Ruthie Mae Shelton grew up on her family’s farm in Marshall County. At the age of nine, she began helping tend their cotton crop. Shelton recalls how her uncle would plant the cotton seeds.
Picking cotton by hand is physically demanding. Shelton remembers how the cotton bolls would sometimes prick her fingers and how “stinging worms” would cause welts.
Through trial and error, Shelton learned not to pack too much cotton into her sack before emptying it. And by the time she was 18, Shelton could pick 200 lbs. per day.
Born in 1885, Charlie Ainsworth of Hattiesburg began cutting trees as a teenager in the Piney Woods. Despite the long hours of difficult labor, he recalls that the logging crew would sing while they worked.
Logging was dangerous work and many men lost their lives. Ainsworth remembers how his last saw partner was killed by a falling tree.
Cut logs were hauled to the sawmills by train. Ainsworth details how he helped lay the tracks for several of the logging companies in South Mississippi.
Tom Brumfield and M.R. Reeves of McComb began working for the railroad in 1941. They explain how their family and friends influenced thir decision to become firemen shoveling coal into the massive steam locomotives.
Railroading has always been a dangerous business. Reeves recalls the time a locomotive he was on hit a car and went off an embankment.
With no work and no prospects at home, many men decided to travel for free by freight train looking for work during the Great Depression. Jim Kelly was a railroad telegraph operator in the 1930s. He recalls the large number of migratory workers or hobos that passed through English Lookout.
Hobos were always looking for their next meal. Kelly remembers how one made off with a prized watermelon.
Life on the road was especially tough during the winter. Kelly explains how he used to help the hobos when the temperatures dropped.
Easter Weekend of 1979, the Pearl River flooded, displacing some 17,000 families in the Jackson area alone. Ray Pope was the Jackson Police Chief at that time. He recalls the tireless efforts of his officers to warn those in the path of the flood.
With so many driven from their homes, there were concerns that widespread looting would take place.
Pope expresses his opinion of why looting wasn’t a big problem. Pope also remembers how police officers used their own personal boats as well as those loaned to them by private citizens to patrol and protect the flooded streets of the city.
Elbert Seal was born in 1892 in Harrison County. He recounts how his mother began homesteading land in Carnes, Mississippi after the death of his father. After serving in World War I, Seal felt restless back on the family farm. He recalls how he and his cousin went to Kansas for a while to help harvest wheat.
In the early 1900s, several Southern states made it illegal to transport cattle across state lines in an effort to eradicate cow ticks. Seal describes how they would purchase herds of cattle in Alabama and “bootleg” them across the state to sell in New Orleans.
Elbert Seal passed away in August of 1974.
Charles Grant began his career teaching in a one room school house in Basin, Mississippi during the Great Depression. He recalls what it was like to be a “faculty-of-one” at White’s Creek African-American school.
Grant remembers the effort that went into improving and expanding the tiny school. The school’s success was not without growing pains. Grant details the reluctance of some school supervisors to provide supplies and transportation for black students.
In 1962, Mississippi College graduate Clifford Charlesworth went to work for NASA. He remembers training to become a Flight Dynamics Officer at the Johnson Space Center.
As part of the flight control team for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, Charlesworth learned the importance of teamwork.
In the early days of the space program, it was important to maintain radio contact between the astronauts and Mission Control. Charlesworth recalls two astronauts who didn’t have much to say.
Larry Dykes was sheriff of Jones County in 2006. He describes a mysterious phone call he received in May of that year that led to a meeting with then President George W. Bush aboard Air Force One.
In this episode,
As the sons of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, Spence, Bob, and Kemmons, Jr. were expected to follow in their famous father’s footsteps. In this episode, Memphis native Kemmons Jr. discusses how the three brothers divide the duties of the diverse corporation.
Like their father, all three sons are veteran pilots. Bob Wilson details how they combined their love of flying with their experience in the hospitality industry.
In 1979, Kemmons Wilson retired from Holiday Inn. Two years later, he brought that same innovative spirit to the vacation resort industry. Spence Wilson explains.
In 1968, Tom Johnson of Memphis became a corporate trainer for Holiday Inn. He remembers the company’s commitment to quality training at all levels and the decision to locate their new state-of-the-art training facility, Holiday Inn University, in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
By the late 70’s it was clear that the Olive Branch facility was larger than necessary. Johnson details how that extra space was used to generate money for the company.
On Friday, August 26th, 2005, Tropical Storm Katrina passed over South Florida and entered the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm rapidly strengthened to a category five hurricane, Phyllis Genin of Bay St. Louis, MS began to prepare. In this extended version of the radio broadcast, Genin describes how she and her family rode out the storm in a small downtown office building. She also expresses the shock that they felt when they were finally able to survey the damages.
Anne Hall Wagoner Norris began working for Holiday Inn as a secretary in 1960. She recalls how the small Memphis company provided many educational opportunities for its employees. With the training Norris received, she was able to advance in the field of Public Relations and obtain her pilots license which she used to compete in the women's air racing team sponsored by Holiday Inn. Her extensive travel during thirty-two years with the company took her to more than thirty foreign countries.
In 1910, O’Neal Chambers was born in Lorman, Mississippi. The son of a farmer, he recalls helping his father clear the land with a cross-cut saw.
Growing up on a farm meant that there was always work to be done. Chambers remembers Sunday as the one day to relax and play. He also talked about how he used to accompany his father to Cohn Brothers’ cotton gin and general store in Lorman and describes a suit his father bought for him there.
Leakesville native, Dr. John Allums was teaching at the University of Georgia in 1951 when the Korean War began. He recounts making the transition from college professor to Air Force Intelligence Officer. He also explains how he worked with representatives from various government agencies to prepare reports for the president.
On May 1st, 1960, a US U2 spy plane was shot done by the Soviet government while on a mission to photograph Russian military bases. Allums discusses why he feels that President Eisenhower made a mistake when he publicly acknowledged the U2 program.
Created in 1956, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was a state agency set up to hinder the progress of the civil rights movement through public relations and intelligence gathering.
Erle Johnston of Forrest was promoted to director of the Sovereignty Commission in 1963. In this frank and detailed interview he describes how he used informants to spy of various civil rights groups. Johnston claims as desegregation became unavoidable, his role shifted from investigator to mediator.
The Sovereignty Commission, a sad chapter in our state's history, was disbanded in 1977 and its files ordered sealed for fifty years. Johnston explains why he feels that the files should have been destroyed.
In 1989 the Sovereignty Commission files were ordered unsealed and can be viewed online through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Renowned Gulf Coast artist, Walter Anderson spent the late 1930s in and out of hospitals for the treatment of severe depression. His oldest daughter, Mary Anderson Pickard remembers how her father taught himself to draw again. Pickard also recalls her father’s love of nature and history and how he shared that love with his children.
Anderson never achieved much notoriety in his lifetime. In this extended version of the original broadcast, Pickard discusses getting to know him again long after his death in 1965 through the collection he left behind.
Anderson’s collection is on display daily at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs.
Wirt Yerger of Jackson is considered to be the founder of the modern day Republican Party in Mississippi. Swan Yerger recalls how his brother became the state party chairman in 1956.
In this extended version of the original episode, Yerger explains how the party gained a foothold in the formerly Democratic state and why it took so many years for the Republican Party to become accepted at state and local levels.
William “Si” Redd was born in Union, Mississippi in 1911. The son of a share cropper, Redd dreamed of becoming an attorney until he got his first pinball machine and realized that coin operated amusements were his true calling.
Redd eventually became the distributor for Bally Manufacturing. He explains how his experience with pinball machines led him to modernize the slot machine industry. As video games became popular in the early ‘80s, Redd recognized their potential for the gaming industry and in 1980 founded International Game Technology. His biggest innovation was to develope video poker machines that flush-mounted directly into casino bars which he recognized as wasted space.
Known as the “King of Video Poker,” Si Redd was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2003. Pleased enjoy this extended version of the original broadcast.
In 1960 and ’63, Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr. and a group of black citizens attempted to integrate Biloxi’s beaches by wading into the water together. Mason recalls how the final wade-in was delayed by the death of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Mason also recounts how the protestors were treated after being arrested.
Convicted of trespassing, the group appealed the decision in county court. In this extended version of the original broadcast episode, Mason remembers learning of the death of President Kennedy while waiting for the Judge’s ruling.
A movie based on Dr. Mason’s story is currently in production.
June 12th marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers. To mark the occasion, we have excerpts from the COH interview of Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr. of Biloxi. Mason recalls Evers as a tireless leader who was always on the road going wherever he was needed. In this extended version of the broadcast episode, Mason relates in vivid detail the tensions resulting from acts of violence, threats and other forms of intimidation by those wishing to maintain the system of segregation.
The murder of Evers and other civil rights leaders only served to harden the resolve of those involved in the struggle for equality that "we shall overcome."
In 1961, J.C. Fairley was elected president of the Hattiesburg chapter of the NAACP. He remembers being warned of the danger of accepting such a high profile position by another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers.
John Frazier made a highly publicized attempt to become the first African-American to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi in March of 1964. Fairley recalls accompanying Frazier to the USM campus and the welcome they received. He also explains how they successfully integrated 90% of Forrest County’s hotels and restaurants in just one day.
June 12th marks the 50th Anniversary of the death Medgar Evers. Mississippi Moments salutes the brave Mississippians who stood up for what was right during that turbulent time. Please enjoy this extended version of the original broadcast episode.
In 2005, Joseph Hammonds of Sand Hill was serving in Iraq with the 150th Combat Engineer Battalion. He remembers searching for stockpiles of weapons and the danger posed by improvised explosive devices or I.E.D.s.
Hammonds recalls earning a Combat Action Citation for surviving an I.E.D. attack while on patrol in the spring of that year. He reflects on the heavy price paid by tank crews who often took the lead in convoys.
While in Iraq, Hammonds’ grandfather passed away and he was denied leave time to attend the funeral. He explains how missing that funeral possibly saved the lives of his friends.
Senator Theodore Smith of Corinth was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1936. He recalls the push to establish a state highway program and marvels at the number of highways that the state managed to pave for $40 million.
According to Smith, many backroom deals were struck at the King Edward Hotel. He reflects on how the center of power shifted from the Governor’s Office to the Legislature during his political career.
Hattiesburg native, Robert St. John opened his first restaurant, The Purple Parrot, in 1987. He explains his decision to have multiple dining formats in the same building.
St. John has authored seven cookbooks and his weekly food column is syndicated in thirty newspapers. In this extended version of the original episode, he discusses how his love of traditional Southern cooking, seafood and Creole cuisine has shaped his own cooking style and how Southern cooking has evolved in the past twenty-five years.