Helfrich, Tatum Chosen as 40th recipients of Hub Award


An innovative jurist whose work with those battling addiction has transformed lives and a successful business entrepreneur building on a family legacy of leadership and service have been chosen for one of Hattiesburg’s most prestigious honors.

Forrest County Circuit Court Judge Robert B. Helfrich, and Robert O. “Rob” Tatum Jr., principal developer and owner of CR Properties, LLC in Hattiesburg, will be presented The Hub Award Tuesday, Nov. 13, during a banquet and program at Hattiesburg’s Lake Terrace Convention Center. Now in its 40thyear, the Hub Award recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to the local community and demonstrate a commitment to excellence and dedication to the public good.    

*A native of Columbus, Helfrich graduated from Callaway High School in Jackson. Following military service with the U.S. Coast Guard, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. He returned to Jackson to practice law for two years before moving to Hattiesburg in 1987, where he launched his career in public service, beginning as an assistant public defender. 

In 1998, while working an assistant district attorney, he was lead prosecutor in the successful prosecution of Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, for the 1966 firebombing and murder of Forrest County civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer. 

Helfrich was elected Forrest County Circuit Judge in 2002, and soon after taking the bench in 2003 created the first Drug Court in the Pine Belt. That was followed in 2011 with Helfrich and his team establishing Mississippi’s first Veteran’s Treatment Court. Both programs offer lifesaving treatment and rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. 

Helfrich’s continued commitment to helping those coping with addiction is underscored by his work with state and national treatment courts, including service on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the state Drug Court Advisory Committee. 

*Tatum is the great-great-grandson of one of Hattiesburg’s founding fathers and former mayors, W.S.F. Tatum. A graduate of Hattiesburg High School, he was a first baseman on HHS’s 1997 state champion baseball team. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi and an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans. Tatum is also a graduate of the Mississippi Economic Council’s Leadership Mississippi; a member of the Southern 7 Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization; and in October, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Hattiesburg Public School District Hall of Fame. He is a deacon at First Presbyterian Church.

Tatum’s award-winning real estate company, CR Properties, has been a key player in recent revitalization efforts in downtown Hattiesburg, with the rehabilitation of the America and Faulkner buildings in the city’s historic center. The company also established the first senior living project in the area with The Claiborne; and recruited the first Hotel Indigo to Mississippi as well as other retail and condominium interests that make up The District at Midtown, a popular new commercial development next to the University of Southern Mississippi. CR Properties is also engaged in construction projects outside of the state, including in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina. 

In addition to his work in real estate development, Tatum serves on the board of directors of his family business, Tatum Development Company (The Merchants Company) and Mississippi Tank Company; Trustmark National Bank’s Advisory Board, and the Executive Board of the Area Development Partnership; and previously with the board of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association. 

“Our Hub Award recipients for 2018 certainly exemplify its purpose - to recognize individuals who, through their work and service, have over time helped make our community the wonderful place it is to live and raise a family,” said Southern Miss President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey Lucas, who serves as secretary for the Hub Award Committee. “Judge Helfrich and Rob Tatum are role models for achievement and selfless sacrifice, and we’re thrilled to name them the 40thannual recipients of this honor.” 

Proceeds from support of the Hub Award program over the last four decades have produced more than $500,000 in scholarship funds, benefitting students attending The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University through the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation’s Hub Award Endowment. 

To reserve a seat for the 2018 Hub Award ceremony and banquet, contact the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation at 601.583.6180. 

About the Hub Award
Established in 1979, the Hub Award originated as “Bobby Chain Day,” with a group of community leaders honoring the contributions and service to the community by the late Bobby Chain, a prominent businessman and former mayor of the city, who also served a term on the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). The honor continued annually as the Hub Award, recognizing individuals who followed Chain’s lead in bettering Hattiesburg and the quality of life of its citizens, through their own achievements and commitment to service.