shepherd multiple titles for the men’s tennis team. Twenty tournament wins, three-time All Southern Athletic Conference player, and two-time Mississippi Player of the Year, and Shepherd continued to lend his skills to Jackson University, becoming head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams. Under his leadership the JSU tennis teams took home six conference titles (five men’s and one women’s), earning Shepherd five SWAC Coach of the Year awards.
In 2000, Willie Shepherd was inducted into the Jackson State Hall of Fame. Only three years after his much-deserved recognition, Willie Shepherd was diagnosed with lymphoma. Sadly, in November of the following year Willie Shepherd lost his life to smoke inhalation caused by an electrical fire in his home
But Willie Shepherd is still here … because of those who loved him. His wife, his sons and the 1,500 students who reached their full athletic potential under his tutelage. Willie Shepherd will forever be a jewel in the crown of Jackson, Mississippi history.
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