Mississippi author, Willie Morris, was living in Austin when he was offered a job as Editor of Harper’s Magazine. In this episode, he recalls his decision to move to New York and the magazine’s reputation at that time. When Morris took over as editor in 1967, circulation and revenues were down. He discusses the challenges of overseeing an older staff and his strategy to turn things around. Morris assumed he would be able to continue his career as a writer, even while working as an editor. He explains why the demands on a New York editor’s time made it impossible for him to write.
Willie Morris looks back with pride on his time as the Editor of Harper’s. He reflects on the distinguished authors and journalists who contributed to the magazine’s successful return to its former glory and the role he played.
PHOTO: copyright David F. Morris.
Kent Wyatt’s dad became the Delta State football coach in 1945, when Wyatt was 10 years old. In this episode, he recalls how their entire family lived in the Men’s dormitory while all the boys were off fighting in WWII. After the war was over, enrollment numbers spiked as returning veterans took advantage of the GI Bill. Wyatt discusses how the older men would play tricks on the young freshmen and sophomores.
Having attended the Delta State Demonstration School as a child and later, Cleveland High School, it was only natural that Wyatt would pick Delta State when it was time for college. He remembers playing basketball and becoming a cheerleader to spend time with the girl he liked. In 1956, the Delta State men’s basketball team won the regional tournament and advanced to the Nationals as Wyatt and his fiancé, Janice, tried to make time for a wedding and honeymoon between quarters. After postponing the honeymoon and preparing to compete in the Nationals in Kansas City, they were devastated when the Governor forbid them from participating because they might have to play against racially integrated teams.
PODCAST BONUS: Dr. Kent Wyatt served as President of Delta State University from 1975 until 1999. He reflects on how the school has grown since he first moved to Cleveland.
The U.S. Navy’s Construction Battalions, known as the Seabees, built roads and airfields across the Pacific Theater during WWII. In this episode, James Smith recalls his service with the Seabees beginning in 1943. Smith shares his memories of training with the Marines and the trip through the Panama Canal on the first large ship he ever saw. He also discusses how the Seabees would distill their own bootleg whiskey and his unconventional way of doing laundry aboard their small transport ship.
PODCAST EXTRA: Smith’s last assignment as a Seabee was repairing an airfield on the recently-liberated island of Okinawa. He discusses the Okinawans’ history with the Japanese and the devastating cost of “liberation.”
In 1950, Dr. Sam Spinks began teaching school in Jones County, Mississippi. In a career spanning thirty-five years, he worked to expand the curriculum available to high school students. From his first job as a teacher at Soso and later as the Superintendent of Hattiesburg Public Schools, he developed innovative programs to help children from all backgrounds prepare for life after school.
In this episode, Spinks recalls how he used to take his eighth classes on educational trips at the end of each school year. He explains how HPS developed the State’s first “Alternative School” to help kids with behavioral problems avoid expulsion, hired the first staff psychologist and expanded the special education program.
As times change and maintaining discipline becomes more of a challenge, Spinks feels it is not the students who have changed, but rather, the environment in which they are being raised. He reflects on how that negatively impacts their behavior and recalls one Alternative School success story. He also identifies two trends: one he considers to be a positive for public schools and one negative.
PHOTO: By Woodlot - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21544903