Gulfport native John C. Robinson moved to Chicago and became a pilot after graduating from the Tuskegee Institute in the early 1920s when blacks were considered incapable of grasping the principles of aviation. He did this by taking a job as janitor of the Curtis Wright Flight School and earning the respect of one of the instructors. After graduating, he stayed on as an instructor and helped other Africian-Americans enter the field. He later convinced his Alma Mater to open a flight school--thus paving the way for the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.
In this episode, Gulfport writer Thomas Simmons shares stories of Robinson that he gathered in eight years of research for his book: The Brown Condor-The True Adventures of John C. Robinson.
Wendell Taylor of Gulfport became a Methodist minister in 1937. In this week's episode, he discusses Gulfside Assembly, a retreat for black Methodists located in Waveland.
Gulfside was founded in 1923 to provide spiritual, educational and recreational facilities to African-Americans who were denied access elsewhere because of segregation. Taylor remembers the outstanding church leaders who were educated at Gulfside.
In 2005, Gulfside Assembly was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Plans to rebuild the historic site are pending.
Reverend Harry Tartt grew up in North Gulfport in the 1920s. In this week's episode, he explains that at that time, the black community accepted segregation as a fact of life. Tartt recalls being made aware of lynching at a young age and how it was used to control the black community.
It was only after Tartt moved to Chicago to attend college that he began to see that there was a world beyond the Jim Crow system. He remembers feeling frustrated when he returned home with this new sense of awareness.
Martin Huggins grew up on the family farm in the Biggersfield community near Rienzi. In this episode, he shares his memories of Grandpa Huggins including his remarkable way with the livestock.
This episode has it all: car-surfing goats, the dreaded cane of justice and 12 year old chauffeurs--you know, typical farm life.
Alfred Brown, Junior, grew up in the historic Soria City neighborhood of Gulfport during WWII. In this episode, he describes how his father sold fish in their back yard for extra money.
Brown remembers how Soria City residents took pride their neighborhood and looked out for each other.He recounts how his father would often give away fish to those in need.
(photo is of the Soria City Lodge, recently restored)
The Center for Oral History has proudly preserved the stories of hundreds of US veterans.
In this episode, B-24 bomber pilot C.R. Cadenhead of Greenville recalls his crew of 'misfits' and a much welcomed escort by those Southern gentlemen, the Tuskegee Airmen.
When Willie Cox of Pas Christian was discharged from the Army in February of ’67, he planned to live in the Washington DC area. In this episode, Cox explains how an unexpected job opportunity changed those plans.
The Civil Rights movement brought increased job opportunities for African-Americans. Cox recalls how two of his co-workers became the first black train engineers.
After three years as a switchman, Cox applied for a job as an engineer. He recalls how persistence and an engineer shortage led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Willie Cox retired from railroading in 2002, after 35 years on the job.
After leaving the Army, Charles Dubra became a longshoreman in Gulfport. He recalls how an injury on the job led him to go into business for himself. He also explains how he made the transition from entrepreneur to teacher.
David Hall began attending the Thirty-third Ave Elementary School in Gulfport in 1935. There were no buses for black school children then. He recalls how the teacher would help the children warm their hands on cold mornings. He also remembers one teacher who would buy lunch for students who were hungry.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public works program for single, unemployed men, between the ages 18 and 25, during the Great Depression.
In 1936, Taylor Howard of Gulfport, dropped out of school to help support his family. He recalls his decision to join the CCC and describes the work he performed in the Desoto National Forrest and elsewhere as a member of the CCC.
As the Seventh of fourteen children, Jimmie Jenkins of Gulfport was always looking for ways to make money. He and his brother caught and sold crabs door to door as kids. Later, Jenkins worked in the kitchen of the Edgewater Hotel. After returning from the Army, he returned to kitchen work shucking oysters at Fairchild's Restaurant and finally working at Carl's Beef Bar- home of the "famous Wheel Burger."
In 1964, a group of young professionals in Jackson began thinking about forming their own theatre company. James Child discusses the decision to open the New Stage Theatre.
Child also recalls the challenge of finding a place to stage their productions with practically no money to spend and shares his memories of the opening night of New Stage Theatre’s first production: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe on January 25th, 1966.
L.T. Martin of Smithdale, grew up on his family’s farm in Franklin County. In this episode, he shares the history of the “old home place”.
Martin recalls how his father would grow cotton each year with the help of tenant families and how his role in the family business evolved over time.
In addition to being a farmer, Jeremiah Barnett was also a traveling minister. Laurel native, Lounett Gore describes her father’s ministry and his style of preaching.
After WWI, Barnett helped establish churches across Mississippi. Gore recalls her father’s skills as an orator and organizer and how as she got older, she would travel with her father and help out by teaching hymns to the new congregation.
Thomas Gonzales, Sr. was born and raised on Delacroix Island. He recounts how his family came to the area.
Gonzales also explains how his father and grandfather taught him to fish the Gulf using traditional methods brought over from Spain and why fishing was more than a way of life—it was freedom.
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.