He first fell in love with PRCC while driving ‘Ole Pearly’. Now Francis Herrin has earned another prestigious honor

He first fell in love with PRCC while driving ‘Ole Pearly’. Now Francis Herrin has earned another prestigious honor

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Francis Herrin has been an unwavering supporter of Pearl River Community College Athletics for nearly 70 years. On July 28, PRCC will present him with the Spirit of a Wildcat Award at the Hall of Fame ceremony at Hollywood Casino & Resort in Bay St. Louis.

"Mr. Francis has been a member of our Pearl River Community College family for over 65 years. His generosity, leadership and commitment have provided life-changing opportunities for our students," PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. "His life of service and humility continues to serve as an example for all of us.

"Throughout his life, Mr. Francis Herrin has been a staunch supporter of Pearl River Athletics. His passion for the Wildcats is easily recognizable and appreciated. While I know Mr. Francis is not comfortable being in the limelight, he is most deserving of this recognition."

Herrin talked about what the honor meant to him.

"I have a lot of pride in Pearl River," he said. "People have said that if you cut me, I'd bleed maroon and gold. I love Pearl River and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my involvement. This is a very great honor."

Herrin is only the second recipient of the Spirit of a Wildcat Award, following close friend Dub Herring, who was honored in 2022.

In addition to Herrin being honored on July 28, the Wildcats are inducting Craig Franklin, Jim Murphy, Norma Noel and Dr. Thomas Royals into the Pearl River Community College Athletics Hall of Fame, presented by Keith's Superstores; PRCC's 2002-03 men's and women's basketball teams, 2012-13 men's basketball team and 2012-13 men's and women's soccer teams are also being recognized during the ceremony.

A native of Prentiss, Herrin and most of his classmates attended Pearl River right after high school.

Herrin's first involvement with PRCC's athletics teams came during his sophomore year when he was named the school's bus driver. Herrin sat in the front seat of the old International Bus that was affectionately referred to as "Ole Pearly" and chauffeured the Wildcats all over the state to compete.

"I hauled all the athletes. Baseball, basketball, football and sometimes even the band," Herrin said. "Whoever needed hauling, I was involved with it. I drove a bus while I was in high school, so I guess that's what qualified me to drive "Ole Pearly."

Herrin talked about what helped him decide to drive the bus.

"I was offered a half scholarship to drive the bus, but that wasn't the only reason. In high school, I wanted to play football so bad that I could taste it, but I was so small I couldn't play," he said. "I ended up as the football team manager during my senior year of high school. I always loved football, so it gave me a chance to be around the team."

Herrin talked about the most memorable night to him while driving the bus.

"I carried the football team up to Jones. After the game, the team had to shower and get a bite to eat, so we were always the last ones to leave," Herrin said. "Just south of Hattiesburg, we came up on the bus with the cheerleaders and string of pearls broken down. I had to turn around and pick them up. I had a load of people on that bus. On some of the hills, I had to get in low gear to make sure we could make it up them and get back to Poplarville."

After Herrin graduated from PRCC in 1958, he enjoyed a 40-year career as a surveyor with Shell Oil Company in Jeanerette and New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2004, Herrin became a season ticket holder for the Pearl River football team.

"I lost my wife to cancer in 2004. Around that time, or maybe a little before, was when I first started buying season tickets," he said. "I've had season tickets for football for around 20 years."

As a season ticket holder, Herrin didn't miss many games — home or away. Herrin and former Director of Development Foundation/Alumni Association Ernie Lovell made most of the journeys together.

"Me and Ernie went to quite a few of the away games," Herrin said. "I told Ernie I'd furnish the car and the gas and drive up there, but he had to drive back because I didn't like driving late at night. He was fine with that, so it was our agreement."

Herrin's love for the Wildcats even expanded out of state lines as he made the trip to Coffeyville, Kansas, for the 2004 National Championship and to Mount Pleasant, Texas, for the 2006 National Championship, hitching a ride on the charter bus to both destinations.

Herrin has continued to support Pearl River football over the years, and in 2019 when the renovation of Dub Herring Park was completed, Herrin purchased a pair of lifetime seats. 

In 2002, Herrin was named PRCC's Alumnus of the Year. Twelve years later, in 2014, Herrin was inducted into the Pearl River Community College Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame. 

Herrin and Joyce created the Francis and Joyce Herrin Scholarship, which is awarded annually to graduates of Jefferson Davis County High School.

Herrin is an active member of the Alumni Association, is a past chairman of the Development Foundation Board, and is currently on the Foundation & Alumni Board of Directors.

While ticketing and sponsorships for the 2023 ceremony are closed, supporters can get a head start on nominations for the Class of 2024 by submitting their candidates at https://prccathletics.com/hof/Hall_of_Fame_nomination_form. Anyone who's interested in becoming a PRCC sponsor can do so by contacting Director of Athletics Patrick Ochs at 601-403-1365 or pochs@prcc.edu.

For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).