HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM) - This week, New Seven has produced a very special Thursday edition of our "Pride of the Pine Belt" segment.
On June thirtieth, we honor an extremely valuable member of our community, a colleague and friend - Mitchell Williams.
Williams is leaving WDAM television, following a twenty-seven year career in broadcast journalism.
Mitchell Williams first came to WDAM in 1984 as a recent graduate of Southern Miss. However, his passion for the business started much earlier following a chance encounter with the station's News Director and Anchor, Randy Swan.
"And he rode his bicycle to a little store and I had stopped there after the six o'clock one day and he was interested in sports, he was a track star and had been an athlete at North Forrest and I didn't know who he was. Just a young boy, and he introduced himself and was super nice. And of course he was kind of I guess you would say awestruck because he got to meet somebody who was on television," explained Swan.
During those high school years Williams wowed crowds on the basketball court and Sue Polk's family made sure they never missed a game.
According to Polk, "My father loved seeing Mitch Williams play. He just thought there was nothing like Mitch Williams, there would never be another player like him. So he would make me request my days off so we could go see him if it was out of town or either trade somehow or another so he could see Mitch Williams play ball."
Following high school, Williams went to Southern Miss as a student athlete where he became friends with Shirley Jones Hill, who played basketball. Hill is now the Associate Director of Athletic Media Relations at Southern Miss.
"I can honestly say that I actually love the man. I really do, he has just been a great friend over the years and there isn't a whole lot that I couldn't tell him," said Hill.
Other members of the Southern Miss family are also longtime admirers of Mitchell Williams. They include John Cox, the Athletic Department's Director of Broadcasting.
Cox said, "When I think about Mitch, the thing that comes to mind is that he cares. You know what he does, it matters to him. And there is not a lot of people you can say that about."
And ever since graduating from Southern Miss, Williams has worked for WDAM, covering many sports legends like Brett Favre.
Williams has known Favre since the late 1980's and more recently the two have spent time with the Oak Grove High School football team.
Favre explained, "I can think of numerous times of Mitch getting out here and running sprints with us. I'd say Mitch I'll do an interview today, but you've got to run sprints with me. Well he makes everyone else look ... he can run with the best of them. And so that was kind of a bad move because he out did us all. But Mitch, this is home for Mitch, much like myself. You know people know who he is but he is a great guy, he's well known in the community - I think he is just an outstanding person."
A shared opinion by many in the Pine Belt sports community like Matt Caldwell, head football coach at North Forrest High School.
"He has a big heart for kids and that is the biggest thing I can say about Mitch," said Caldwell.
During his 27 years with WDAM, Williams has also been a dedicated family man.
Randy Swan explained, "Mitch has got four sons, that he loves dearly and a wife, Sheila. This job has been difficult in that it takes him away from his family at nights and even on weekends. So I know he is looking forward to having somewhat of a normal life again."
That may include being able to watch an entire high school football game, as a fan. Brett Favre said, "Maybe we can catch a game together, it's been a long time."