When nearly 14,000 athletes 50 and over gathered in Albuquerque in June to compete in the 2019 National Senior Games, it became the largest qualified championship multisport event in recorded history. Media coverage went around the world, in no small part due to a 103-year-old Southern lady and LSU alum nicknamed “Hurricane Hawkins,” who set records on the track and enchanted everyone with her love of life in her media interviews. Julia Hawkins obtained her elementary education degree from the Ole War Skule in 1938, and met her future husband Murray who was a professor there at the time.
That’s impressive, but as it turns out, there’s more purple and gold to this story. A LOT more.
Del Moon, who was among the first graduating class of LSU broadcast journalism majors in 1975, has a long journalism and public relations background and has been the National Senior Games Association’s communications and media director since 2012. When the massive National Senior Games draws near every two years, Moon assembles a team to help manage media relations, social media, content generation, photography and video, public relations and more. Without intending to do so, four of his five key managers turned out to be LSU alumni. “I didn’t set out to go hire LSU folks,” Moon says. “They were simply the best for the job for that situation.”
The 2019 event’s photography manager, Brit Huckabay, graduated from LSU in 1984 – the year the journalism program became the Manship School – with a journalism and advertising degree and has become a successful pro photographer. He took the assignment because of his relationship with Julia Hawkins – his father was taught by Julia’s husband and he has been a longtime family friend.
“I live in Birmingham now and fell in love with the Nationals while taking photos of Julia and many of the other amazing athletes when it was there in 2017,” he explained. “It was so cool to go to Albuquerque and be a part of everything again.”
Another key staff member was Mary Johns, who earned her mass communications degree from the Manship School in 2016. Mary has been on the team twice before, first as an intern in 2015, then returning for a six month contract after graduating to plan the 2017 Games.
“She could not have done a better job,” Moon said. “Even though she has a great full time job in New Orleans now, I asked if she wanted to take a week off to come lose sleep and help run the office and handle social media. To my surprise, she said yes.”
Another LSU alumnus who worked in the Media Center was Jay Hall, the organization’s webmaster and IT consultant. Hall is a 2012 LSU graduate in kinesiology and sports management and has been serving NSGA since 2011.
“The event was very demanding, and everyone put in long hours. But we met every task and deadline and felt great pride that we helped put the event in front of tens of millions of people through media coverage,” Moon adds. “We had a very capable team of journalism students and an advisor from the University of New Mexico that generated content for our Games Daily News online platform, and I was very happy with their work. But it was personally extremely proud that I had a team of LSU Tigers driving the ball down the field.”