10 Notable University of West Alabama Alumni

notable University of West Alabama Alumni

Since the University of West Alabama’s Livingston campus was established nearly two centuries ago, the school has watched thousands of promising graduates receive their diplomas and step out into the world armed with newly-acquired knowledge. From athletes to musicians, a handful of notable University of West Alabama alumni have specifically made their marks in their respective fields of expertise and on society as a whole.

The people on this list are among those who have positively promoted the UWA name through their talents and exposure on an influential scale. Learn more about these 10 Notable University of West Alabama Alumni!

Ken Hutcherson

Hutcherson, who passed away in December 2013, played linebacker for Livingston University (now UWA) from 1970 to 1973. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He went on to play for the San Diego Chargers, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. In 1976, he was placed on the injured reserve list with torn knee ligaments and left the team. He became a pastor and helped start the multicultural Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington.

Geneva Mercer

Mercer, a native of Jefferson in Marengo County, was a sculptor and accomplished painter who attended the State Normal School at Livingston (now UWA). Mercer’s best known works now live at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, University of Alabama and University of Montevallo. She was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

Jimmy “Orion” Ellis

Known for his singing voice that was similar to Elvis Presley’s, Ellis, who went by the stage name, “Orion,” played at small clubs near Livingston while attending Livingston State University. Orion played off of the fact that his speaking and singing voice mimicked Elvis’, leading some to believe that Elvis had not actually died in 1977. Orion passed away in 1998 at age 53.

Malcom Butler

Butler is a cornerback for the New England Patriots. During his senior year playing football at the University of West Alabama in 2013, Butler broke up 18 passes and had two interceptions, earning him a spot on the first team of the All-Gulf South Conference at cornerback. He was on the Patriots Team that defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI and is known for a famous play that set the Patriots up for victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

Kevin Guy

Guy is the head coach of the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Guy played wide receiver and defensive back for Livingston University from 1991 to 1995 before entering the Arena Football League with the Minnesota Fighting Pike, followed by the New Jersey Red Dogs and then the Orlando Predators.

Lawrence Samuels

Livingston University alumnus Samuels, who earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and a master’s in education from the school, is a former arena football coach and wide receiver/linebacker. He started playing arena football for the Tampa Bay Storm in 1994, followed by the New Jersey Gladiators and then a return to the Storm. In June 2008, he became the first receiver in AFL history to record 1,000 career receptions, and he was inducted to the AFL Hall of Fame in August 2013.

Jeff Branson

Currently the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Branson was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round of the 1988 MLB amateur draft. Through his playing career, he played for the Reds, the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

James Crawford

Before moving to Australia in 1982, Crawford attended Livingston University and Cumberland College in Kentucky. He played basketball in the Australian National Basketball League from 1982 to 2003 and played an integral role helping the Perth Wildcats win three NBL Championships during the 1990s. He is currently third on the list of all-time NBL scorers with 11,121 points, scoring an average of 22.1 points per game. He was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2013.

M.K. Turk

Turk played for Livingston University in the now non-existent Alabama Collegiate Conference from 1963 to 1964 during which time he was the lead scorer on the team. Turk was named Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Athlete by Livingston University and was recognized by Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He then served as the graduate assistant coach for Livingston University from 1964 to 1965 and as assistant coach from 1967 to 1968. Turk went on to win several coaching titles through his work at various colleges including Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Memphis State University and University of Southern Mississippi. He was inducted to the Livingston University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.

Johnny Shepherd

Shepherd played running back at Livingston University, where he was named Honorable Mention All-American in 1982, All-Gulf South Conference in 1981 and 1982 and is a member of UWA’s Team of the Decade from the 1980s. He tops the UWA career rushing chart with 2,057 yards on 387 carries and holds the single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 13, rushing yards with 955, touchdowns scored with 15 and rushing attempts with 182. He established the single-game rushing record of 189 yards against Tennessee-Martin in 1982 and was inducted into the UWA Hall of Fame in 1997.


We are proud of these and other notable alumni that continue to make the UWA name one that is honored and respected nationwide!

Visit us at https://uwa.augusoft.net/ to continue your education with UWA Online!

4 thoughts on “10 Notable University of West Alabama Alumni

  1. thomas garland smith, jr says:

    would be nice to see past alumni and and those who have passed away…in the past we could see this information…now no longer

  2. How does one inquire about changing the photo for Johnny Shepherd? The photo listed above his write up is not him. He has plenty action shots that can be chosen via google images from his time playing professionally.

    • UWA Continuing Education says:

      Hi there – thank you for bringing this to our attention. We apologize for the mixup. Mr. Shepherd’s photo should now be updated to match the one used on his page in the UWA Athletics Hall of Fame.

  3. Michael Jackson says:

    Otis Hughley should be on this list of notable alumni. He coached Leflore High School to a national ranking, He coached DeMarcus Cousins , an NBA all star; Escalade from tStreetball fame and Mark Jackson’s brother. Coach Hughley was also an Assistant coach in the NBA, and he led a women’s African team to 3 championships an an Olympic Berth. He is now coaching the Alabama A & M basketball team. Finally, he played professional football in the Canadian Football League.

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