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Dr. Robert E. Smith Dr. Willie W. Payne Dr. Fitz Hill Rudy Williams

Arkansas Baptist College president Dr. Fitz Hill, former Pontiac, Mich., Mayor Dr. Willie W. Payne and Total Outreach for Christ Ministries founder Dr. Robert E. Smith will participate in a panel discussion, Politics in Black America, during the free African American Family and Friends Day on Feb. 23 at South Arkansas Community College.
The discussion will be moderated by West Monroe, La., NBC TV news co-anchor Rudy Williams.
The three panelists are highly-regarded speakers in different areas.
Hill, the former head football coach at San Jose State University and a former University of Arkansas assistant coach, co-wrote the recently-published book "Crackback! How College Football Blindsides the Hopes of Black Coaches." Recognized as an expert in this field, Hill's work has been featured on a number of different TV programs, referenced in many newspaper and magazine articles and brought before a special congressional committee. The topic of black head football coaches is especially pertinent at this time; the NFL found itself in some controversy recently since none of its eight head-coaching vacancies were filled by black coaches.
He is a native Arkansan and a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia with a bachelor's degree in communications and physical education, of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., with a master's degree in student personnel services and of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a doctor's degree in education. He also received a Bronze Star and a Commendation Medal for services rendered during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in the early 1990s.
After leaving Houston Nutt's Razorback staff to become the first black head football coach in San Jose State history in 2001-2004, Hill joined the staff of his alma mater OBU. He became the president of historically-black Arkansas Baptist in Little Rock in 2006.
During his tenure the college has gone from fears of bankruptcy and loss of accreditation to growth and unprecedented success, including swelling in enrollment from fewer than 200 students in 2006 to more than 1,100 now.
Payne, a native of Spearsville, La., was the mayor of Pontiac in 2002-2006. His book "The Todd Road Incident" concerns a well-publicized 1983 event in Montgomery, Ala., that involved a Pontiac family and led to racial unrest in the Alabama town.
The book is based on research that Payne conducted as an investigative reporter at The Oakland Press, a Pontiac newspaper, where he worked in 1978-1985. Payne is attempting to have his book adapted into a film.
He is a graduate of Grambling State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Payne left the press and became a police officer for the Pontiac force in 1985, where he worked until 2002. Entering politics, he was a member of the Pontiac School Board before his successful mayoral bid.
Smith, a native Arkansan, began his church in Little Rock in 1981 after a number of years as a traveling evangelist. Through print and broadcast media, Total Outreach for Christ has grown into a global ministry.
Smith also started a private kindergarten-through-12th-grade school, Word of Outreach Christian Center and Academy, in Little Rock in 1989.
His book "The Elimination of Erroneous Distinctions in the Body of Christ" deals with, among other topics, racial barriers in religion. Smith's work has drawn the attention and fervent support of current Fox News talk-show host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, among others.
In 2008, Smith was an Arkansas delegate to the Republican National Convention.
Williams is an award-winning news broadcaster and has been at NBC 10 since 2008. He began his career when he still was in high school in Jackson, Miss. He worked both in broadcast and print journalism jobs in Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Gary, Ind., before going to the West Monroe station.
The panel discussion will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Other highlights of the day include an Arkansas Minority Health Commission health fair from 8 a.m. to noon; a series of workshops such as genealogy research for black families, hip-hop aerobics and organizing a bid for political office from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; a myriad of games geared toward all age groups including a dominoes tournament all afternoon; live musical performances; and a Corvette car show.
Lunch also will be provided, and those who arrive early will have a chance to receive a free African American Family and Friends Day shirt.
Admission to this event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit facebook.com/southark.