Servant Hearts

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Alumni

Two Hinds alumni who have been dedicated elected officials in RankinCounty are retiring as of January 2024. Both Rankin County Chancery Clerk Larry Swales (1969)of Brandon and Rep. Tom Weathersby (1965) of Florence have been faithful public servants to Rankin County citizens but have also served Hinds Community College well as advocates.

Larry Swales

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Larry Swales’ story as a successful Hinds Community College alumnus is not unusual: He graduated from Forest Hill High School in south Jackson, came to Hinds to start his college career and dated his now-wife Linda while they were students, marrying in 1970.

Academic classes “on the hill,” in his words, weren’t for him. Instead, he excelled in the hands-on Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program “down the hill” in vo-tech programs on the Raymond Campus. He won awards, participated in the Circle K service organization and worked on campus changing ballast in light fixtures.

Hinds helped him find himself. “I can’t say enough about Hinds. It is a very family-oriented college with great instructors and great staff that care about you. You’re not just a number. They care about you as well, and they help you succeed in life and succeed in whatever career you’re trying to fit into,” he said.

After leaving Hinds, he served in the U.S. Navy and then operated his own HVAC business for a time. He has spent most of his adult life, however, as a public servant, both in Rankin County and at Hinds.

He served on the Rankin County Board of Supervisors from 1988-2008 and was elected as Rankin County Chancery Clerk in 2008. In January 2024, he begins a new season of life as he retires from his elected position.

One thing that won’t change, however, is his love of and service to Hinds Community College. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees and has served several terms on the Foundation Board of Directors.

Many years ago, President Emeritus Dr. Clyde Muse asked him to serve as president of the Hinds Alumni Association. In that capacity, he has represented the college many times as an unsalaried recruiter at many events, such as high school career days. He said he “never misses opportunities” to promote the college to young people every chance he gets, official and unofficial, especially encouraging them to consider careertech options like he did.

Swales was named 1998 Alumnus of the Year and earned a spot among the 100 People Passionate about Hinds during the Centennial celebration in 2017. He’s a familiar face at Hinds events ranging from golf tournaments to alumni dinners. “If there’s something going on, I’m going to be there,” he said.

Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik said he appreciated Swales’ leadership when he became Hinds president in 2020. “Since the first time I met him over sandwiches in his office, Larry has been as a model of service to Hinds. In reality, he was doing that long before I became president,” Dr. Vacik said. “Larry is the kind of alumnus who remembers the investment that Hinds made in his life and has worked to support the college in making that same dream a reality for others. From his service on the Board of Trustees and Foundation Board to his years as president of the Alumni Association, Larry Swales has not just talked the talk – he has walked the walk. And for that, we are grateful.”


Rep. Tom Weathersby

HHinds Community College has bookended the professional life of retiring public servant Rep. Tom Weathersby, who has been in the state House of Representatives representing District 62 for 32 years.

Hinds kickstarted Weathersby’s career in 1963 when the Florence boy won a scholarship to play basketball, doing well enough to eventually land in the college’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2023, weeks before he retired as state representative after serving Rankin County since 1990, Weathersby closed out his professional career with appearances at the college that included presenting legislative resolutions he co-sponsored to Vice Presidents Emeritus Jackie Granberry and Colleen Hartfield.

As chairman of the joint House and Senate Facilities Management committee, he visited all the community colleges in the summer on a two-year cycle and saw the facilities’ needs that couldn’t be met with local dollars.

Remaining connected to Hinds is important to Weathersby “because I realized how much Hinds Community College and the community college system have done for me. If it hadn’t been for Hinds, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I realize that,” he said.

He has often told his story of being academically unprepared for college when he came to Hinds, crediting his instructors with taking the time to prepare him to move on to the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi College.

“If I had been at a major university I probably would have flunked out the first week. But at Hinds, the teachers took time with me.”

At Hinds, he excelled, being named Student Body President and Mr. Hinds Junior College.

“Maybe I had running for office in my system, as I look back over it, because when I was at Hinds I was president of the student body and I ran for that. That might have been a stepping stone to get me involved in running for the House of Representatives,” he said.

Weathersby’s love for Hinds has been evident in his support for the college, including helping to secure state funding for the Health Sciences Complex slated to open on the Rankin Campus in 2026.

“In the last year or so since that got on our radar, that’s been my top priority,” he said, noting that the current facilities on Chadwick Drive need repair.

The new site on the Rankin Campus “is an accessible place to get to and there is plenty of space there too. And we already own the property,” he said.

Dr. Ginger Robbins, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs, said Rep. Weathersby’s support was invaluable.

“He worked tirelessly to advocate for the new Health Sciences Complex. Without a doubt, the respect and admiration other legislators have for Rep. Weathersby played a pivotal role in securing funding,” she said. “Through this and many other initiatives, Rep. Weathersby will leave a lasting legacy not only at Hinds but across the state, as countless individuals reap the benefits of his service.”

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