Hattiesburg native Richard Burger graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1965. In this episode, he recalls returning to Mississippi to work at NASA’s test facility (later renamed the Stennis Space Center) as a computer programmer. Because he was working for General Electric under government contract, Burger’s story was rather unusual for that time, as opportunities for African-American in Mississippi were typically limited to menial or low-level positions.
As a programmer, Burger worked with NASA engineers testing Saturn rockets. He remembers his first assignment working with a “unique” engineer named Charlie Parker to develop a fuel delivery system to speed the test-firing process.
Throughout his career, Richard Burger used a wide variety of computers and programming languages. He compares the NASA main frames of the 1960s to today’s more powerful laptops.
PODCAST BONUS: After working in the private sector for over twenty years, Burger returned to NASA in the 1990s with a new mission: taking at-risk African-American youth from inner-city high schools in Los Angeles, on a six week tour of NASA laboratories and Black Colleges. It was a program dubbed “Earth to L.A.”
“The Center for Gifted Studies was established in 1979 and dedicated as The Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies in 1999, its central purpose to further the education of gifted students and those with leadership abilities through teaching, research, and service. Emphasis is also placed on these areas for those interested in the gifted: teachers, parents, administrators, psychologists, counselors, and other concerned citizens.”
In this episode, Karnes shares her memories as an early innovator in the education of exceptional children.
Dr. Frances Karnes began her career at the age of 19, teaching first graders in Illinois. She explains how that experience inspired her to focus on the educational needs of exceptional children. In 1973, Karnes began teaching Special Education classes at Southern Miss and writing descriptions for new courses in Gifted Education. She remembers working to have the State’s Definition of Exceptional Children amended to include Gifted Children as well. Within four years, Karnes had helped develop the Gifted Studies Program for Children at USM. She recalls pitching the idea of a Center for Gifted Studies to Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas and how they secured the funding.
Since 1974 the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children has helped teachers and parents meet the needs of intellectually-gifted students. Karnes reflects on the unwavering support they’ve received. Learn more at: https://www.usm.edu/karnes-gifted
PHOTO: Center for Gifted Studies
To celebrate the recent opening of The Midtowner - Robert St. John's tribute to the classic American diner - we are re-posting this episode from last summer, in which St. John shares his knowledge of a favorite topic: the history of Hattiesburg restaurants.
Lunch counters and cafeterias have long provided time-strapped Americans with fast, affordable food. In this episode, restaurateur and author, Robert St. John discusses the evolution of Hattiesburg dining, beginning with three early Hub City eateries and why they were close to the train station. He also recalls the Frost Top, a franchise fixture from the 50s - 70s, all the times he ate there and what made the Frost Top so special.
Throughout the 20th Century, large companies and boarding houses provided plate lunches for hungry workers. St. John describes some of Hattiesburg’s favorite lunchrooms and their “meat and three” menus. For hungry shoppers, the department store lunch counters provided a ready respite, before eventually being replaced by mall food courts. St. John remembers some of Hattiesburg’s department store food fare and hanging out at the Cloverleaf Mall.
PODCAST EXTRA: Jimmy Faughn, an early Hattiesburg restaurateur, operated several eateries including The Collegian, Le Faughn’s, and the Sea Lodge. St. John reflects on Faughn’s reputation as the fine dining patriarch of Hattiesburg.PHOTO: The Midtowner, Hattiesburg Hotel Indigo Facebook page.
David Baker loved Tupelo. Aside from time spent serving his country during WWII and a year in New York, Baker lived his entire 93 years in his hometown as a tireless promoter of the Arts and Humanities. In this episode, he looks back at the people and events that shaped his life with a keen and engaging wit.
Baker’s father opened a furniture store in downtown Tupelo in the 1920s. He recalls how they stayed open late on Saturday nights, and describes the downtown farmer’s market where his mother would shop for produce, haggling with vendors through the car window while he watched.
Not all of the memories were pleasant. On the evening of April 5th, 1936, a tornado struck Tupelo, killing 216 and injuring 700 more. Baker recounts how the storm ripped the roof off their house, and a neighbor’s cry for help.
In this interview, conducted in 2000, Baker discusses some of Tupelo's most notable characters, including Ms. Pledge Robinson. When Baker was growing up, Tupelo was known as the Jersey Cow capital of the world. He describes the cattle drives through downtown and Robinson’s crafty way of cashing in.
PODCAST BONUS: The success of Elvis Presley was always a source of pride for the residents of Tupelo. Baker remembers the Presley family and awarding Elvis his first prize as a singer.
PHOTO: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal obituary 2-12-16