Elder Elias Harris of Port Gibson grew up a sharecropper’s son on a plantation near Pattison. In this episode, he recalls that even though their family worked hard every day, they never missed church. From a young age, Harris knew he was going to be a preacher. He remembers how he and his sister would have pretend church services as children.
As a spiritual leader, Harris works with other Port Gibson residents to affect change within the community. He discusses how the group Christian Concerned Citizens tackles issues in an inclusive way. Being a longtime resident of Port Gibson, Harris has witnessed many changes over the years. He explains how white and black spiritual leaders formed a race relations senate to bring the community closer together.
PHOTO: Google Maps
Rosie Washington was sixteen years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Grenada in 1966. In this episode, she recalls how meeting the civil rights icon inspired her to explore activism and school integration. Washington and her siblings were among the first students to integrate the public schools in Grenada. She remembers the severe backlash they encountered from the white community.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Washington’s family hosted several visiting activists. She explains how that experience encouraged her to participate in protests across her hometown.
While picketing in downtown Grenada, Washington and the rest of her group were rounded up and incarcerated. She describes the trauma of being forced onto a flatbed truck and driven to Parchman without representation or due process.
This episode was written by Abigail Wiest, a senior at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi Moments is produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
Willie Mac Blaine was born in Ethel, Mississippi, in 1936. In this episode, he shares his family’s long history in Attala County and how he came to live in the town of McCool. Established in 1883, McCool, Mississippi was a thriving railroad town. Blaine recalls the town in its heyday and how his grandfather helped build the train depot.
Like many small-town banks, the Bank of McCool was unable to survive the Great Depression of the 1930s. Blaine explains how skittish depositors and a sympathetic banker led to the bank’s demise. According to Blaine, the town of McCool began to decline when it was bypassed by HWY 12. He discusses life there today and why so many other communities get their mail from McCool.
PHOTO: McCool Post Office by J. Gallagher
Dr. Stuart Rockoff grew up in Houston, Texas, as the grandson of Jewish immigrants. In this episode, he recalls how a class in Texas History led to a job with the Institute of Southern Jewish life, here in Jackson.
Rockoff became the Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council in 2013. He explains how the Council’s commitment to inclusive storytelling impacted the Two Museums project. For everyone involved with the development of the Two Mississippi Museums, giving a complete and accurate account of our state’s history was a top priority. Rockoff remembers how each word was scrutinized for truthfulness and tone.
As a member of the Two Museums Review Committee, Rockoff’s goal was to insure that all Mississippians could take pride in the stories being told. He discusses why inclusiveness is so important.
Philip Freelon was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this episode, he explains how his family background in Education and the Arts inspired him to become an architect. As a young African American architect, Freelon aspired to design libraries and schools. He recalls how a focus on education and community development led him to several museum projects.
Philip Freelon is proud to have been chosen as the chief architect of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. He laments that so few women and people of color choose to enter the field of design.
According to Freelon, the decision to have two Mississippi museums was an unusual choice. He discusses the positive aspects of having two connected and centrally located facilities.
In 2016, Philip G. Freelon was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He passed away on July 9, 2019.
Kosciusko native W.C. “Billy” Leonard got married and joined the Army in 1940. In this episode, he recalls how his life changed after hearing news of the Japanese attack on a place called Pearl Harbor.
While serving as an artillery officer, Leonard met several people from his hometown. He remembers being pleasantly surprised by one such Kosciusko connection.
Leonard’s artillery platoon was transferred to a base in Burbank, California to await deployment. He recounts how he and his wife were able to tour Hollywood before he was shipped out.
After months of fighting in the Philippine Islands, Leonard was given a 30-day leave before the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland. He explains how dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed those plans.
After the war, Billy Leonard came home and eventually took over Leonard’s Department Store from his father. He ran the business until his retirement in 1985. Leonard passed away in fall of 2005.
Jerry Mitchell was working as a reporter for the Clarion Ledger when he attended a press premier for Mississippi Burning. In this episode, he explains how that event piqued his interest in civil rights-related cold cases.
After the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was dissolved in 1977, its records were ordered sealed for 50 years. Mitchell recalls how he was able to get a look at those files in 1989. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to gain access to the sealed records of the State Sovereignty Commission, and the judge ruled in their favor. Mitchell recounts how having access to those files helped investigators solve several civil rights cold cases.
In his work as an investigative reporter, Jerry Mitchell gained extensive knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement. He describes his feelings about the Two Mississippi Museums and their impact.
Jerry Mitchell was awarded a Genius Grant by the MacArthur Foundation in 2009.
On January 6th, 2020, a statue of slain civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer was unveiled at Hattiesburg City Hall.
In this episode, taken from her 1974 COHCH interview, Ellie J. Dahmer remembers her husband as a Christian man who helped everyone regardless of race. As a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Vernon Dahmer received death threats, daily. Ellie Dahmer recalls the extreme measures she and her husband took to protect their family.
On the night of January 10, 1966, Vernon Dahmer attended church and then returned home to prepare for another week of hard work. Ellie Dahmer describes waking up to gunfire and trying to rescue her children as bullets riddled their burning home.
Vernon Dahmer died January 10, 1966 from injuries sustained when his home was firebombed by the KKK. Ellie Dahmer discusses her husband’s legacy and why she thinks he would do it all again.
(note: in the podcast and broadcast, the statue dedication date was incorrectly given as January 4th, not January 6th)
For Gulf Coast residents, January means Mardi Gras season and in the South, no Super Bowl party is complete without a King Cake. Beyond the traditional Carnival celebrations in Mobile, Biloxi, and New Orleans, many other southern cities have established their own annual parades and festivities in recent years.
Ocean Springs native, Christa Hode grew up attending the Biloxi Mardi Gras parades with her family. In this episode, she remembers the day her father asked if she would like to be the Queen of Carnival for 1971. As Queen Ixolib for the Biloxi Mardi Gras, Hode wore an elaborate gown and long flowing train. She describes having the gown made in New Orleans and the heavy fabrics they used back then.
Hode has many fond memories of being the Biloxi Queen. She remembers how cold it was during the night parade and how much fun she had waving to the crowds. Having spent her life participating in Mardi Gras festivities, Hode has witnessed the comradery and sense of community it provides Gulf Coast residents. She also appreciates the economic benefits and tourism Carnival brings to the area.
During WWII, a key component of the Allied strategy to defeat the Axis powers in Europe was a sustained aerial bombing campaign against key German military and civilian targets. Despite the vaunted reputation the B-17 bomber achieved, they were outnumbered by the lesser known B-24 Liberator.
Greenville native, Colonial C.R. Cadenhead trained to be an B-24 bomber pilot. In this episode, he shared some memories of his time flying missions over Germany. Cadenhead explains how he and his crew dined on fancy French cuisine while on their way to Europe and how they helped a shell-shocked bombardier complete his tour of duty. He also describes how, on one mission, his crew made it back to base after losing two of their four engines with some help from the Tuskegee Airmen.
PODCAST EXTRA: After completing his tour of duty in Europe, Cadenhead expected to be sent home. Instead he was shipped to California to prepared for the invasion of Japan. He remembers how the sudden end of the war in 1945 allowed him to return to college that fall and play football for Mississippi State.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
PHOTO: US Air Force