Bess Simmons grew up in Liberty, Mississippi during the 1920s and 30s. In this episode, she recalls riding to school on her sister’s pet donkey and later, in a homemade school bus. Simmons had a chance meeting with her future husband when he came to her school for an FFA event. She explains why they didn’t start dating until years later.
In the early 1950s, Simmons worked as a substitute teacher, and with various civic groups. She remembers welcoming new McComb residents as a member of the Howdycrats.
As a longtime resident of McComb, Simmons met many interesting people and wrote about them in her weekly newspaper column. She recounts the story of Ms. Eddie Newman, known far and wide as a talented seamstress.
PHOTO: McComb, Mississippi in the 1950s.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College opened their Natchez Campus in Fall of 1972. Carolyn Vance Smith remembers those early days and her role in starting the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.
Each year, the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration focuses on Mississippi’s contributions to the world of Literature. Smith discusses how they select the theme for each conference. Since 1989, the NLCC has worked to present memorable programs for conference attendees. Smith recalls two of her favorite events from past years.
The NLCC always includes events and programs for students from the junior high level through college. Smith explains why it is important to make Literature and Writing more accessible to young people.
PHOTO: Natchez Democrat
Helen Butler was born in Raleigh, Mississippi in the early 1920s. In this episode, she describes living in the Cohay logging camps when her father worked for the Eastman Gardiner lumber company. Butler grew up on her family’s farm in Smith County during the Great Depression. She recounts riding to school on dirt roads in the primitive school buses known as tally-hoes.
Growing up on a small farm in rural Mississippi during the 1930s meant learning to do without. Butler remembers cooking on a wood-fired stove and patching her school shoes with pasteboard.
According to Butler, even though money was scarce during the Depression, they were never hungry. She explains the advantages of growing your own food and how they would roast and grind coffee beans.
PHOTO: Primitive Model T school bus known as a “Tally-Ho.” Photo and bus restoration by Kirk Hill.
Sergeant Jacquelyn Welborn joined the Mississippi Army National Guard in fall of 2002. In this episode, she discusses her service in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She credits her family’s military history and the events of 9/11 for inspiring her to enlist.
On April 4, 2003, Welborn’s convoy made the arduous journey from Kuwait to Bagdad. She recalls being cheered on by children and the poor condition of their new base at Abu Ghraib. As the NCO in charge of housing, Welborn’s duties included providing overnight lodging for passing convoys, as well as Marine units needing a place to rest. She takes pride in the quality of accommodations they were able to offer the soldiers.
When Sergeant Welborn first arrived at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, morale among the troops was low. She describes how they worked to provide the soldiers with activities, entertainment, and a place to rest.
Mona Astin was working in Washington DC as a secretary when she heard about the Women’s Army Corps. In this episode, she discusses joining the WACs and her decision to go to Europe to assist in the war effort. As a WAC serving in England during the war, Astin helped prepare the invasion force for D-Day. She recalls how German planes and buzz bombs would fly over on their way to targets in London.
In September of 1944, a group of WACs drove a convoy of trucks to the docks in South Hampton for the trip across the English Channel into France. Astin describes riding in a landing craft to Omaha Beach and arriving at the new Allied Headquarters in Rheims.
Six months after WWII ended, all the women who had joined the military were discharged. Astin recalls her service fondly and celebrates the opportunities women enjoy in today’s army.
Leland native, Mary Allen joined the newly formed Women’s Army Corps in the Summer of 1943. In this episode, she recalls the public’s negative reaction to the WACs and how she gained her father’s approval. As a recruiter for the Women’s Army Corps, Mary Allen signed up young women for service during WWII. She remembers travelling around South Alabama convincing parents to allow their daughters to join.
The Caterpillar Club honors people who have jumped by parachute from a disabled airplane. Allen describes joining that group when the military plane she was riding in crashed. During the final year of WWII, Allen was assigned to a hospital providing support services for soldiers. She discusses riding the hospital trains and the pitiful condition of the returning POWs.
Reuben Anderson grew up in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1940s and 50s. In this episode, he recalls being inspired to become a civil rights attorney at a young age. When Anderson graduated from Ole’ Miss Law School, there were only a few African American attorneys in Mississippi. He remembers his first job working on school desegregation cases.
In 1985, Rueben Anderson became the first African American to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He discusses his initial reluctance and the comradery he shared with his fellow justices. Justice Anderson served for two terms on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He explains why being first is not as important as the opportunities Black attorneys enjoy today.
Alyce Clarke was the first African American female elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. In this episode, Clarke shares her memories of a groundbreaking career in state politics.
She remembers being encouraged to run for political office by her family and friends in 1984. Clarke began her first term in the Mississippi House of Representatives on March 24, 1985. She recalls the swearing-in ceremony and a misunderstanding about her first committee assignment.
As one of the Mississippi House of Representatives’ longest serving members, Clarke has authored several key pieces of legislation. She discusses two of her proudest achievements.
Since 1976, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus has promoted the needs of their constituents. Clark discusses how they worked to change the rules regarding leadership positions.
Dr. Eddie Holloway grew up in the Mobile Street area of Hattiesburg during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode, he shares his memories of the mentors, teachers, and business leaders who helped him along the way. He recalls the Black Community as vibrant and self-sufficient with plenty of success stories.
According to Holloway, Black students in Hattiesburg had many good role models to emulate. He discusses the positive impact teachers had on every aspect of his life growing up on Mobile Street. Even though he was raised in the segregated South, Holloway never felt disadvantaged. He credits the wisdom of the community’s elders in helping him prepare for success.
PODCAST BONUS: As a lifelong educator, Holloway recognizes the importance of a tight knit and involved community. He laments the loss of decorum, respect, and commitment in many of our schools today.
“A lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Holloway earned four degrees from USM, including a doctorate in educational administration. He is a 2004 inductee of the Southern Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame and has served as dean of students since 1997 and assistant vice president for student affairs since 2015. Prior to filling these roles, he also served the University as a counselor and instructor/assistant professor of psychology, as assistant dean of students, and as interim dean of students.” - USM website
Dr. Holloway retired in 2019 but has returned to USM part time.
PHOTO: USM website
During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps gave young men jobs to help support their families. In this episode, Bidwell Barnes of Gulfport recalls joining the CCC and working to battle forest fires in South Mississippi. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday,
Bidwell Barnes was drafted into the army to fight in Europe. He describes the basic training required to become a medic for the 92nd Infantry Division. As an army medic during WWII, Bidwell Barnes was expected to give medical aid to friend and foe alike. He remembers how both sides would spread falsehoods about him and his fellow black soldiers.
After helping to defeat fascism in Europe, Bidwell Barnes returned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He recounts feeling surprised at having to sit in the back of bus after serving his country.
Jewel Rushing grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. In this episode, he remembers befriending the hobos who used to camp outside of town and discusses how growing up in that time of hardship inspired him to help others later in life.
In 1968, the Mayor of McComb asked Jewel Rushing to serve on the city’s public housing board. He recalls organizing a Boys and Girls Club chapter after watching poor kids playing in the streets. Rushing also served on the Board of Directors of the McComb Salvation Army for many years. He recounts how a generous donation by a retired railroad worker allowed them to keep their doors open.
During his lifetime, Rushing worked tirelessly as a community activist. He served on numerous boards including the Southwest Community College Board of Trustees, the McComb Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, and the United Way of Southwest Mississippi. He explains how growing up poor inspired him to try and help young people overcome their circumstances.
Jewel Rushing passed away on September 13, 2011, at the age of ninety.
As the daughter of famed restauranteur Mary Mahoney, Eileen Mahoney Ezell grew up immersed in Biloxi history and tradition. In this episode, she recalls being asked to serve as Mardi Gras Queen Ixolib for 1976. For Ezell, serving as the Gulf Coast Carnival Queen was a whirlwind of festivities. She describes the Coronation Ball, parades, and other events that make Mardi Gras so special.
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant opened for business in Biloxi on May 7, 1964. Ezell remembers her mother as real people person who loved the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Since 1908, Biloxi’s Mardi Gras has continue to grow and evolve into a world class celebration. In this interview recorded in 2004, Ezell discusses how the Gulf Coast Carnival Association works to ensure the future of the event while respecting traditions of the past.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Punter, Ray Guy, redefined the position for all who would follow. A tremendous athlete, Guy was as good a pitcher as he was a punter. After finishing high school in his hometown of Thomson, Georgia, he decided to come to Southern Miss to play football and baseball. Guy recalls why choosing a smaller school like USM was a “no-brainer.”
Although Guy could kick footballs great distances, he often chose height over yardage. He discusses the strategy behind his high, hanging kicks. During his years playing football with the Oakland Raiders, Guy shattered many NFL records. He explains why records are meaningless if the team doesn’t win.
Even though Ray Guy was first nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, he was not inducted until the Class of 2014. In this interview, recorded shortly before the induction ceremony, he describes how his former coach John Madden would present him for enshrinement and the festivities to follow.
PHOTO: Famed Raiders Coach John Madden (L) and Ray Guy (R) the night of the enshrinement ceremony in 2014.
Claudette Romious grew up the Delta town of Alligator, Mississippi. In this episode, she discusses her father’s various business ventures including a garage, gas station, café, grocery store and juke joint. She also shares her memories of growing up as the daughter of a hardworking African-American entrepreneur.
The Rabbit Foot Minstrels tent show travelled the South entertaining both white and black audiences. Claudette Romious recalls sneaking into the adult-oriented burlesque show as a child.
As a teenager, Romious and her sisters worked in their father’s juke joint on the weekends. She describes learning how to handle drunk customers and not be afraid of confrontations.
When Romious’s father passed away in 1979, people called and came from all over the country to express their condolences. She remembers the diverse array of mourners and their stories of how her father had helped each of them to achieve their dreams.
Hattiesburg resident Samuel Lahasky has lived in cities with both large and small Jewish populations. In this episode, he observes how Jewish communities in the South tend to be more closely knit than those in the North. Lahasky shares his memories of growing up in Abbeville, Louisiana, and later moving to Atlanta at the age of six. He compares and contrasts those experiences as well as the differences between the Jewish communities at Tulane versus LSU and Hattiesburg.
Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi provides summertime recreational and cultural activities for Jewish youth. Lahasky recalls attending the camp as a child and the lifelong friends he met there. Since 1946, Temple B’nai Israel has served the Hattiesburg Jewish community. Lahasky explains how being a member of a smaller synagogue requires a greater level of commitment.
There have always been negative stereotypes associated with Jewish people. Lahasky discusses how he uses humor to gently disabuse his non-Jewish friends and coworkers of these mistaken beliefs.
PHOTO: Temple B’nai Israel, Hattiesburg – WDAM.com
Dr. John Quon’s father immigrated from China in 1924 and settled in Moorhead, Mississippi. In this episode, he discusses how immigration laws prohibited Chinese nationals from owning property until 1943. Quon’s family lived in the back of their Moorhead grocery store until it became too crowded. He recalls how threatening letters led his father to purchase a cotton farm and build a home away from town.
Quon began working in his family’s grocery store at the age of five. He remembers working long hours during growing season and how their lives centered around the business.
After years as a successful merchant and cotton farmer, Quon’s father became well-respected as a businessman and patriarch. He recounts how his father sponsored other Chinese families and describes how their home became a meeting place for the Delta Chinese-American community.
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.