Troy H. Middleton was born on a farm in Copiah County, Mississippi in 1890 and lived there until he was fourteen years old when he left to attend Mississippi A&M College preparatory department. A&M was a land grant college, therefore it had military training in which the students were required to participate. Middleton rose through the ranks until his senior year when he was promoted to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. After graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army in 1913 and took part in the Mexican Border Campaign of 1914.
When the United States entered World War I, Middleton went to France as a company commander and by the end of the war he had received three promotions in one year becoming the youngest colonel in the Army. He then became the Dean of Administration for Louisiana State University. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he returned to active duty and subsequently went to Europe, participating in the North African, Sicilian and Italian Campaigns before going to Normandy for the main campaign against Germany as Commander of the Eighth Corps.
In this episode, Middleton discusses the traits of a good leader and how to earn the respect of your subordinates. He remembers his longtime friend and fellow commander, General George Patton. He shares his opinions of Patton’s good and bad points. According to Middleton, Patton had no qualms about visiting the front lines any time of the day or night. He shares a humorous story of a late night visit by Patton and his encounter with a sleeping soldier.
The Battle of the Bulge was the last German offensive of WWII. It was Middleton who made the decision to hold the town of Bastogne against overwhelming opposition, in the winter of 1944. Although he was heavily criticized by Patton at the time, it turned out to be the right choice. He reflects on what it meant to the course of the war.
PHOTO: L-R, Middleton, Eisenhower, Patton
John Gouras left the island of Patmos to come to America with his father in 1921. In this episode, taken from an interview conducted in 1974, Gouras shares some memories of his life and career spent as a Jackson restaurateur. He remembers selling his father’s homemade candy to local businesses in Lake Charles, Louisiana as a teenager and how he and his partner purchased their first eatery, the People’s Café, in Jackson for $800, in 1928. He recalls how they survived the Great Depression and opened their second café, the Mayflower, four years later.
Shortly after becoming a naturalized citizen in 1938, Gouras joined the Army Air Corp and served as a supply officer in the Mediterranean theater. He explains how his restaurant experience was put to use by General William L. Lee.
At the time of the interview, the Mayflower Café had been open for 42 years. It is still in business as of 2018. Gouras describes the Greek community of Jackson as industrious, close-knit, and well-respected. He discusses how they work to keep traditional Greek holidays and customs alive.
Growing up on his father’s plantation near Clarksdale, Marshall Bouldin, III, dreamed of being a commercial illustrator like his hero, Norman Rockwell. Encouraged by his mother to pursue his love of art, he left Clarksdale in 1939 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and there began a career that would gain him notoriety around the nation, even as it brought him home again.
In this episode, taken from our 1974 oral history interview, Bouldin details his evolution as an artist. During the year and a half spent at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, felt he learned from more by studying the Institute’s collection of paintings than he did attending class. When WWII broke out, he was forced to leave school. Deemed unfit for military duty due to a birth defect that left him with a limp, he worked as an illustrative draftsman for the Vultee Aircraft Company in Nashville, Tennessee.
After the war, Bouldin became the apprentice of a commercial illustrator in Connecticut where he honed his skills as he learned from the best in the business. He soon had his own studio and a New York agent who secured magazine work for him with publications like Colliers and Outdoor Life. It was after attending an exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh, Bouldin realized that he envied the freedom of expression that differentiated artists from illustrators. He explains why he decided to come home to Clarksdale and become a portrait painter.
Throughout his career, Bouldin rejected the stereotypes associated with professional artists. He discusses why it’s important to stay connected to the rest of society. As a portrait painter, he was required to sell his services like any other professional. However, he maintained it was always about making new friends, not money. Of the hundreds of portraits he was commissioned to paint, many of the subjects were famous, including, President Nixon’s daughters, William Faulkner, William Winter and Mike Espy.
African-American soldiers returned home to the Jim Crow South after WWII, determined to press for an end to black voter suppression and “separate but equal” segregation laws. In this episode we examine the military career and civil rights activism of Taylor Howard of Gulfport.
Howard was drafted into the all-black, 92nd Infantry Division in 1942. He recalls the racial tensions they encountered while training in Louisiana, as well as, their trek from the Arizona desert to the Italian Alps.
After the Battle of Anzio, entrenched German forces inflicted heavy losses on the 92nd Infantry Division in Northern Italy. Howard recounts how a regiment of Japanese-American soldiers helped turn the tide.
African-American soldiers returned home after the war, convinced they would now be treated as equals. Howard remembers being denied the right to vote by a group of angry white poll-watchers the following year.
PHOTO: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2181029