Mississippi Moments Podcast

Mississippi Moments, a weekly radio program airing on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, is a partnership between the University of Southern Mississippi Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and MPB.

The Podcasts

MSM 494 David Kendall - Freedom Summer and Jailhouse Cheeseburgers

Prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, African-Americans across the South were denied the right to vote through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other tactics of suppression.  In 1964, David Kendall was a 20-year-old Indiana college student. In this episode, he recalls coming to Mississippi to participate in the voter registration drive known as Freedom Summer.

Over the course of that summer, Kendall would be jailed multiple times. He shares his memories of that first arrest and being introduced to the best cheeseburger in Holly Springs.  In preparing for Freedom Summer, Civil Rights workers received extensive training in a variety of tactics, but he explains how growing up on a farm proved surprisingly useful in helping to gain the confidence of black farmers in the Delta.


Image: Voter Registration Holly Springs, McCain Library & Archives, USM

Direct download: MSM_494.mp3
Category:civil rights -- posted at: 9:50am CDT

MSM 493 Thad Pie Vann - His Second Choice

Thad “Pie” Vann was head football coach at Southern Miss from 1948 until 1968, racking up an impressive 19 winning seasons and two national championships. But in this episode, we learn that coaching was not his first choice.

Growing up in the small town of Magnolia, Vann wanted to play professional baseball more than anything. It was his high school football coach that encouraged him to go to college before trying out for a minor league team. During his four years at Ole’ Miss, Vann excelled at football and baseball, hoping to play in the big leagues after graduation. He credits Coach Pete Shields for helping him prepare for a different career path.

Vann was still considering major league baseball after graduating college in 1929, but jumped at the chance to coach football at Meridian High School because of a desire to help his younger sister to attend college. It was while he was at Meridian, USM Coach Reed Green asked him to come to Southern Miss as an assistant. Eventually, he became head coach and achieved national recognition over the next twenty years.

Pie Vann was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1987.

Direct download: MSM_493.mp3
Category:Sports History -- posted at: 9:41am CDT

MSM 492 Rosie Weary - The Mendenhall Ministries

After graduating college in California, Dolphus Weary returned to Mendenhall while job hunting.

In this episode, his wife Rosie Weary recalls their decision to join the Mendenhall Ministries. She describes how the Mendenhall Ministries established a 150 acre farm to teach their young people a good work ethic and explains how the food they grow benefits the entire community.

The programs developed by the Mendenhall Ministries have been designed to address specific needs within the community:

  • When local African-American children needed constructive recreational activities, it was the Mendenhall Ministries that found the solution.
  • In the early 1970s, The Mendenhall Ministries recognized a need for their own medical clinic. She recounts how they met that need.
  • As Mississippi schools integrated in 1970, black parents realized the children were not as prepared as their white counterparts. Weary discusses the formation of the Genesis One School.

Weary concludes by pointing with pride to their many success stories. To learn more about the Mendenhall Ministries, go to http://www.mendenhallministries.org .

Direct download: MSM_492.mp3
Category:Community Activism -- posted at: 9:50am CDT

MSM 491 Harry Marsalis - The McComb Railroad Strike of 1911

The Illinois Central railroad and eight affiliated Harriman lines had traditionally dealt separately with each craft union (boilermakers, blacksmiths, etc.) giving the companies an unfair advantage during contract negotiations in the minds of the unions. When the unions formed a "System Federation" in June of that year, the companies refused to recognize the group and began preparing for a system-wide strike.

Harry Marsalis was a seventeen year old machinist apprentice working at the Illinois Central railroad maintenance shop in McComb when the strike began on September 30th.  In this episode, he describes how the company prepared in advance of the strike by building walled compounds and hiring northern strikebreakers.  According to Marsalis, when the strikebreaker train arrived in McComb three days later, 100 strikers responded to the rock-throwing strikebreakers by shooting the train cars to pieces before the train would escape to New Orleans.  Reports of 30 dead and 100 wounded strikebreakers were denied by the company

Marsalis describes how the town became an armed camp as martial law was declared by the governor, complete with hundreds of state militiamen, machine gun towers and searchlights around the company offices.

After two long years the strike was considered a failure and many of the strikers including Marsalis were forced to leave town looking for work.

Direct download: MSM_491.mp3
Category:Mississippi History -- posted at: 10:56am CDT

MSM 490 Julius M. Lopez, Jr. - Loyola Quarterback

Julius Lopez of Biloxi graduated high school in 1926 without any career plans beyond a goal of attending Tulane. In this episode, he explains his decision to attend Loyola University instead.

When legendary coach Clark Shaughnessy came to Loyola in 1927, Julius Lopez was the third string quarterback.  He describes how he went from third to first in just one game and was thereafter “under Shaughnessy’s wing.”

As quarterback for Loyola, Lopez had many fellow Mississippians as teammates. He remembers the spirited games they played against Ole’ Miss in 1927 and ’28 and Loyola’s 1928 season opener against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Direct download: MSM_490.mp3
Category:Sports History -- posted at: 11:09am CDT

MSM 489 Joseph E. Wroten - The Great Dissenter

Joseph Wroten of Greenville was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1951. During his three terms in office, his progressive views on issues like civil rights often put him in opposition to the rest of the legislature, so much so that he was dubbed “The Great Dissenter” by the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

In this episode, Wroten reflects on Washington County’s history of Progressivism. He discusses the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission—created by the legislature in 1956 to promote continued racial segregation—and why he first supported and then opposed the agency’s formation.

Wroten details how his liberal views often made him the target of threats and hate speech and how his support for the admission of James Meredith to Ole’ Miss cost him a fourth term in office.

PODCAST EXTRA: As a minister’s son, Wroten grew up Methodist in segregated Mississippi. He remembers how the United Methodist Church sought to lead by example during the Civil Rights Movement.

Direct download: MSM_489.mp3
Category:civil rights -- posted at: 10:36am CDT

MSM 488 General Elmo Bell, Pt. 2 - Operation Husky

In preparation for the Invasion of Sicily, a key first step for the liberation of Europe during WWII, the 82nd Airborne Division traveled by boat to the North African city of Casablanca in the spring of 1943 to prepare and train. In this episode, General Elmo Bell of Wiggins recalls the hot, arid countryside and being greeted by the Red Cross.

On the night of July 9th, 1943, U. S. Army paratroopers parachuted behind enemy lines on the tiny island of Sicily. Separated and alone, Bell recounts the harrowing events that followed as he attempted to find and regroup his scattered unit.  His memories of that night and the following day are graphic and disturbing.

After 15 years under fascist rule, the reactions of the Sicilians to Allied forces were mixed.  Bell describes the generational divide of the local population and the large number of political prisoners they liberated.

Warning: this episode includes graphic descriptions of combat!

photographer: Lt. Longini, U.S. Army Signal Corps - National Archives and Records

Direct download: MSM_488.mp3
Category:Military History -- posted at: 10:53am CDT

MSM 487 Brig. General Elmo Bell –  Airborne Infantry 1942: Jump School

In 1942, Brigadier General Elmo Bell of Wiggins was working as a contractor, building barracks for soldiers at various military bases around the South. At that time, he had a low opinion of the Army and so when he came to Hattiesburg, it was with the intention of joining the Marines.

In this episode, he recalls how an Army recruiter convinced him to become a paratrooper and shares his memories of Paratrooper Jump School.  He discusses how the Airborne Infantry attracted a special breed of soldier and why some of the strongest candidates washed out of the program.

PODCAST EXTRA:  As WWII progressed, the equipment Paratroopers used evolved to meet the challenges they encountered in actual combat.  Bell discusses some of the many hazards they faced.


Direct download: MSM_487.mp3
Category:Military History -- posted at: 9:24am CDT

MSM 486 Coach Eugene Chadwick - From MSU to Delta State

Eugene Chadwick was forever tied to Mississippi sports at the age of two when his father was hired as the Athletic Director for Mississippi A&M (now MSU) in 1909.  In this episode, he remembers the days when the entire Athletic Department consisted of his father and one assistant and there was one small facility for all outdoor sporting events: Hardy Field.

After playing football and baseball for MSU, Chadwick’s first job was coaching Greenwood High School’s football team. He looks back fondly on their undefeated season in 1930 when they were only scored on once the entire year for a season tally of 405 to 6.  He also distinguished himself coaching for Laurel in 1945 and is credited for bringing the Split-T formation to Mississippi.

Chadwick served as the Head Coach and Athletic Director at Delta State from 1947 to 1960. He rebuilt the Athletics Program after WWII and led the football team to its first undefeated season in 1954.

Chadwick was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, as well as, the MSU and Delta State Halls of Fame.


Direct download: MSM_486.mp3
Category:Sports History -- posted at: 9:58am CDT

MSM 485 James Jones - The 761st Tank Battalion

In March of 1942, the first African-American armored combat unit was formed at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Viewed by army brass as more of a novelty or public relations tool, the 761st might never have seen combat were it not for General George S. Patton who requested they be placed under his command.  In this episode, James Jones of Laurel discusses the history of the 761st tank battalion. Jones was serving at a replacement depot outside of Paris when he assigned to the 761st as a replacement. He recalls being trained to operate a tank just five miles from the front and how the European populace reacted to seeing black soldiers.

On December 16, 1944, Germany launched a major counteroffensive through the Ardennes Forest in an effort to cut off Allied supply lines. Jones recounts the often overlooked but vital role the 761st played in the Battle of the Bulge.

Direct download: MSM_485.mp3
Category:Military History -- posted at: 10:19am CDT