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Mississippi Moments Podcast

After fifty years, we've heard it all. From the horrors of war to the struggle for civil rights, Mississippians have shared their stories with us. The writers, the soldiers, the activists, the musicians, the politicians, the comedians, the teachers, the farmers, the sharecroppers, the survivors, the winners, the losers, the haves, and the have-nots. They've all entrusted us with their memories, by the thousands. You like stories? We've got stories. After fifty years, we've heard it all.
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Now displaying: 2021
Apr 26, 2021

1974 – During the timber boom of the early 20th Century, logging camps harvested virgin pine trees across Mississippi.  In this episode Carriere native Spence Lumpkin recalls visiting one of the camps as a boy in the early 1930s. Prior to the development of mechanized tree harvesting, giant yellow pines covered Mississippi. Lumpkin describes the way these majestic forests were clear-cut by northern profiteers.

After the timber companies harvested all the pine trees in South Mississippi and moved on, locals searched for new crops to support the economy. Lumpkin discusses how late frosts, insects and hurricanes eventually wiped out the peach, satsuma and tung trees they planted.

As a life-long resident of Carriere, Spence Lumpkin survived several major storms. He remembers the hurricane of 1947, as well as, Betsy and Camille.

 

Apr 19, 2021

1978 – G. R. Sullivan of Raleigh, Mississippi joined the army one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In this episode he recalls being assigned to an armored reconnaissance unit and boarding a ship bound for England. On Christmas Day, 1943, Sullivan’s troop ship lay off the coast of Gibraltar. He describes the submarine countermeasures and being attacked by the German Luftwaffe.

While stationed in Algiers, North Africa, Sullivan had been driving for the company commander. He recounts being asked to serve as a scout car driver for General Dwight Eisenhower, a position he held for nine months until his unit left North Africa.

As fighting raged on in Italy, G. R. Sullivan’s unit was driven from a small village by German artillery. He remembers being assisted by a colonel with a jeep, a radio, and a lot of American firepower.

PHOTO: maritimequest.com

Apr 12, 2021

For as long as he could remember, Will Davis Campbell wanted to be an evangelical preacher in a small southern church. He was ordained by the elders of the East Fork Baptist Church at the age of seventeen and was attending Louisiana College when the United States entered WWII. Campbell volunteered for the army in 1943 and was assigned to a medical unit in the Pacific. While serving in that capacity he read the historical novel Freedom Road by Howard Fast and his views on race relations were challenged “in a very dramatic and lasting fashion.”

After the war, Campbell attended Wake Forest, Tulane, and Yale Divinity School. He graduated and was called to be the pastor at a Baptist church in Taylor, Louisiana, but his progressive views on race and the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision inspired him to seek a more academic position. Campbell became Chaplin at the University of Mississippi but again his progress stance on the issue of race generated a great deal of controversy. After two and a half years, he resigned and went to work for the National Council of Churches as a field director for race relations, a role that would thrust him into the national spotlight as the Civil Rights Movement began heating up.

1976 – Will Davis Campbell grew up in the East Fork community with plans of becoming a preacher. In this episode he recalls how his thinking on race relations evolved while serving in the army. Campbell became a field director for the National Council of Churches in 1956. He explains how that position brought him to Civil Rights hotspots throughout the South.

In 1957, a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School. Campbell recounts escorting the students through the angry mob gathered out front. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference recruited a group of 125 rabbis, priests, and ministers to come to Albany, Georgia in 1963 to be arrested and immediately bailed out of jail. The plan was to shine a national spotlight on the city’s anti-congregation laws. Campbell remembers how Andrew Young allowed the clergymen to remain incarcerated overnight to get the "full activist experience."

CAUTION: CONTAINS RACIALLY EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

Apr 5, 2021

As a professional musician in the early 20th Century, Joe Berryman faced many challenges. Before the days of airliners and modern highways, just getting to the next gig could take days or even weeks. Please enjoy this classic Mississippi Moments from 2018.

1972 - Dr. Joe Berryman spent his life and career involved with high school, college and professional bands as a musician, composer, instructor, and conductor, as well as, a product representative and developer for several musical instrument manufacturers. After moving to Mississippi, he served as the band director at Itta Bena High School before coming to USM where he became coordinator of the band staff and taught percussion and orchestration. Berryman also worked with the Mississippi Lions All-State Band for well over a decade as director, writing much of the music, himself. At the time this interview was recorded in July of 1972, the band had won first prize at the Lion’s International Convention five of the last six years.

In this episode, Berryman discusses his early life and career. He was ten years old in 1914, when his family moved from Texarkana to Meridian. He recalls shipping their automobile and furniture by train because there were no highways. When he decided to become a musician, his parents wouldn’t pay for music lessons because they didn’t think he was serious. He remembers earning the money by selling magazines and taking the lessons in secret.

In the age of silent movies, musicians would provide live music to match the action on the screen. Berryman describes playing in the orchestra pits of the movie theaters in Kansas City. In addition to showing motion pictures, movie palaces of the day also booked live entertainment. He shares his memories of working the vaudeville houses in Topeka and providing sound effects for a hot-tempered comedian.

PODCAST BONUS:  When he was not playing theaters in the 1920s, Berryman travelled with several tents shows around the Midwest.  Known as chautauquas, these shows were intended to bring cultural enlightenment to isolated rural communities.

PHOTO: USM Archive

Mar 29, 2021

When Claude E. Ramsay sat down with us in April of 1981 to discuss his career and tenure as President of the Mississippi AFL – CIO, the three main topics of that series of interviews were: worker’s rights, voting rights, and civil rights. Forty years later, those same three issues are still grabbing headlines across the nation. Whether it is Amazon employees in Alabama trying to unionize, GOP efforts to restrict voting after the 2020 election, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the uptick in violence against Asian, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, the struggle for better working conditions, access to the ballot and freedom from discrimination continues against the same forces using the same tactics and reasoning.

1981 - In 1939, Claude Ramsay went to work for the International Paper Company in Pascagoula. In this episode, he recalls joining the paper-workers union and rising through the ranks to become president. Ramsay was elected President of the Mississippi AFL – CIO in 1959. He discusses working with Medgar Evers to secure voting rights and labor rights for all Mississippians. Ramsay also details his meeting with President Kennedy the day after Evers’s assignation.

In 1964, after years of complaints about the anti-union, anti-civil rights biases of WLBT, the AFL – CIO joined the United Church of Christ in petitioning the FCC to revoke the Jackson television station’s license. Ramsay explains why they felt it was important to take a stand against “right wing propaganda.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination based on gender and ethnicity. Ramsay discusses how the law also aided efforts to organize Mississippi’s workers.

Mar 22, 2021

Through the years, we have delved through our large collection of veteran oral histories, many times, to find impactful war stories that really bring home the hardships and sacrifices of our soldiers and sailors during WWII. This is not one of those episodes. For while Albert Russell did escape calamity on multiple occasions during his service as a navigator aboard a Navy patrol bomber in the Pacific theater, the man clearly had more fun and more good fortune that most during the war. In training, Russell frequently enjoyed the nightlife in Atlanta, Washington DC, and San Francisco. While serving in the Pacific, he met and cavorted with one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses of the day, Carol Landis, who was touring with a USO group in Australia at the time. Clearly, the man knew how to enjoy his downtime.

 1977 - Albert Russell joined the Navy in 1942 and served as a flight navigator in the Pacific. In this episode, he describes basic training and the methods of navigation in those early days. As young Navy ensign during WWII, Russell was assigned to a base near Pacific fleet headquarters. He remembers taking an early morning swim in the private pool of Fleet Admiral Bull Halsey.

While on leave in Australia, Russell met and befriended two USO performers: actress Carol Landis and singer Martha Tilton. He recalls a month of dancing and dining and being the envy of his commanding officer.

During WWII, bad weather was a constant source of danger for patrol planes in the Pacific. Russell recounts how a typhoon forced him to change course repeatedly for nineteen hours.

Mar 15, 2021

Besides cotton, the timber industry generated more money and jobs in Mississippi during the early 20th Century than any other. When European settlers came to the territory, they found vast stands of virgin long-leaf yellow pine trees. But it took until the late 1800s before the technology was developed to harvest these giant trees for their high-quality lumber. By WWI, hundreds of sawmills covered the Piney Woods and their tree-cutting and turpentine camps often attracted a rough breed of men from around the country, drawn by the lure of plentiful work. Our storyteller for this episode helped build many of the sawmills and railroads used to process and transport this valuable commodity.

1976 - Charles Ainsworth was born in 1885 near Sontag, Mississippi. In this episode, he describes the hard, dangerous work of cutting timber in the Piney Woods. During the timber boom years, logging camps harvested trees from across the state. Charles Ainsworth remembers the men who worked these camps as “some of the meanest people in world.”

As a young man, Ainsworth helped construct sawmills throughout the Piney Woods. He recalls earning the respect of the mill owner in D’lo through determination and hard work.

Ainsworth moved to Hattiesburg in 1916 and began building houses. He recounts gaining a reputation for working smarter and saving his clients money in the process.

 

Mar 8, 2021

As we continue our 50th Anniversary celebration, we turn our attention this week to Public Health. COVID-19 has given most of us a fresh appreciation for our healthcare professionals. We look at how far public health in Mississippi has evolved by dipping into this interview from 1975 when Ms. Edith Reece ended her thirty-five-year career as a public health nurse by sitting down to record her oral history.

1975 – Edith Reece of Woodville became a public health nurse in 1940. In this episode, she recalls the challenges of working for rural county health departments in those early days. At that time, sexually transmitted diseases were common and there were no effective treatments. Reece explains that public health nurses were required by law to report and roundup members of the community who refused treatment for their STDs. She explains that spinal taps were often necessary for diagnosis of syphilis and babies often contracted congenital syphilis from their parents.

In 1942. Reece volunteered to become an Army Nurse and was sent to England. She describes caring for wounded soldiers and how she put on a brave face for her patients. After serving as an army nurse, Edith Reece returned to her public health job in Mississippi. She remembers convincing county officials to replace the dilapidated health department in Woodville.

Edith Reece retired from the Mississippi Department of Health in 1975. She discusses the changes in public health she witnessed during her thirty-five-year career as a nurse.

PHOTO: Public health nurse, Floridamemories.com

Mar 1, 2021

O.C. McDavid never wanted to be THE Editor of the Jackson Daily News because he didn't want to be the face of the paper at official functions, nor did he want to be a firebrand "pulpiteer" in the image of Fred Sullens or Hodding Carter, Jr. Instead, he wanted to be the man who put out the "best newspaper in the world."

1975 - As a boy, O. C. McDavid knew he wanted to pursue a career as a newspaper reporter. In this episode, he remembers going to work for Oliver Emmerich at the McComb Enterprise in 1925, sweeping up in the print shop and learning how to run the press.

In the late 1930s, McDavid became a reporter for the Jackson Daily News. He recalls the fiery relationship between editor, Fred Sullens, and Senator Theodore Bilbo. After serving in the military and working at several other newspapers, McDavid returned to the Jackson Daily News in 1957 as the News Editor. He discusses the role of editor as a community opinion maker and how his style differed from that of Emmerich and Sullens.

McDavid took up painting on the advice of his doctor to relieve stress. He became an accomplished painter and sculptor. He explains how that hobby led him to write an art column for the Jackson Daily News.

O.C. McDavid passed away on March 12, 1998, at the age of 86.

PHOTO: The Clarion Ledger

Feb 22, 2021

From a young age Patrick Carr dreamed of being a pilot in the Army Air Corps, even sending for literature from Jackson when he was twelve. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered WWII, nineteen year old Carr enlisted in the Army Air Corps determined to make that dream a reality.

Unfortunately, Carr washed out of the pilot program because of faulty depth perception. It was then he decided to enter gunnery school instead and became a waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. This week we dive into his story from this interview recorded on October 4, 1973.

1973 – Patrick Carr grew up on a farm near the small community of Paulding, Mississippi. In this episode, he recalls joining the Army Air Corp and becoming a gunner on a B-24 bomber in 1942. In August of 1944, Carr’s plane was shot down during a bombing run over Budapest. He remembers the angry mob waiting for him and being captured by the Germans.

Carr was held prisoner in a German POW camp (Stalag Luft IV) during the final eight months of WWII. He describes the meager rations they lived on and being slapped around by the guards. As the Russian Army advanced on their camp in the closing days of the war, Carr and his fellow POWs were marched away from the front line by the German guards. He describes a couple of times they were at risk of being killed by friendly fire.

PHOTO: Model of Stalag Luft III, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=534329

Feb 8, 2021

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.

On the 25th Anniversary of the Mississippi Humanities Council’s founding, Dr. Cora Ellen Norman made this observation on being selected as the group’s first Executive Director. “If I were being interviewed for [the] job today, there is no one in the humanities in the nation that would hire me. I had no background in the humanities.”

Indeed, someone with a master’s in chemistry and physics seems an unlikely choice to champion the humanities in our state, but it turned out to be the right choice. Norman brought a passion and commitment to the task of developing programs for the betterment of all our citizens that far outsized her slight stature. In this interview from 1997, recorded soon after her twenty-four-year tenure ended, she pulls no punches in recounting the challenges they faced.

1997 – In 1972, Cora Norman was working in Continuing Education at the University of Mississippi. In this episode, she recounts being hired as director of a new statewide Public Humanities program. Early Mississippi Humanities Council programs focused on improving education. Norman recalls the reluctance of school superintendents to host these public forums.

Convincing civic groups to host Humanities Council events required spending a lot of time in the field. Norman explains how limited staffing made being out of the office even more difficult.

The Mississippi Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau “features our state’s finest historians, writers and storytellers talking about a wide variety of subjects related to Mississippi and beyond.” Norman reflects with pride on the positive impact the program had during her tenure as director.

Dr. Cora Ellen Norman, 94, passed away on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

Feb 1, 2021

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.

Few individuals had more impact on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi than Dr. Aaron Henry. The son of sharecroppers, Henry was born in Dublin, Mississippi and raised on the Flowers brothers’ plantation. Henry’s father trained to become a cobbler and moved their family to Clarksdale to provide better opportunities for his children to receive an education.

Henry excelled scholastically and would eventually own his own pharmacy. In 1951 he was a founding member of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. He joined the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP in 1954 and was elected President in 1959. His accomplishments are too numerous to name here, but Henry was on the front lines of every battled waged for equality in Mississippi throughout his life. He served as a member of Mississippi State House of Representatives from 1982 to 1996. He died of congestive heart failure in 1997. Please enjoy these excerpts from his COHCH interview conducted May 1, 1972.

1972 – Dr. Aaron Henry of Clarksdale joined the Mississippi Chapter of the NAACP in 1954. He explains how the organization’s shift towards integration angered the white community. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, Henry promoted unity and equality for all Mississippians. He reflects on the need for racial reconciliation in a healthy and prosperous society.

During the long hot summer of 1964, three young civil rights workers went missing in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Henry recalls the search for Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, as well as his own brush with death.

As a civil rights activist, Dr. Aaron Henry listened to many inspirational speeches. He shares some of his favorite lines from newspaper publisher Hodding Carter and others.

PHOTO: Getty Images, John Dominis

Jan 25, 2021

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.

 

Jan 18, 2021

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.

PHOTO: extension.msstate.edu

Jan 11, 2021

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.

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