Mardi Gras has been celebrated in Biloxi since 1883. In this episode, Jerry O’Keefe remembers the excitement of attending the parades as a boy in the 1930s. Later, as a young father in the 1940s, O’Keefe shared his love of Mardi Gras with his children.
After being elected Mayor of Biloxi in 1972, O’Keefe realized the city’s Mardi Gras fundraising system needed to be overhauled. He explains how that was accomplished and why Mardi Gras remains so important to the city's identity.
During WWII, most African-American Soldiers served in support units away from the front lines. All that changed during the War in the Pacific where because of the close proxmity of the conflict, black soldiers found themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with their white counterparts. In this episode, Lee Spearman of Bay Springs remembers the only objective was to stay alive.
Journalist Ernie Pyle reported from the frontlines in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. Spearman was there when Pyle was hit by enemy fire.
Rowan Clark of Bude was 16 years old when he got his first job in 1924. In this episode, he recalls being a water boy and delivering ice for the local icehouse. Like so many others left unemployed by the Great Depression, Clark rode the rails looking for work. He describes his journey across the country chasing rumors of job opportunities.
Clark was finally offered a job washing cars in New Orleans…at service station that was actually a front for rum runners!
For Randy Yates, the Neshoba County Fair was a family tradition. In this episode, he explains why the fair was so important to his grandparents. One of the most vivid memories for Yates was the endless variety of food the fair had to offer.
According to Yates, no one worked harder to prepare for the Neshoba County Fair than his grandfather. He remembers it being a year-long labor of love.
Jackson has always enjoyed a wide selection of choices when it comes to dining out. In this episode, Randy Yates discusses the important role Greek restaurateurs played in Jackson’s culinary history. Yates began working for Primos Northgate restaurant as a college student. He remembers the large crowds and the places the staff would go between shifts.
After Primos, Yates took a job working at Scrooge’s. He credits owner Bill Latham and Don Primos for teaching him some important job skills.
Today, Randy Yates is co-owner of the Ajax Diner, on the Square, in Oxford.
The Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi was established in 1977. Its mission was to investigate, document, interpret and teach about the American South. In this episode, Ann Abadie recalls the Center’s first public event. Abadie also discusses the Center’s most ambitious project: The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. She explains how one section of that publication inspired them to form the Southern Foodways Alliance.
No study of Southern Culture would be complete without the Blues. Abadie remembers how Bill Ferris, the Center’s first director, brought Living Blues Magazine from Chicago to Oxford.
Jim Anderson became the director of the First Regional Library, a five-county-library system based in Hernando, back in 1972. In this episode, he discusses the history of Mississippi’s oldest regional library.
According to Anderson, the level of cooperation that exists between the state’s public, academic and special libraries is the result of programs sponsored by the Mississippi Library Commission. He looks back fondly on his thirty-six years with the First Regional Library. It’s a choice he recommends to young people searching for a fun and interesting career path.
One of the star attractions of the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1984 was the space shuttle Enterprise. In this episode, Christine Harvey, a photographer at the Stennis Space Center, recalls documenting the shuttle’s journey from Mobile Bay to the Port of New Orleans.
Harvey’s job was to ride a tugboat out to Algiers Point and photograph the arrival of the shuttle. It was an assignment that left her a little…queasy.
For Harvey, the arrival of the Enterprise was an emotional moment and one that she’ll never forget.
Growing up in Dixie Springs, Paul Ott Carruth had two great passions: the Great Outdoors and making music. So it came as a shock when in 1967, Carruth learned that hardwood trees around the Leaf River were being intentionally poisoned. At the time, Carruth was gaining recognition as a singer on a Hattiesburg TV show. He decided to combine his love of music and his love of nature to save those trees.
In this episode, Ott discusses how this decision led to a life devoted to protecting Mississippi's natural resources through songwriting. He also talks about his long association with the State Game and Fish Commission.
Paul Ott Carruth’s weekly radio and TV show Listen to the Eagle continues to celebrate and promote The Great Mississippi Outdoors.
In 1970, the Mississippi State Legislature passed the State Antiquities Act to preserve Mississippi historic sites and buildings for future generations. In this episode Elbert Hilliard, Director Emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History discusses the significance of the Antiquities Act.
Hilliard recalls their first preservation project and how in 1983, the Antiquities Act was amended to reflect the lessons learned in thirteen years of administering the law.
Hilliard points with pride to the many preservation successes made possible by the State Antiquities Act.
Lou Mallory of Natchez grew up on a small farm in the Red Hills of Georgia. In the episode, she recalls how the family barely survived raising cotton, but were happy none the less.
She explains that her father used to make syrup from sugar cane as a way to earn extra money. She remembers eating a lot of syrup when there was not much else.
Mallory learned to sew her own dresses out of necessity. She became a seamstress as an adult and her tailor shop was a Natchez fixture for 45 years until she retired in 1998.
(photo of sugar cane mill: The Florida Center for Instructional Technology, Univ. of South Florida)
Evelyn Gandy of Hattiesburg came from a politically active family. In this episode, she discusses her decision to consider a career in politics at an early age.
From 1947, when she was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, to 1959 when she became the first woman elected to statewide office as treasurer, Gandy always tried to make whatever office she held more responsive to the people.It was a philosophy she carried from her position as Insurance Commissioner to when she was elected the first woman Lt. Governor in 1975.
Gandy credits her success in office to a desire to work with others and a respect for her predecessors.
Evelyn Gandy passed away on December 27, 2007.
After being nominated and passed over seven times for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former NFL punter, Ray Guy, was used to waiting by the phone. In this episode, he explains how the eighth time promised to be different.
Ensconced in his New York hotel room on Super Bowl weekend, Guy found himself sitting by the phone once again, wondering if this would finally be the year he got the call.
Ray Guy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 2nd, 2014. He continues to work for his alma mater, Southern Miss.
William Ray Guy came to Hattiesburg, MS to play football for Southern Miss in 1970. As punter for the Golden Eagles, Guy’s kicks were known for their distance and pinpoint accuracy.
In this episode, Guy discusses his decision to play for USM. He also explains why for him, strategy was just as important as power.
In the 14 seasons Guy punted for the Oakland Raiders, the term hang-time was coined to describe his high, booming kicks. He discusses why they were so high and the time he hit the Super Dome TV screen.
Ray Guy became the first punter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August of 2014.
Chinese American, Professor John P Quon grew up living in the back of his family’s store in Moorhead, Mississippi. In this episode, he recalls slipping off and exploring the downtown area at a young age.
Every member of the Quon family was expected to help out in the store. Quon remembers learning how to make change at the age of five.
Eventually, the Quon family decided to buy a home in Moorhead. He explains how an anonymous letter led his father to purchase a cotton farm instead.
In 1964, Dr. John P. Quon was a student at Ole’ Miss when he proposed to his college sweetheart, Freida Seu. Both were from Chinese-American families living in the Delta. In this episode, Quon recalls the traditional engagement negotiations that followed.
Quon describes the logistics involved in planning a wedding with an expected attendance of 1,200 family and friends. He walks us through the day’s events including the wedding ceremony and reception, as well as the banquet and traditional tea ceremony.
King Evans was a teenager, living with his family on the Vickland Plantation in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi, during the Great Flood of 1927. In this episode, he recalls how the water continued to rise after the levee north of Greenville broke on the morning of April 21st. Evans also remembers the thousands of people displaced by the floodwaters and the desperate lengths they went to for shelter.
Racial tensions flared as mistreatment of blacks was reported in other places, but according to Evans, whites and blacks worked together in Sharkey County to insure fair distribution of food.
In 1966 the faculty at the Mercy Hospital College of Nursing in Vicksburg recognized the need for a second nursing baccalaureate program in Mississippi.
This group of Catholic nuns, led by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins, was determined to establish a College of Nursing at USM. In this episode, retired instructor Jean Haspeslagh remembers Harkins as a force to be reckoned with.
Haspeslagh explains how Harkins designed the College of Nursing’s Graduate program to be unique and cutting edge.
After her retirement in 1980, Harkins continued to serve as Dean Emeritus until her death in 1997. Haspeslagh recalls that Harkins signed her last grant for the Sister’s of Mercy the day before she passes away.
Construction began on the new USM College of Nursing building in July, 2014.
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was organized in 1964 as an alternative to the then-all-white Mississippi Democratic Party.
The MFDP, after holding a statewide election open to people of all colors, sent its delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in an attempt to be recognized as the legitimate representatives of the State.
In this episode, Dr. Aaron Henry of Clarksdale remembers the long bus to Atlantic City, New Jersey and the crowded accommodations the delegates endured.
After impassioned speeches by Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. Martin Luther King, President Lyndon Johnson offered to seat two of MFDP delegates with the Illinois delegation. Henry discusses they decision to decline that offer.
He also explains that even though they were not seated at the 1964 convention, their efforts lead to the reform of the Democratic Party.
In 1964, as SNCC coordinators trained volunteers for the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, three others, Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman traveled to Philadelphia, MS to investigate a church burning.
In this episode, Cleveland Sellers recounts how he and seven other coordinators went in search of those three when they went missing. Sellers describes the extraordinary lengths their group went to, to avoid being spotted as they searched for their friends.
After several days of searching through woods and empty buildings in the dead of night, Sellers’ group was forced to abandon their search.
The bodies of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were eventually found on August 4th, 1964.
After attending a Freedom School as a high school student in the summer of ’64, Charleana Cobb of Blue Mountain was inspired to become active in the civil rights movement. In this episode, she recalls promoting a speech being given at her church by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Cobb remembers the thrill of hearing Hamer speak that night and the shock of being told that the church had burned to the ground the next morning.
That December, college students from Oberlin, Ohio came to Blue Mountain to rebuild the church as a project called Carpenters for Christmas. Cobb recalls how members of the community reacted to the sacrifice these Oberlin College students made in giving up their Christmas holiday.
After attempting to register to vote, Fannie Lou Hamer was forced to leave the plantation where she had lived and worked for 18 years. In the episode, she explains how she became active in voter registration and the challenges they faced.
Prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Mississippi required voters to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax in order to vote. Hamer recalls how she passed the test and the first time she was able to vote.
Hamer went on to become a leader in the Civil Rights movement and her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1964 touched the nation. She reflects on her time in the spotlight and the friends she made along the way.
Fannie Lou Hamer passed away on March 14th, 1977.
In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer was a sharecropper’s wife, living on a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi. In this episode, she recalls the first time she tried to register to vote.
After leaving Indianola, the bus carrying Hamer’s group was pulled over by state and local law enforcement. She describes how they were forced to return to Indianola to face an assortment of trumped up charges.
Later that same day when Hamer returned home, the owner of the plantation confronted her about attempting to register. She describes how she was forced to leave her home of 18 years that very night for refusing to withdraw her registration.
The plantation owner's harsh treatment of Hamer led her to become an inspirational figure in the Civil Rights movement.
In 1964, Larry Rubin of Tacoma Park, Maryland came to Holly Springs to help black Mississippians register to vote. In this episode he explains how the state used literacy tests and intimidation to keep blacks from voting.
A key goal of Freedom Summer was to register enough Freedom Democratic Party voters to have their delegates seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Rubin recalls the drudgery of knocking on doors and the thrill of watching the convention drama unfold on TV.
Rubin also reflects on the violence and intimidation that black Mississippians endured in order to secure the right to vote.