Tom Johnson was a student at Baylor University when he started working for his father as a hotel manager. In this episode, he recalls how that job led him to pursue a career as a corporate trainer for Holiday Inns in Memphis. By the early 1970s, Holiday Inns, Inc. had grown from a few dozen hotels to over 1300 locations worldwide. Johnson remembers the decision to build the company’s new training facility in Olive Branch.
As the travel industry evolved during the 1960s and 70s, the skills needed to run a hotel changed as well. Johnson explains how Holiday Inns expanded the training they offered company employees.
The Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management at the University of Memphis prepares students for a variety of careers in the hotel industry. Johnson discusses his decision to become the General Manager of the school’s hotel and conference center.
Gene Stork of Big Point, Mississippi, became a commercial fisherman in 1954. In this episode, he recalls working on a “mother boat” for Clark’s Seafood and how they used four skiffs to catch fish. Commercial fisherman like Stork would release redfish over a certain size because those were the egg layers. He explains how the popularity of blackened fish led to a reduction in the redfish population.
Fishing boats sometimes haul in sharks and poisonous species of fish, unintentionally. Stork remembers falling overboard once as he tried to release two sharks from his net. During his time as a commercial fisherman, Gene Stork witnessed many changes. He discusses those changes and compares the nets of today with those of the past.
The brutal death of Emmett Till in 1955, shocked the nation and ignited the Civil Rights Movement. In this episode, civil rights icon Cleveland Sellers, Jr. recalls how he and other students were inspired to confront systemic racism.
In 1964, after his sophomore year at Howard University, Sellers left school to devote himself fulltime to the cause of racial equality. He became active in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Sellers discusses how they would often protest in front of the White House and the importance of SNCC’s DC office in planning the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
After four years of working in Mississippi and other segregation hotspots, Sellers moved to Orangeburg, South Carolina to attend school at South Carolina State University. Soon after moving there, students began protesting at a local bowling alley about their “whites only” policy. On February 8, 1968, State Troopers opened fire on a group of 200 unarmed protesters on campus. Sellers and thirty others were shot and three died. He explains why he was the only person charged in the incident.
After serving seven months in prison, Sellers found it impossible to find a job due to his record. He remembers how one white woman looked past his FBI file and gave him the opportunity to rebuild his life and his reputation.
Cleveland Sellers, Jr. was pardoned by the State of South Carolina in 1993.
When J.E. Yarbrough of McComb became a train engineer, Illinois Central was still using steam engines. In a career spanning several decades, Yarbrough witnessed many changes as the nation’s transportation demands evolved. In this episode, taken from his 2006 interview, he reflects on those changes. He begins by discussing the switch from steam to diesel in the 1950s.
Before the development of two-way radios, railroads depended on synchronized watches to keep the trains running on time. Yarbrough explains the importance of keeping to a schedule. On average, there are 5,800 collisions between trains and road vehicles per year in the United States. Yarbrough recalls how people would risk their lives to avoid waiting for a train.
After working for decades as a freight train engineer, Yarbrough was promoted to passenger trains, running the famous Panama Limited between McComb and New Orleans. He remembers how a near collision with a log truck convinced him it was time to retire.