Since 1935, Hollis “Roomie” Wilson’s impact has been woven throughout the Southeastern community. Now it will continue in an added way, helping students make their own mark through a new scholarship established in his honor.
BY TONYA LOWENTRITT
Most people know the name of Southeastern’s mascot is Roomie the Lion; however, not many know how he got his name. Our mascot
was named after a farm boy from Monticello, Ms., named Hollis Wilson.
Wilson attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College (SMJC) in Summit, Ms. It was there that he developed a passion for sports. He played football, baseball, basketball and tennis. After graduation, he was named “Athlete of the Year,” and in 1973, he was posthumously inducted into the SMJC Sports Hall of Fame.
To further his college studies, Wilson started at Southeastern Louisiana College (today Southeastern Louisiana University) in 1935. His love of sports allowed him to participate in football, basketball, baseball, and track—and he lettered in all of them. He was a guard on the undefeated 1936 football team and a guard on the basketball team. Wilson was ultimately inducted into Southeastern’s Sports Hall of Fame for Football in 1949 and set a record starting in 39 straight games, becoming known as the “60-minute man.”
Working any job he could to help fund his college education, Wilson joined the construction crew to build Strawberry Stadium in 1937, which only took 16 weeks. He and the other football players resided in the first men’s dormitory that was part of the new stadium. His roommate Tommy Womack nicknamed him “Roomie,” and the name stuck.
Wilson was hired by Southeastern as superintendent of buildings and grounds after graduation in 1939. That Christmas Eve, he married Erhma Lee Hinson, a fellow student from Hammond. In 1942 he joined the United States Naval Reserves and served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, stationed in Norfolk, Va., until the war ended in 1945. Wilson, his wife, and new baby daughter Jane then returned to Hammond, where he ultimately worked at Southeastern as a professor of biology with special expertise in botany and entomology.
To honor her father’s legacy for his dedication to Southeastern, academic excellence and love of Lion athletics, Jane Wilson Alldredge recently decided to establish a scholarship in biological sciences, as well as help fund the soon-to-beconstructed new Athletics Building.
“The many years that I have visited the campus and family in Hammond, I have been so impressed with the growth, both at Southeastern and in the Hammond area,” Alldredge said. “I wanted to honor my father’s memory, so I met with both Dan McCarthy, the dean of the College of Science and Technology, and Jay Artigues, the Athletics director, to see how I could make that happen. As a result of those meetings, I established the Hollis “Roomie” Wilson Endowed Scholarship in Biological Sciences and Research and made a donation to the building fund that will allow the players of all sports to have an updated facility with updated equipment.”
Alldredge added that the building fund donation will also result in the coach’s office being named after her father. “Although he was not the coach, my father represents the many players that will enter that office in the future.”
Both donations are fitting, as Wilson excelled as a professor at Southeastern, very popular with his students, and as an athlete, athletic official, and super fan.
During remarks made honoring Wilson after his passing in 1964, his former roommate, Womack, remembered him fondly.
“I like to remember him as the student who worked at every job that could assist him in completing his college education, taking outside work, such as a basketball official, night-watchman, and even as an off-hour salesman, determined to complete his college work and prepare himself for better things ahead in life,” he said.
Wilson’s dedication and love for Southeastern made him a natural choice for president of the Alumni Association, a position in which he faithfully and capably served. This leadership continued into the world of sports.
“As an athletic official, which began in the 1930s when I, his roommate, saw him learn the rule book—the ‘Bible’ for any official—backward and forward, until his death, he was of immeasurable help to many officials in the field of sports,” Womack explained.
Wilson was in charge of the Tangipahoa Parish High School Officials Association for football and basketball. He assigned officials in the Gulf States Conference and served as president of the Southeastern Conference Officials Association. He also officiated in the NCAA play-offs and at many conference tournaments.
Womack recalled that one of the nicest tributes to Wilson was spoken to him in the privacy of his office by a Hammond attorney, who told him how Roomie Wilson encouraged and helped him as a youth in the city’s recreation program, a program in which he also took a leading part.
“Life was a challenge to Roomie, and he met that challenge head on,” he said.
Wilson’s memory and love of biology and Lion athletics will live on thanks to Alldredge continuing his legacy of giving back to both the University and community he loved.
“His entire adult life was working at Southeastern and being a big part of the Hammond community. He wanted and made a good life for his family,” Alldredge said. “Because of his presence at Southeastern, he was instrumental in helping many people lead meaningful and productive lives.”