Occasionally, but not nearly often enough, an item crosses your desk that seems perfectly appropriate.
Here’s one: The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Southern Tennis Foundation (STF) have seen fit to create an annual college scholarship to honor the late Jim Warren, former president of USTA-Mississippi.
It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate way to honor Warren, a Ripley native and long-time Jackson resident. Warren, a graduate of Southern Miss and Ole Miss law, dedicated much of his adult life to tennis and higher education.
“That’s just perfect,” Southern Miss President Joe Paul, a close friend of Warren’s, said. “Jim donated so much of his adult life to the sport of tennis and in support of higher education. Jim would be tickled about this scholarship.”
Malinda Warren certainly is. Malinda and Jim Warren married in May of 2004 after a one-year courtship. Malinda was a devoted, competitive tennis player. Jim had never played. He took up the game at age 41.
“Because I was obsessed with tennis, Jim wanted to learn to play,” Malinda Warren says. “So he took up the game, took a lot of lessons and became skilled enough to enjoy playing. We played a lot of mixed doubles together. But he often joked that his skill set was such that he was much more adept at the administrative part of the sport than the actual playing.”
So, as Jim Warren was wont to do when he became involved with any pursuit, he dove head-first into the governance of the sport.
“Someone asked Jim to be on some committee and pretty soon he was running the committee,” Malinda Warren said. “He just kept moving on up.”
Boy, did he. When Jim Warren died suddenly at his home in August of 2021, he was serving on the USTA’s Southern Board of Directors. In 2015 and 2016, he served as president of USTA-Mississippi. He was a member of the USTA’s national Constitution and Rules Committee. He chaired the USTA Southern Constitution and Rules Committee. No telling how high he might have risen up the USTA’s administrative ladder. And all that is just touching the surface. He also served as a tennis official at various competitions.
The USTA also has honored Warren with a plaque on the Avenue of Aces, the walkway just in front of Louis Armstrong Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open is contested. The fully endowed Jim Warren Scholarship, worth $1,000 a year, will go to worthy students who have been involved in tennis during their high school years. Primary criteria will be academic achievement and promise, civic involvement and character. Selection will be made by the STF’s College Scholarships Committee.
Jim Warren’s friends – and this writer is one – are not at all surprised that he would take up a sport so late in life and then become a driving force within it. That was Jim.
One spring day as a high school senior at Ripley, he decided to visit Southern Miss, where he had never been. That’s a 550-mile round trip from the top end of the state to nearly the bottom. He went by himself, driving his little Toyota pickup truck. Once in Hattiesburg, he met a co-ed who showed him around the campus and he immediately took a liking to the place. Indeed, he liked it so much that he decided to go meet the president, who was then Aubrey Lucas. Warren had no appointment.
But Warren walked into Lucas’s office, introduced himself, shared his high school credentials and his vision for his future. He left Lucas’s office with a USM Presidential Scholarship, and, Lucas will tell you, “a friend for life.”
Warren became president of the student body and president of his fraternity (Kappa Sigma). He later would serve on the USM Foundation’s Board of Directors and as president of the Southern Miss Alumni Association.
He was a do-er and a leader, Jim Warren was. Besides his law firm, he also held leadership positions in the Mississippi Bar Association, River Hills Club and his church and Sunday school. You see, if Jim Warren was going to be involved in anything, he was going to have a say and an influence.