On this Memorial Day, we look back at episode #615 from May 2019.
Jim Swager of Brookhaven joined the US Army shortly after his 18th birthday, three months before D-day. In this episode, he shares his memories of the journey from Mississippi to the battlefields of France as part of the 103rd Infantry, Cactus Division. Although he weighed a mere 130 lbs. his captain made him a machine gunner and assigned him a BAR. The Browning Automatic Rifle was a 30-caliber light machine gun used extensively by Allied forces during WWII. Swager recalls the challenge of lugging the twenty-pound weapon across Europe.
During the war, Swager always enjoyed meeting other Mississippians and remembers how he and his buddy from Iuka survived a German artillery barrage together. In the chaos of war, soldiers are sometimes mistaken for the enemy by friendly forces and pay the ultimate price. Swager gets emotional when he discusses how another friend was killed doing night reconnaissance.
The Nazi government sent millions of Jews and other so-called undesirables to concentration camps for forced labor and eventual extermination. Swager describes the barbaric conditions of one such camp they helped liberate near the end of the war.
WARNING: This episode contains graphic descriptions of violence and atrocities.
Today we look back at a classic MSMO from April of 2016. Carl Walters of Laurel landed his first newspaper job in the 1920s working as a printer’s assistant. In this episode, he recalls how his love of sports led him to become a sports writer. Later, Walters began working for the Meridian Star. He discusses how the Meridian paper broke new ground by being the first to segregate the sports news into its own section. Walters became the first sports editor for the Jackson Daily News in 1946.
Walters reflects on his career as a sports editor and columnist with pride and the innovations we take for granted today, such as the Fall Football Preview Guide. Walters was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. You can learn more by visiting their website. http://msfame.com/hall-of-fame/inductees/carl-walters-sr/
This week we look back at the storied career of USM football coach, P. W. Underwood in this MSMO classic from March of 2016.
After playing football for Southern Miss, P.W. Underwood returned to Hattiesburg as an assistant coach in 1963. In this episode, he remembers the team ranked number 1 in defense, three years out of four.
When Underwood was named head football coach for Southern Miss six years later, he knew some changes needed to be made. At that time USM was known as The Generals and the mascot was a character named General Nathan after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. That year Underwood signed Willie Heidelburg, the first black player for a major Mississippi school and felt it was time to find a new mascot and establish some new traditions. He recounts the programs and processes he put in place to accomplish those goals.
After a humiliating loss to Ole’ Miss the year before, USM was given no chance of winning their 1970 rematch. Coach Underwood recalls how the Eagles were able to beat the odds.
Bernard Tessman and Karl Heimburg worked for Dr. Werhner von Braun in Nazi Germany on the V-2 rocket program. After WWII, 118 rocket scientists were brought over from Germany to work for the US Army. In this episode, Tessman and Heimburg remember those early days launching V-2 rockets in White Sands, New Mexico and the decision to locate the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
After President Kennedy announced the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the decision was made to build a rocket test facility in Hancock County, Bernard Tessman led the design team. He recalls the swampy conditions of the Pearl River basin.
In a podcast extra, Heimburg explains why the decision to build the Hancock County facility was based on unrealistic expectations. Today, the isolated location of the Stennis Space Center allows for the testing of larger engines.
In this MSMO Classic episode from January 2016, we look back at the inspiring life and career of Coach David Dunaway.
Coach Dunaway grew up in Tylertown during the Great Depression. In this episode, he recalls how the town became his substitute family after his parents split up. Dunaway worked all through school to support himself and still found time to participate in sports. He credits the guidance he received from his coach and teachers for his decision to pursue a career in coaching/teaching at the junior high level.
Dunaway graduated high school in 1944 at the age of 17. He remembers playing for Mississippi State in the first college football game he ever saw, alongside State football legend, Shorty McWilliams.
Today's MSMO classic discusses efforts by outside business interests to turn Noxubee County into a toxic dumping ground.
In 1983, a hazardous-waste disposal company attempted to build a toxic waste dump in the town of Shuqualak in Noxubee County, Mississippi. In this episode, Martha Blackwell describes how local citizens organized to fight back and were able to have a five year moratorium placed on chemical disposal sites in Mississippi.
In 1991, after the moratorium expired, plans were announced to construct three toxic waste facilities in Noxubee County. Blackwell recalls how she learned about a hazardous-waste dump to be constructed on her neighbor’s land. She details how their group fought to keep these facilities out of Noxubee county and why they felt that having three high capacity sites would lead to waste from across the country being brought to Mississippi for disposal.
In a podcast extra, Blackwell credits the Choctaw Indians with preventing the plans to construct a dump site on reservation land. Originally published on August 3, 2015.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and American entered the war, young men joined the military in droves leaving big holes in the work force. Women stepped up to fill those jobs traditionally held by men, helping out on the home front and showing what they were capable of in the process.
For Women's History Month, We look back at this classic MSMO episode from February 1, 2016, featuring the story of Bonnie Stedman of McComb who went to work for Illinois Central right out of high school.
Stedman recalls typing orders for the trains, changing light bulbs, and even working as a switch man. Her memories of the challenging and sometimes hazardous work are compelling and heartwarming.
Today, we are look back at Episode #485, which features James Jones of Laurel discussing his time with the 761st Tank Battalion during WWII.
The 761st Tank Battalion was the first armored combat group made up of African American soldiers. Prior to this time, black men rarely served in combat roles in the U.S. Military and were generally relegated to menial labor jobs like stevedores. After being given the opportunity to serve under General George S. Patton in the European Theater, the 761st distinguished themselves as a brave and effective combat force in face of enemy fire.
Joining me for the interview today is Dr. Douglas Bristol.
Douglas Bristol, Jr. is the Buford “Buff” Blount Professor of Military History and a Fellow of the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Smithsonian, Duke University, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library have awarded him post-doctoral fellowships. He is a member of the Editorial Board for the Quarterly Journal of the Army War College, Parameters. He has published two books: Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom and Integrating the U.S. Military: Race, Gender, and Sexuality since World War II. His current book project is War as Labor: Black GIs in Army Service Forces during World War II. His interviews have been included in the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times along with the PBS documentary Boss: The Black Experience in Business
Today, we look back at Episode #475, featuring an interview with Roscoe Jones Vol. 740, conducted on May 9, 1997 and first aired in February 2016.
Jones's memories of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner are riveting because according to Jones, he had planned on going to Neshoba County that fateful day.
For anyone not familiar with the story: Civil Rights Activists James Chaney from Meridian, MS, along with Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner from New York City were abducted and murdered on June 21, 1964 while investigating a church burning in the city of Philadelphia, MS.
Joining me for the interview today via Zoom, is Olivia Moore. Olivia, a doctoral candidate in history, is currently working on a dissertation that explores the fractures that developed between civil rights leaders in Hattiesburg throughout the 1960s. Olivia received her BA in History and Politics from the University of Exeter in 2014, and her MA in History from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2016. She has since been awarded a Graduate Certificate in Public History, and was the 2019-2020 recipient of the Baird Fellowship. More recently, Olivia worked on a collaborative project with L.J. Rowan High School’s Class of 1968 that resulted in the publishing of the book, The Class of 1968: A Thread Through Time. Her research interests include race, gender, oral history, and the memory of the civil rights movement.
February is Black History Month and today we are looking back at Episode number 471, featuring an interview of Hattiesburg native and Civil Rights activist, Doug Smith. Smith was present for several key events in the Movement including the March on Washington in August of 1963, and Hattiesburg Freedom Day in January of 1964 which kicked off Freedom Summer that year. Doug Smith was also active in a series of voter registration drives which led to greater participation in voting by black citizens from across the state. His activities also led to his being arrested some 32 times by his count.
Joining me for the interview today is Dr. Kevin Greene.
Kevin is an associate professor of history in the School of Humanities at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he is the Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, and a fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society. He teaches courses in Oral History, American history, African American history, Urban history, World history, Research Methodology, and Cultural History. He is the author of The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy, a cultural and intellectual examination of William “Big Bill” Broonzy with the University of North Carolina Press for their catalog in African American Studies.
We will be discussing the March on Washington, the 1964 Hattiesburg Freedom Day, and how local law enforcement was used to suppress desegregation efforts.
This is our first Redux of 2023 and because Monday the 16th is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are looking back at a favorite past Mississippi Moments episode: MSM 601 Father Peter Quinn - Dr. King Comes to Hattiesburg, which aired originally on January 28, 2019.
For the interview, we are joined by Dr. Rebecca Tuuri, an associate professor of history at the USM with expertise in Civil Rights, African American, and Women’s and Gender history. She is co-director for the Center for the Study of the Gulf South and a member of the Center for Black Studies at USM. She also serves on the boards of the Gulf South Historical Association, the Mississippi Historical Society, and is the Mississippi State Scholar for the Smithsonian exhibition Voices and Votes.
Her 2018 book Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle won the 2019 prize for best book in Southern women's history from the Southern Association of Women Historians.
Father Peter, O. Quinn moved from his home in Ireland to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in September of 1962, shortly after being ordained into the priesthood at the age of twenty-five. His first assignment was at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and then he became the priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, which was an all-black church in Hattiesburg.
Father Quinn was very much involved with the youth groups including the Youth NAACP and the Catholic Youth Organization, advising and sponsoring the young people on weekly dances, ball games, and fund-raising. But also in promoting the advancement of Civil Rights by organizing boycotts, protests and picketing of whites-only businesses and facilities.
Quinn gives a hair-raising account of being shot at as two truck-loads of men attempted to run him off the road as he returned from a meeting at Vernon Dahmer's house. When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Hattiesburg in 1968, ten days before his death, he took a nap in Father Quinn's parsonage before continuing on his journey.
PHOTO: Associated Press