Walter Wallace grew up on a dairy and cotton farm in Cleveland, Mississippi in the 1930s. In this episode, he shares his memories of helping his family with the daily chores. He recalls having to milk ten cows each morning before going to school.
According to Wallace, Cleveland was a busy town in the 1930s and 40s. He remembers the crowded streets on Saturdays and riding the train with his mother to Memphis. Prior to 1936, the Wallace home had no electricity or indoor plumbing. He describes sleeping on the porch in the summertime and the excitement of finally getting electric lights.
In 1940, Wallace’s father passed away, leaving him and his mother run to the farm. He recounts trying to bargain with the cotton buyers for the best price and attending college at Delta State.
James Lindsey grew up on his father’s cotton farm in Bolivar County in the 1940s. In this episode, he shares his memories of a life spent farming in the Mississippi Delta.
Lindsey remembers plowing the fields with mules and picking cotton by hand before the days of mechanization. Later as an adult, Lindsey began his career as a cotton farmer on four hundred acres near Cleveland, Mississippi. He recalls increasing the size of his farm to around 3,500 acres and why he later decided to downsize.
Advances in farming equipment, chemicals, and genetically-engineered seeds have led to higher yields per acre for cotton growers. Lindsey discusses the balance between increased cost and profit.
At the time of this interview in 2009, Lindsey had witnessed a drastic decline in the number of cotton farms in the Mississippi Delta. He explains why so many of his neighbors have moved away from cotton production to other crops.
PHOTO: MS State Univ. Extension
Hattiesburg native Clarence Williams was drafted into the army in the final days of WWII. In this episode, he shares some of his many experiences gained during a decades-long military career. Not many veterans can claim to have served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but Williams saw service in all three conflicts.
Williams recounts his brief service in Germany and returning to Mississippi afterwards to finish high school. Then while attending college at Tuskegee, he was recalled to active duty for the Korean conflict. Williams remembers how his unit would have to jump into their foxholes when the Chinese attacked.
Clarence Williams served as an Air Force Manpower Survey Officer during the war in Vietnam. He describes his duties in planning for the deployment of supplies and equipment. In a military career spanning over twenty-five years, he visited many countries. Williams expresses gratitude for the opportunities the Air Force provided him and his wife to see the world.
In 1918 New Orleans residents George Walter and Annette McConnell Anderson purchased 24 acres of land facing the Mississippi Sound in Ocean Springs. Annette wished to establish a retreat for artists. They named their new venture, Fairhaven. Their three sons, Peter, Walter and Mac, shared Annette’s love of the Arts and found inspiration there. Shearwater Pottery was founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson. In this episode, his nephew, John Anderson explains how Shearwater Pottery got it name.
As a painter, Walter Anderson, lived the life of a hermit, spending much of his time on Horn Island, painting Gulf Coast wildlife in his own unique style. His youngest son, John, recalls his father’s strained relationship with the rest of the family and shares an emotional early memory.
Even though Walter Anderson died in 1965, his work was unknown to the Art world until the 1970s. John Anderson remembers how an exhibit at a Memphis gallery helped turn his father into a cultural icon.
The Friends of Walter Anderson was established in 1974 to help catalog and preserve the late artist’s work. Anderson explains how that group led to the establishment of the Walter Anderson Museum.
Rev. Carolyn Abrams is perhaps best known as the mother of voting rights advocate, Stacey Abrams, but she has accomplished much more than being the matriarch of a dynamic and successful family. After earning her first master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in Library Science, she spent fourteen years working as the director librarian for William Carey University. She then answered the call to ministry, joining her husband Robert in attending the Emory University Candler School of Theology, where both received Master of Divinity degrees.
Abrams grew up in Hattiesburg during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode she recalls attending segregated schools and being barred from entering whites-only establishments. Growing up in the segregated South, young black students had limited job opportunities available to them. Abrams explains how parents and teachers stressed education as the key to a better future.
Abrams and her husband encouraged their six children to earn good grades and to aim high in life. She discusses the accomplishments of each child and the role education played in their success.
As a lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Abrams has witnessed many positive changes in her community. She describes the challenges of today and the need for young people to return to the Church.
PHOTO: Abrams family portrait, Hattiesburg American.
Growing up black in the 1940s, Katharine Carr Esters learned at an early age to stand up for herself. In this episode, she shares her memories of racial segregation and the struggle for dignity and respect. She recalls being taught by her father to “know who you are, and to be what you can be.”
During the Jim Crow era, blacks in the South were expected to sit in the back of public buses behind a partition. Esters describes an altercation she had with a bus driver in 1946 and how her letter to the bus company led to a change.
Before the Civil Rights Movement, black adults were not called Mr. or Mrs. by white people. Esters remembers insisting her mother be addressed as Mrs. by their bank in Kosciusko. Throughout her life, Esters has been an advocate for the marginalized in our society. She explains why it’s important to treat each other respect, dignity, and fairness.
Dr. Joseph Clements, a former USM professor, was drafted into the U.S. Army in the Fall of 1941. In this episode, he shares his memories of the war. Clements remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor while training in Texas and his first assignment in Alaska, where he encountered the “midnight sun.”
During WWII, thousands of allied troops gathered in England in preparation for the invasion of France. Clements recalls fondly the diversity of the people he met while waiting for D-Day.
As allied forces battled their way across the French countryside, livestock was slaughtered indiscriminately. Clements describes the devastation and a grateful French woman who offered them a homecooked meal. Before America entered WWII, Joseph Clements watched newsreel footage of the fall of France. He recounts visiting the spot where Hitler danced after forcing the French to surrender.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was written by Sean O'Farrell and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
PHOTO: French surrender to German forces during WWII near Compiègne, France.
Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes joined the USM History Department in fall of 1997. In this episode, he discusses the importance of community connections locally, and political connections in Jackson. In 2008, Kyriakoudes became the director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. He recalls his goals for continuing the Center’s work and the need for digitizing the oral history collection.
According to Kyriakoudes, his tenure as director of the center was a search for funding. He remembers having Mississippi Oral History Day at the state capitol and commissioning a stage play for high school students based on interviews in the collection.
As a grant-funded NPO, the COHCH depends on projects to survive. Kyriakoudes explains how a manmade disaster provided funding for two years of research.
PHOTO: Capitol Day 2010. (left to right) Linda VanZandt, Jobie Martin, Ross Walton, Louis Kyriakoudes
During WWII, Illinois Central Railroad started an apprentice program for McComb high school boys. In this episode, Edwin Etheridge recalls working at the railroad maintenance shop during the day while taking classes at night. As an apprentice at the McComb railroad shop, Etheridge was expected to learn all aspects train car and locomotive maintenance. He remembers the older men who patiently shared their experience with the newbies.
After turning eighteen, Edwin Etheridge left his job on the railroad to serve in the Navy during WWII. He discusses returning to his apprenticeship after the war and the different skills he was taught.
During his forty-plus years with Illinois Central, Etheridge rose through the ranks to become shop superintendent. He describes working on the wrecker crew and the equipment they used to clean up after train wrecks and derailments.
As a lifelong resident of Port Gibson, James Allen witnessed many important moments in his hometown’s history. In this episode, he shares some of those memories. Allen attended the Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson in the early 1920s. He recalls the night McComb Hall burned and three student’s harrowing escape from the third floor.
Allen’s father owned one of the first car dealerships in Port Gibson. He recounts his father’s favorite story of selling a retired rancher his first automobile and how the man tried to coax the car up a hill. People have been decorating the cars of newlyweds since the earliest days of the automobile. Allen describes the lengths to which they would go to harass their just-married friends.
F. S. Wolcott’s travelling minstrel show used Port Gibson as its home base during the off season. Allen remembers how Wolcott would wait to pay his credit accounts until the merchant asked for the money.
PHOTO: Chamberlain-Hunt Academy postcard
Lt. General Emmett H. "Mickey" Walker joined the Mississippi State ROTC program in 1941. In this episode, he recalls being activated in 1943 and going through basic training in the Texas summer heat. As war raged in Europe during WWII, soldiers who were wounded or killed in action needed to be replaced. Walker discusses being a replacement soldier and his long journey to the front lines.
During WWII, the German-held city of Metz in Northeast France, was considered a veritable fortress. Walker describes how Allied forces were able to take the city in half a day’s time.
The Battle of the Bulge was a last-ditch effort by the Germans to split Allied forces with a surprise counter-offensive through the Ardennes Forest in December of 1944. Walker remembers driving all night through the harsh Belgium winter with General Patton’s Third Army.
Mississippi’s Country Comedian, Jerry Clower, described himself as having “backed into showbusiness.” Clower began his career as an assistant county agent in Oxford before taking a job selling seed corn and then fertilizer for Mississippi Chemical Corporation. It was while calling on customers, he began telling stories about his rural upbringing in East Fork, Mississippi. The homespun humor, combined with Clower’s gregarious personality, led to more and more speaking opportunities at churches, trade shows, and civic clubs until finally, he was convinced to cut a record in 1970. The unlikely success of that recording, sold by mail order and out of the trunk of Clower’s car, and the airplay it received by supporters like country DJ Big Ed Wilkes, led to a recording contract with MCA. By the time Clower was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1973, he was appearing on television programs nationwide and performing live at rodeos and state fairs.
In this episode, his daughter, Katy Clower Johnson shares her memories of the man she called Daddy. She recalls being introduced to the audience of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of three by country music legend, Roy Acuff. At the peak of his career, Clower performed over two hundred shows per year. Johnson remembers travelling with her father and how he used those trips as educational opportunities.
During his twenty-seven year career, Clower amassed a large collection of memorabilia. Johnson and her mother, Homerline Clower discuss their decision to open a Jerry Clower Museum. Johnson also considers her father’s legacy and how it compares to the man she knew.
Bill Stallworth was a Biloxi city councilman when Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast in August 2005. In this episode, he recalls the shock and fear in the eyes of his constituents as he viewed the devastation. Basic necessities like food and water were unavailable for days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Stallworth gets emotional when he recounts early efforts to feed the survivors.
Before the storm even ended, relief workers from across the country began making their way towards the Gulf Coast. Stallworth remembers how two volunteers from Oxfam America helped him fund and organize relief efforts throughout the city.
Three years after Hurricane Katrina, Stallworth reflected on the rebuilding efforts to date. He shares his hopes for the future and the lessons to be learned from that experience.
PHOTO: Linda VanZandt
Linda VanZandt began working for the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2003, shortly after graduating from USM with a degree in International Studies. During a trip to Vietnam, she recounts being deeply affected by the generous spirit of the Vietnamese people and their culture. In this episode, VanZandt explains her decision to reach out to the East Biloxi Vietnamese fishing community after Hurricane Katrina.
While assisting with relief efforts on the Gulf Coast, VanZandt befriended many of the Vietnamese-Americans living in Biloxi. She recalls being led to conduct an oral history project to preserve their stories for future generations. VanZandt developed a traveling exhibit documenting the stories of the Gulf Coast Vietnamese fishing community. She remembers the impact it had on second and third generation Vietnamese-Americans.
Developers of the Two Mississippi Museums made extensive use of the oral history collection at USM. VanZandt discusses assisting the exhibit designers and how the Center’s Vietnamese-Americans of the Gulf Coast Oral History Project impacts how this community is represented there.
Dr. Stephen Sloan accepted the position of Assistant Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2003. In this episode, he discusses those years and how his tenure was shaped by the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. Sloan begins the conversation with memories of how his family survived the storm and the cleanup that followed.
Soon after Katrina, the COHCH began conducting oral history interviews of the survivors. Sloan describes the need for such a project and the positive response it received. Based in part on those experiences, Sloan co-authored a book on conducting post-crisis oral history projects. In Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis, he reflects on the need to protect the mental health of interviewers, as well as the interviewees.
In 2007, Dr. Sloan left the Center to become Director of the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University. He recalls fondly his time at USM and how it shaped his career.
Curtis Austin became the Assistant Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2000, before assuming the Directorship one year later. During his seven year tenure, the Center would expand its Civil Rights Documentation Project, becoming the definitive resource for researchers, teachers and museums seeking answers on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.
In this episode, Austin recalls growing in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers. He recounts his education and early career. His first oral history interview after becoming assistant director of the Center was of 104 year old King Evans. He remembers how it changed the way he thought about voting rights. As director of the oral history program at USM, Austin interviewed some key players in the Civil Rights Movement. He expresses pride in the Center’s work and discusses its importance.
Austin also discusses the Roots Reunion, a live Americana music program presented annually by the Center during the 1990s and 2000s. He describes the program’s impact.
The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has always relied on grant funding for special programs and projects. Austin expresses disappointment in the university’s unwillingness to assist the Center financially during lean years and questions their level of support for this “hidden gem” during previous administrations.
Dr. Shana Walton began working with the Mississippi Oral History Program in 1992. As an anthropologist, Walton worked to expand the MOHP’s mission to include preserving the state’s cultural heritage. She and Director Chuck Bolton assembled a team that included not just historians, but also political science majors, anthropologists, and folklorists. During that transformative decade, the MOHP became the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, a prominent name in the preservation of Civil Rights history. In this episode, Walton recalls conducting oral history workshops for local communities interested in preserving their memories.
It was during this period that Walton met, hired, and befriended a legend in the Civil Rights Movement, Worth Long. The son of an AME preacher, Long rose to prominence in 1963, when he became leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma, Alabama. By the time Long began working with the COHCH in the 1990s, he was suffering from a degenerative eye condition that was slowly robbing him of his sight, but that did not slow him down in the least.
Worth Long traveled around Mississippi by bus conducting oral history interviews even though he was legally blind, relying on the kindness of strangers to help him reach his destination. Shana Walton remembers how Long used his blindness as an opportunity to make friends and preserve stories. As a civil rights activist, Worth Long heeded his father’s advice on how to set aside anger and see the good in people. Walton marvels at how her friend’s love for humanity would overcome the emotions of the moment.
Oseola McCarty received national acclaim for donating the bulk of her life’s savings to the University of Southern Mississippi. Shana Walton discusses recording McCarty’s oral history and the impact of her gift.
PHOTO: Alabama Department of Archives and History
During the yearlong celebration of our 50th Anniversary, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has been interviewing former directors and staffers to preserve our own history. This week, we share the memories of Dr. Charles Bolton.
In 1990, Chuck Bolton became the fourth director of the Mississippi Oral History Program at USM. A Picayune native, Bolton had graduated from USM with a bachelor’s degree in history and moved to Durham, North Carolina to attend graduate school at Duke University. In this episode, he remembers his oral history professor and mentor Larry Goodwin and how being from Mississippi lead to a unique first interview.,
After receiving his Ph.D. in History, Bolton returned to USM to accept a teaching position in the History Department and the Directorship of the MOHP. He recalls the legacy of the Mississippi Oral History Program’s first director, Dr. Orley Caudill and how they were able to build on those early successes.
The Stennis Space Center Oral History Project was launched in 1991 by the Mississippi Oral History Program. Bolton discusses the roots of that fourteen year project and the opportunities it created. In 1992 Shana Walton was hired to be Assistant Director of the Mississippi Oral History Program. Bolton explains how her background in Linguistic Anthropology allowed the Program to evolve into the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
PHOTO: Ellisville Blues legend, Tommie T-Bone Pruitt performs at an early Roots Reunion show, an annual Cultural Heritage program put on by the Center during the 1990s and early 2000s.
This week, for our 50th Anniversary, we begin to document the story of us with a short series of episodes based on interviews conducted this spring of former directors and staffers. Unfortunately, our first director, Dr. Orley B. Caudill, Sr., passed away in 2015 at the age of 97. But luckily for us, his son, Brandt Caudill was willing to share his memories of his father and he had plenty of good stories!
Orley Caudill was working as a grocery store manager in Wenatchee, Washington when WWII erupted and soon found himself in the Army, guarding the Pacific coastline from possible Japanese invasion. He transferred into the Army Air Corp and served in the Pacific Theater as a navigator, bombardier, and radar operator. Caudill saw plenty of action. On one mission, his crew’s B25 bomber limped home with 450 bullet holes!
After the war, Caudill remained in the Air Force and flew night bombing missions during the Korean War. On one mission, their pilot was awarded the medal of honor and Caudill a bronze star. Caudill became an Air Force Public Information Officer and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base for several years. He then served in Paris, taking his young family with him. Later, he served in the Pentagon before a final tour of duty in Vietnam. All told, he flew 120 combat missions!
By the time Caudill retired from the Air Force after 27 years, he had earned a Ph. D. in Political Science and moved his family to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to teach at USM in 1968. In 1971, he became the first director of the newly formed Mississippi Oral History Program and kept a grueling pace of 100 interviews per year until he retired in 1986.
In this episode Brandt Caudill recounts his father’s 27 year career in the U. S. Air Force. He recalls his father’s decision to move to Hattiesburg and teach Political Science at USM. Caudill also remembers his father’s love for oral history and the famous Mississippians he interviewed. Finally, he reflects on his father’s natural curiosity and zest for life throughout his 97 years.
Lloyd Munn grew up in Mendenhall, Mississippi, the third of four brothers. In this episode, he remembers being part of a musical family and why he chose to play the harmonica.
Munn began sitting-in with bands at the George Street Grocery and Subway Lounge in the 1990s. He recalls the talented musicians he met and befriended at those iconic Jackson music venues. Greg “Fingers” Taylor played harmonica in Jimmy Buffett’s band, the Coral Reefers, for many years. Munn discusses his friend and mentor and how he always told him to “respect the music.”
“The Warrior Bonfire Program provides opportunities that improve the lives of Purple Heart recipients on their lifelong journey of recovery and healing.” Munn describes the impact of the program.
Even though Kat Bergeron was not born on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, when she moved here with her family in the early 1960s, she fell in love with the sights, sounds, music, history and lore of the area. In other words, all the things that make a place feel like home. It’s a phenomenon she calls having a “sense of place.” In this episode, she explains what it means to have a “sense of place” and why it’s important.
Since the 1980s, Bergeron has been a feature writer for the Gulf Coast Sun Herald. She discusses the difference between writing about history and being a historian. According to Bergeron, most legends are based on truth, even if the facts have been lost over time. She recalls how her friend Jim Stevens helped dispel a popular myth about the Biloxi lighthouse.
The shoreline along the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been called the world’s longest manmade beach. Bergeron rejects that notion and describes how the original sand washed away over time.
After the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, NOAA asked us to conduct an oral history project to preserve the stories of those who fished the Gulf for a living. What one hears in these interviews a decade later is a myriad of emotions: pride in the past, exasperation at the evolving markets and conditions, and fear for the future. This week, we return to the interview of Thomas Schultz, junior, a fifth generation fisherman who, though he had retired, was still very much involved with preserving a way of life that he felt was slipping away.
2011 - Before the days of motorized fishing boats, fishermen relied on manpower and the wind to ply their trade. In this episode, Thomas Schultz of Biloxi describes how his father’s family would row a skiff thirty miles to sell their catch.
Schultz spent decades catching and selling shrimp with his own shrimp boats. He recalls being out in the Gulf for weeks at a time and how the price of shrimp has fluctuated. After Schultz retired from shrimping, he remained active with the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a group of industry professionals dedicated to ensuring “the continued vitality and existence of the U.S. shrimp industry.” He explains why he thinks the threat that shrimping poses to the sea turtle population has been greatly exaggerated.
According to Schultz commercial fishing is a great life and allowed him to provide for his family. He worries that pollution and government regulations are discouraging the next generation of fishermen.
As a new class of inductees ascend to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, we look back to this classic episode featuring Jai Johanny Johanson, a founding member of the Allman Brothers band. "Jaimoe" as he is known, had many interesting stories to share and we were all ears! Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995, please enjoy this classic MSMO. We will be back next week with a new episode.
2012 - Ocean Springs native Jai Johnny Johanson got his first big break as a professional drummer in 1966 when he joined Otis Redding's band. Over the next couple of years, he played for several big names including Percy Sledge, Joe Tex, Johnny Jenkins and Clarence Carter, but by 1968, found himself struggling to make ends meet. Johanson was about to leave the south and move to New York to pursue a career in Jazz when he heard of a young guitar player named Duane Allman, looking to form a new band. The two men were soon joined by bassist Barry Oakley and that trio would serve as the foundation for the Allman Brother Band.
In this episode, Johanson shares his memories of that time including the phone call he got from Cadillac Henry about joining Otis Redding’s band. He recalls going to see Percy Sledge at the Apollo and how he got the nickname, Jaimoe. Finally, he discusses what made Duane Allman such an exceptional musician and the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band.
PHOTO: J. Bayer: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlbnyc/3388544821/
1975 – Doyle Ball moved from Amite County, Mississippi to Kansas in 1912 and took a job on a large cattle ranch. In this episode, he recalls learning to rope and ride and how to tend to the cows when they were sick.
During WWII, Ball leased out his farm in Crystal Springs and began working at a shipyard. He describes building mine sweepers and other ships critical for the war effort. After the war, Ball returned to his home in Crystal Springs and opened a dairy farm. He discusses the different types of farming operations he managed during his long career.
In 1975, Ball could look back with pride on the sixty-five years he spent in agriculture. He considers the changes he has witnessed and offers advice to any young farmers just starting out.
Some of Sam Alman’s earliest memories are of sleeping upstairs in his family’s fledgling soft drink business as the machinery below filled the bottles to be delivered the next day. And his stories of a life spent as part of the Gulf Coast community are filled with love and appreciation for the place he called home.
2004 – Sam Alman’s father moved their young family to Gulfport in the 1930s in search of new opportunities. In this episode, he recalls how they opened a soft drink bottling company and lived upstairs in those early days.
For his final two years of high school, Alman attended the Gulf Coast Military Academy which opened in 1912. He explains how the training he received there prepared him for life in the Navy during WWII.
Mardi Gras was an important part of Alman’s life from an early age and he participated in the Gulf Coast festivities for most of his life. He remembers serving as the King of Mardi Gras in 1971 and how local businesses would build their own floats.
During his lifetime, Alman watched the Mississippi Gulf Coast grow and prosper. He reflects on the changes he witnessed and why he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.