During our 50th Anniversary Celebration, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage will continue to dig deep into our collection to bring you significant stories of Mississippians from all walks of life.
1978 – From a young age, Burris Dunn of Jackson was interested in learning the printing business. In this episode, he recalls going to work for a political newspaper owned by Governor Theodore Bilbo in 1923. The Mississippi Free Lance newspaper’s sole purpose was to promote the re-election of Governor Bilbo. Dunn describes working in the printing plant for the charismatic politician.
After Bilbo was elected to a second term in 1927, he lost interest in owning a newspaper. Dunn remembers finding work at another printing house before being called back by the Governor to aid in the election of a political ally.
In the early 1930s, Dunn was working in a Jackson printing house and barely making ends meet. He recounts buying a small printing press and setting up shop in his garage to earn extra money.
PHOTO: Senator Theodore G. Bilbo.
1972 - Hiram Todd grew up on his family’s Newton County farm in the 1880s. In this episode, he describes how they grew their own food and raised cotton for cash. After graduating high school, Todd decided to pursue a career in education. He taught school in Ellisville, Crystal Springs and Hattiesburg before moving to Natchez to accept a position with Stanton College, a private academy.
After eight years, Todd began selling insurance for Penn Mutual and John Hancock, eventually moving into farm appraisals and loan brokerage. After World War I, a boom in the cotton market led to risky land speculation in the Delta. Todd recalls how easy credit brought many Mississippians to financial ruin when the market bubble burst in 1920.
Todd discusses the challenges that Mississippians faced in those days, including the awful effects of chronic and communicable diseases. When Todd was young, outbreaks of malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever were common in Mississippi. He remembers how advances in medicine and public health brought these diseases under control.
In 1941, Todd went to work for the Mississippi State Experiment Station. He reflects on how their research led to advances in agriculture and tree farming.
1973 - In 1915 Hawkins Vickers went to work for his brother-in-law selling vegetable plants to local farmers. In this interview from 1973, he explains how that pioneering business model grew into a nationwide industry. Vickers moved to Hattiesburg in 1923 to start his own vegetable plant business. He recalls how two years of bad weather nearly convinced him to return to Georgia.
Raising vegetable plants for industrial farms required mules and manual labor when Vickers started his business in the 1920s. He explains how the development of specialized equipment and growing techniques made their fields more productive and profitable. Vickers would plant vegetable seeds, raise the seedlings to a uniform height, and sell the plants to northern vegetable farms. He discusses the importance of buying seeds from a reputable breeder.
From 1924 until 1966, Vickers Plant Farm was a major source of vegetable plants for northern growers like Campbells, Heinz, and Van Camp. During their busiest year, they shipped over 66 million cabbage plants.