The Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) was organized in May 1964 at Fontana Village, N.C., at the behest of Tennessean Evan Means. The meeting attracted nearly twenty writers, three of which are still members today.
SEOPA Treasury contained $35.26 in 1965 as a result of a $3 assessment passed at the Pinehurst, N.C., conference for publication of a newsletter.
Tom Rollins was hired as executive director. An office was established in Clinton, Tenn., and equipment was purchased. The Excellence In Craft Awards program and the Tom Rollins Award were initiated by Dean Wohlgemuth at the April Sapphire Valley, N.C., conference.
At the end of its first decade, SEOPA boasted 95 active and 39 corporate members.
Meetings were decreased from twice annually to once because of an increase in gasoline prices.
SEOPA was chartered.
The offices of secretary and treasurer were divided because of the growth of the organization.
SEOPA logo was redesigned to include Arkansas. Medical, legal and tax advisors were added as ex-officio members of the board during the 1980’s.
Sharon Coe (Rushton), SEOPA’s first woman president, initiated the annual mid-year meeting of the board prior to the 1986 conference in Sheffield, Ala.
Soc Clay initiated the SEOPA Education Fellowship Endowment with the goal of awarding college scholarships to deserving Southern students in outdoor-related fields.
Tom Rollins retired as executive director. Carle Dunn was hired to replace him and the SEOPA office was moved to Zwolle, La. During Rollins’ tenure, SEOPA grew to nearly 400 members with assets of almost $20,000 and acquired a reputation as the largest, most active and progressive regional outdoor press association.
SEOPA became incorporated as a 501(c) (6) nonprofit corporation in the state of Louisiana.
The annual SEOPA conference auction/raffle became an important fundraiser, thanks in large part to the generosity of corporate members.
To facilitate SEOPA business matters, the office of treasurer was combined with the executive director’s duties, centralizing administrative and financial operations at one location.
A membership audit procedure (criteria review) was established to enhance professionalism.
Outdoor Tables and Tales cookbook was published as a long-term fundraiser for SEOPA. Members contributed recipes, stories, art, photos and poems to produce the book, which sold more than 30,000 copies during the first six months of publication. SEOPA still receives royalties from the cookbook.
Gail Wright succeeded Carle Dunn as executive director at the Lake Charles, La., conference in 1992. The SEOPA office was moved to Gilbert, S.C.
West Virginia, Missouri and Texas were added to the SEOPA area, increasing organizational coverage to 14 states. From 1992 to 1996, under the direction of Wright, SEOPA membership climbed from approximately 375 to 579. Following her resignation in 1996, Wright was granted honorary lifetime membership status in the organization by the board of directors.
At the Virginia Beach, Va., conference, Stephanie E. Wise was selected to serve as executive director, and the office was moved to Sumter, S.C. Wise served until December 1999.
Gail Wright returned as interim executive director.
Lisa McDowell (Snuggs) was hired as executive director and the office was moved to Unionville, Tenn.
The first Southeast Outdoor Showcase debuted in Gulf Shores, Ala. The Showcase was the brainchild of corporate member Susann Hamlin of the Colbert County (Ala.) Tourism and Convention Bureau. It was designed to bring SEOPA members together with tourism professionals for an intense exchange of information and ideas. Cathy Summerlin developed and chaired the program, which raised approximately $10,000 for SEOPA the first year. The Showcase has since been incorporated into the annual Fall Conference.
A new website was unveiled to include links to members’ sites and a color version of the newsletter.
Still under the direction of Snuggs, SEOPA moved to North Carolina, where it continues to thrive.
SEOPA established the Outdoor Journalist Education Foundation of America Inc. (OJEFA). Researched and developed by SEOPA Life Member Gail Wright. OJEFA is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation dedicated to further education, research and network opportunities in the field of outdoor journalism for students, active outdoor journalists and outdoor journalist organizations.
For the first time in SEOPA history, the annual conference was cancelled because of weather. Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast one month prior to the scheduled conference in Morgan City, La. Though Morgan City was spared major structural damage, it immediately became an outpost for emergency personnel and evacuees from affected areas. An abbreviated conference was held at Walt Disney World, Fla., to allow SEOPA to conduct business pertinent to the organization. Thirty members and spouses attended.
OJEFA awarded the inaugural Lindsay Sale-Tinney Award for SEOPA Conference Scholarship to Bryce Butner.
Gary Giudice and Jim Shepherd founded the Tim Tucker Memroial College Scholarship for Outdoor Communications to be awarded by OJEFA.
Under the direction Kathy Barker, board member and chairman of the Webstie Committee, SEOPA launched a new website.