Community servants recognized for devotion to athletics

Published 3:05 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Students were not the only recipients of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame awards Tuesday night. Community servants Ray Simpson, Ken and Sue Beesley were recognized for devotion to athletics in the Miss-Lou.

Simpson works with Rex Team Sports and won the Contributors to Amateur Football Award. In 1976, Simpson started his career with Wade Craig at Sports Center as a freight man after going to Delta State to study Accounting. 

Craig bought Rex Sporting Goods in the late 80s and Simpson learned the team business from A.I. Rexinger. One of the memorable lessons he learned from Rex is to always deliver the head coach his polo before anything else. Rex Sporting Goods has now grown to nine full-time road salesmen. The recognition he received last night was more about the people he has served in his career. 

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“This is really about those kids I have been a part of their careers over the last 47 years. I feel fortunate to be a part of their life and help them learn about the game of football,” Simpson said. “The most gratifying part of my job for me is I go to a lot of campuses. I can go to a high school campus and I will hear the kids say ‘there is the sports guy,’ or ‘there is the Rex guy/’ It is gratifying. At football games, I can watch both teams and realize their equipment came through our company. It makes me feel good about the whole thing. When I studied to be an accountant, I knew I would wear a suit and tie and be stuck in an office. I am traveling a lot to campuses and running roads going from school to school. It is way more important than being stuck in an office. This was the best route for me.” 

He and his wife Kitty of 45 years are active members at First Baptist Church Natchez. Simpson served as a past president of the Dixie Boys Baseball League, the Delta State Alumni Association and was the original organizer of the River City Run Marathon. He considers himself lucky to have sold to legendary coaches Joey Porter, Dee Faircloth, Bishop Robert Cade, David King, Tom Williams, Ed Reed, Bobby Mark, and Bob Ulmer. 

“I am completely blown away and honored by this recognition from the NFF and more so humbled my name will be listed with these giants from Adams County and Concordia Parish,” Simpson wrote. “I grew up calling on a lot of these folks and still do call on some of them.” 

A long list of former Contributors to Amateur Football winners included Coach A.I. Rexinger who first owned Rex Sporting Goods. Simpson talked about his experience Tuesday night over the phone Wednesday and said, “It was really humbling. To me it is just humbling I would even be considered to be on the list with those legends. Most of those names I saw in their offices or in their gymnasium.” 

Rex Sporting Goods is still going strong after Sports Center owner Wade Craig died in 2021. His son Wyatt has taken over the business and is keeping the company moving forward. Simpson said Rex is in a moving phase. 

They have sold their building on MLK Drive and will move to a location on Belt Line Road near Co-Lin and Alcorn State’s Natchez Campuses. Simpson said dirt is being moved and a slab will soon be poured for a new building. Aside from Rex Team Sports brief stint at the Sports Center location, Simpson said they have mostly worked in 100 year old buildings. 

“I don’t know what it will be like working in a new building,” Simpson said. “I have contemplated retirement but right now, there is no way I’m going anywhere. I want to be a part of this move. Our future is bright.” 

Not much has changed in his 47 years working in sporting goods. His highschool sweetheart Kitty just retired from a 45 year career with Byrne Insurance Agency.  They met in high school and were chosen as Mr. ACCS and Miss. ACCS. 

He was a sophomore and she was a freshman when they started dating in 1970. Kitty followed him to Delta State and they were wed in July of 1977. 

“She is the only gal I have known my whole life. I’m lucky and fortunate she chose me,” Simpson said. “At Rex, other than coaching changes and equipment improvements it has been the same. We weather the occasional competitor storms but it is mostly the same. My wife and I are a few of the folks left in this country who work for the same people all of their lives. Not much changes at our house.” 

Distinguished educators

Ken and Sue Beesley received the Distinguished American Award. Ken coached football and baseball at Cathedral for 36 years, his son Craig Beesley followed in his footsteps and grandson Andrew Beesley continues the Beesley tradition of coaching and teaching. 

Sue worked in the Natchez-Adams County Public School system for 30 years. She was often found in D’evereux Stadium cheering on the Green Wave each Friday night. They now enjoy watching Andrew coach.

“It just means a lot to me. I had a fun time with Cathedral. I’m proud of Cathedral,” Ken said. 

“The award was a surprise,” Sue said. “It means the world to us to see Andrew coaching. We love the school and it is wonderful to see our grandson coaching. It keeps us going.”