Iberville Parish Government’s first Juneteenth event honored a man who has inspired many through a simple – yet highly effective – approach to a good life. 

“I just keep the faith,” guest speaker Joe “The Pro” Simpson said. “I just give it all to God… that’s been my biggest thing for the longest time.”

Joe

Simpson, who was a dominant figure in collegiate and high school sports, was the honoree for the celebration June 17 at Iberville Parish Courthouse. 

“Some people have thought I was a preacher,” he told the crowd of approximately 100. “I tell people how important education is and how great God is… I’m just doing the right thing.” 

It took self-motivation for him to find success.

He was a member of the Iberville High School Class of 1969, the final year the all-Black public school was in operation. It closed at the end of that school year when integration began in Iberville Parish. 

Iberville High School’s s final year coincided with the basketball team’s first state championship in 30 years.

Simpson emerged as one of the greatest basketball players in the school’s history. 

He said the articles by then-Plaquemine Post sportswriter Mickey “Rico” Rivet made a big difference.

A crowd at Iberville Parish Courthouse listens to a message from guest speaker Joe

“If it wasn’t for him, people wouldn’t have known anything about us,” Simpson said. “He was the man who brought us out.”

By seventh grade, he was dunking a basketball and became a dominant force on the squad. 

He averaged 30 points a game his freshman year of high school and 40 points a game his sophomore season.

Johnson played basketball one season at the University of California at Berkley. He played basketball with Charlie Johnson and Philip Neal.

He and his friends occasionally would make the short drive to San Francisco to see NBA games at the Cow Palace. 

“I saw every NBA team come through the Cow Palace,” Simpson said. “It wasn’t just about basketball – we saw Willie Mays all the time.”

Simpson transferred to Louisiana to play at Grambling. 

At 6-3, 195 lbs., Simpson averaged 18 points a game his first season and Grambling and 23 points a game the following season.

Simpson was one of the fastest players on the team. 

He bypassed his senior year due to family issues.

“I had some opportunities, but some I had to pass it up because of some unfortunate situations,” Simpson said. 

He eventually worked as a contractor at Dow Chemical. 

During the 1990s, he had a four-year stint as a motivational speaker on Donaldsonville radio station KKAY-AM 1590.

Simpson and his wife, Catherine, have four children and numerous grandchildren. 

He’s retired, volunteering his services to kids throughout the area and helping the West Baton Rouge Council on Aging in Port Allen, where he now lives.

Simpson spends his time overseeing his nonprofit organization “Save the Youth Crusade.”

“We’re concerned about our children – all children,” Simpson said. “I’m advocating education and knowing who God is, because He’s the one who’s going to make education go.” 

Simpson said he wants to use his motivational abilities to make a difference in the lives of people young and old.

‘Everyone says I have my way with words, and I’ve been doing that for the longest,” he said. “I always work to encourage people and lift them up – it’s something we all need at some point.

“We all go through some stuff – we all have our ups and your downs – but God will always make a way. I just keep the faith and try to help bring people up when they’re down.”

He said it takes a humble attitude and a genuine to draw respect.

“I’ve always treated my brothers – white or Black – like you were somebody,” Simpson said. “The only race I know is the human race.”