In 2012, Paris ISD initiated the Distinguished Graduate Award. This award is the highest award the district can bestow. Raymond Berry, Trent Hancock, Deon Minor, Admiral James Richardson, and Gene Stallings had their first induction ceremony in 2012. Named in 2013 were James Robert (Bob) Biard, Blake Neely, and Eddie Robinson. Added to the Wall of Honor in 2014 honorees were Leslie Satcher and Charles “Red” Scott. Dr. Charles Baxter, Larry Click, Linda Bates Leili. Jay Hunter Morris made the Wall of Honor in 2015.
Former Paris ISD students Dr. Larry “T-Byrd” Gordon (class of 1967/posthumous), Thomas Moore (class of 1958), Lewis “Jackrabbit” Smith (Gibbons High School class of 1941/posthumous) and Dr. Charles Sterling are the fifth slate of Distinguished Graduate Award winners. Homecoming 2016 honored each of them after they achieved national and international acclaim.
People recognized Dr. Larry “T-Byrd” Gordon’s God-given talent at the early age of 11 as an accomplished musician. He played saxophone, earning his nickname by soaring through scales as fast as a T-Byrd sports car. He attended Gibbons High School and graduated from Paris High, but he spent his summers on the road with name acts such as James Brown, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles.
Gordon did not pursue show business right away, having been influenced to continue his education by his high school band director, Dr. Vernon Boelden. He received a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Bishop College, where he later served as head of the music department and director of all college bands. He received his master’s degree from East Texas State University and doctorate from Columbia Pacific University.
Gordon owned his record label, LaMe’ Records. He established a 21st-century Motown-type music complex, encompassing the acquisition, development and international distribution of commercial music and music publishing copyrights.
He was bandleader of his own professional orchestra show band (The Music People Luv Band), performing nationally and abroad before celebrities and some of the most affluent people in the world such as His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, Jerry Jones, Ross Perot, Oak Ridge Boys, Tony Bennett, Oprah Winfrey, Former President George H. W. Bush, Regis Philbin, and many more. To his professional live performance experiences, Dr. Gordon either shared the stage with or opened up for some of the biggest names in the music industry such as Tony Bennett, Lynn Anderson, Willie Nelson, Brooks & Dunn, Gregory Hines, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Tanya Tucker, Rita Moreno, Commodores, Dennis Edwards and the Temptations, and Dave Bartholomew.
His career in music spanned over 40 years. One of his major accomplishments was a 2005 Grammy nomination for “Southern Meets Soul: An American Gospel Jubilee,” by The Jordanaires, The Light Crust Doughboys, Nokie Edwards, & Larry “T-Byrd” Gordon.
Gordon’s music continues as his wife, son, and band family keep the legacy going so that his music continues to resonate nationally and abroad and his memory remains part of the conversation by thousands he touched with his love, friendship, music, and philosophy.
He died on April 18, 2011, leaving behind his wife, Dr. Carrie Forney Gordon, and his son, Larry “Lil’ Larry” John Gordon II who accepted the award on behalf of the family.
Tom Moore retired as vice-president of Chrysler advanced vehicle technology development organization. His team created new engineering concepts and innovative product features such as power sliding doors and liftgate for minivans and SUVs, which today are standard on all competing products.
His organization developed concept vehicles, shown at auto shows, featuring hybrid electric powertrains (mild, plug-in, through-the-road), fuel cells, lightweight materials, and new concept transmissions.
Previously, Moore was Executive Engineer in charge of Ford Motor Company’s light truck advanced engineering organization. He received the Henry Ford Technology Award for the electric shift transfer case.
Thomas Moore has received 32 United States patents.
His superiors elected him as a Society of Automotive Engineers Fellow in 2001. SAE is an international organization with 130,000 members worldwide. The grade of Fellow recognizes members who have made a significant impact on society’s mobility technology through leadership, research, and innovation. There have only been 400 Fellows over the past 35 years.
Moore received an associate’s degree from Paris Junior College, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University, an MBA from Michigan State University, and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Lawrence Tech University.
He served on the engineering school advisory boards of Ohio State University, University of Illinois, Michigan Tech University, and Lawrence Tech University. Lawrence Tech University, Texas Tech University, and Paris Junior College recognized Mr. Moore as a Distinguished Alumnus.
His wife, the former Patricia Pledger, was also a Paris High School graduate in the Class of 1957.
Lewis “Jackrabbit” Smith, Jr., son of Lewis and Thurlo H. Smith, Sr. was born on a share-cropping farm in Sylvan, Texas in 1923. His early education was at the one and two room schools in rural Texas. He graduated in 1941 from Gibbons High School where he was a four-star athlete and received a track scholarship to Prairie View A&M. It was there that he gained national recognition as a middle distance runner by winning at track meets in which participation by athletes from black colleges was rare.
Legend has a tale of how Lewis Smith, Jr. received the name “Jackrabbit.” As a young boy, his father would send him out to catch jack rabbits to bring in food for dinner. He could run fast enough up to the rabbit to feel and then catch it.
World War II interrupted his college career, and he served as a Master Sergeant with the 92nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in Italy, the Philippines, and Japan. After the war, he followed his track coach from Prairie View to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.
During the 1940’s, Smith moved both Prairie View and the Virginia Union into the top echelons of the track world by winning races at such prestigious events as the Melrose Games in Madison Square Garden; the K-C Track meet at Boston Garden, the Drake Relays in Indiana, and the Penn Relays. Also, he won the National Intercollegiate half-mile championship in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1946. He was a two-time All-American in Track and Field at the Virginia Union and a finalist in the 1948 Olympic Trials.
He was a long-time track coach and throughout the state of Virginia knew him where he inspired many young people to excel in a variety of sports. After retirement, he was appointed doorkeeper of the Senate of Virginia.
Prairie View A&M University Sports Hall of Fame and the Virginia Union University Athletic Hall of Fame inducted him. The Richmond, Virginia, Chapter of the National Negro Golf Association, honored him, which initiated an annual tournament, the Lewis “Jackrabbit” Smith Golf Tournament, in honor of his commitment and contributions to the game of golf.
He died on April 26, 1997, leaving behind his wife, Dr. LaVerne Byrd Smith. His nephew, Elwood York, Jr., from Richmond, Virginia, accepted the award on behalf of the family.
Charles Sterling was born and raised in Paris, Texas. He was a member of the National Honor Society, President of the Key Club, and was an all-district basketball and baseball player. It was in Paris that he met his wife of 30 years and mother of his sons, Pat Smith.
He attended Texas Christian University where he was biology major, made the Dean’s List, and was on an athletic scholarship and played two sports in the Southwest Conference. Charles received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Texas A&M Commerce who later honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Citation.
His career began in the Richardson School District where he served as Director of Health Services. In 1980, he joined Kenneth H. Cooper, M. D., and served as Executive Director of the world-renowned Cooper Institute, a biomedical research and education center. Later, he served as president of the Cooper Enterprises, an array of health-related companies. During these years, he traveled throughout the world and became a leading consultant for health related businesses. He cofounded Cool Zebra, a high-tech company and Shakers and Movers, LLC.
Charles has received many honors. The Fitnessgram program, a youth fitness testing, and educational system widely recognize him as the founder. It is being used in 67,000 school districts in all 50 states and around the world. It is now the official health-related test of the United States, endorsed exclusively by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nutrition.
In Washington, D.C. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, presented him the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the recipient of the David K. Brace Award, the highest recognition of the Texas Association of Health and Physical Education. Many other groups have also honored him for this and other breakthrough programs. Also, Nutrigram and Healthy Zones schools are products of his creativity.
He has published a CD with award-winning songs that play on the radio and jukeboxes. He has written rock, country, blues and rap songs. He recently produced a video for people with movement disorders which doctor’s in 678 cities and 67 countries play in their offices.
He and his lovely wife, Susan, his two sons and their wives and his five grandchildren live in Dallas.