(As presented at the Rohe Era, UT track and field reunion dinner, by Marvin West on October 3rd, 2014)
I've known Wilbur Hawkins a long, long time. I remember him as a senior at Fulton High. He was undefeated. He ran so fast in the state 880 that his school record still stands.
Wilbur ran with a fast crowd at Tennessee. On relay teams. He was a two-time All-American.
Wilbur Hawkins was serious about education. He majored in political science. He was involved with student government.
Hawkins went pro in politics. His first real job was as election-day coordinator in a hotly contested Congressional campaign. Wilbur's guy won in a squeaker. Wilbur emerged as a staff member for U.S. Representative Harold E. Ford.
Hawkins had several roles with Shelby County government---management analyst, director of the County Housing Authority and Division Coordinator for Health and Public Service.
In 1976, he was EXECUTIVE ON LOAN to serve as National Meet Director of the AAU Junior Olympics---2500 young people competing at 26 venues with national television looking on.
In 1978, Hawkins joined TVA. He began as a field manager and grew into Kentucky District Administrator and adviser to the General Manager and Board of Directors.
Ten years later, he was executive director of the Lower Mississippi Delta Study Commission. A young governor named Bill Clinton was committee chairman.
Maybe you saw Wilbur on Good Morning America and The Today Show, and in the CNN documentary, “Third World on the Mississippi River”.
A little later the aforementioned Mr. Clinton became President and appointed our Mr. Hawkins as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Wilbur managed the day-to-day operations, served as Commerce representative on the National Disaster Task Force and handled military base reuse and closure economics. Hawkins managed 300 full-time employees.
Hawkins, in later life, did a bunch of other stuff. He has been involved in numerous business ventures---including a customer service call center, a health facility and a green energy company.
He has served on numerous boards and was the co-founder of the Mid-South Junior Golf Association. He is currently president and CEO of Interactive Initiatives. Best of all, he's back in Knoxville, looking after a very interesting old timer, his father, age 91.
My celebrity friend, WILBUR HAWKINS