Fred Clark, Sr. grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode, the first of two parts, he recalls the death of Emmett Till and how fear dominated the black community at that time. As events unfolded around him, Clark was determined to overcome his fear and work to make things better.
During the Civil Rights Movement, local organizers would hold events called Mass Meetings. Clark explains how these gatherings satisfied a variety of needs within the community. After the meetings, he would often catch a ride with civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He describes the sense of dread he felt riding with Evers, even as he marveled at the man’s bravery.
The culture of fear used to maintain social order in the Jim Crow South was deeply ingrained in everyone. Clark explains how being part of a greater movement inspired everyone to do their part.
In the late 1920s, Donald Hemphill’s father took a job with the Homochitto Lumber Company and the family moved to Bude, Mississippi. In this episode, he shares his memories of growing up in the thriving sawmill town. At that time, many sawmills provide free company housing for their employees. Hemphill recalls the move to Bude and the primitive conditions in which they lived.
For Hemphill, growing up in Bude was a pleasant and carefree life. He recounts walking home from school to eat lunch and working at the local service station. He also discusses Bude’s prosperous times, and the important role passenger trains played in the people’s lives.
While the Homochitto Lumber Company was in business, life in Bude revolved around the mill’s work whistle. Hemphill describes the sawmill’s last day and how they tied the whistle down after the last board was cut.
PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History
Jewish immigrant, Jacob Kern, migrated from Germany to America in the late 1800s. His daughter, Lourachael Kern Ginsberg recounts how her father paid for twelve of his family members to join them in Bastrop, Louisiana, in 1938. Growing up Jewish in Bastrop, Ginsberg remembers their family was accepted as part of the community. She remembers raising chickens and ducks for food and driving to Monroe to go to Temple.
Ginsberg was attending Tulane University, when she met her future husband Herbie Ginsberg. She recalls knowing immediately that he was ‘the one’, and her mother’s reaction to the news. After the couple married, they moved to his home in Hattiesburg. She describes stopping off at the bootleggers to pick up a bottle for his law partner and future Governor, Paul B. Johnson, Jr.
Funding for two Mississippi museums was approved by the state legislature in 2011. In this episode, Lucy Allen recalls the planning process for the Civil Rights Museum and the message contained in its design. When Mississippi announced plans to build a civil rights museum, some doubted it would tell the whole story. Allen explains how the state’s willingness to ‘go there,’ resulted in a powerful learning experience.
With a mandate that the two museums be opened by the State’s Centennial celebration in 2017, Allen’s team was hard pressed to deliver on time. She recounts the process of selecting the design firms and the endless meetings they sat through.
As the opening day approached for the Two Mississippi Museums, there were countless small details to be addressed. Allen remembers the pre-opening tours and feeling proud of a job well done.
Lucy Allen moved from North Carolina to Mississippi and spent the next seven years teaching school. In this episode, she explains how her interest in photography led to a career with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
In 1961, the first State Historical Museum for Mississippi opened in the Old Capitol building. Allen discusses conditions that highlighted the need for a new museum and archives and how MDAH began planning for a new state museum in 1998. She recalls how Hurricane Katrina devastated the old museum in 2005 and altered all their plans.
PODCAST EXTRA: As MDAH developed plans for a new state history museum, the State Legislature’s Black Caucus continued their years-long push for a separate civil rights museum to be located on the campus of Tougaloo College. Allen recounts how Governor Haley Barbour, former Governor William Winter, and Judge Reuben Anderson worked with others to combine the two museums together into one state-funded project.
Don’t miss next week’s episode as Allen discusses the challenges they faced in making the Two Mississippi Museums a reality!
PHOTO: Two Mississippi Museums architectural drawing
Jimmie Person grew up in Port Gibson, Mississippi during the 1930s. In this episode, he recalls summers on his father’s plantation and the warm, nurturing environment small-town life provided the children. Back when Person was a child, the closest hospital to Port Gibson was in Vicksburg. He remembers how doctors would make houses calls, and the childhood diseases of that time.
When Person reached high school, he attended Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson. He reflects on life at the all-male school and how they hosted off-campus dances in an old ballroom.
PODCAST BONUS: Person was in his freshman year at Mississippi State when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He shares those vivid memories and discusses how he ended up as a Military Policeman at a base in England.
PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History
As Hurricane Katrina churned across the Gulf in August of 2005, Ruth Christian left her Pascagoula home to wait out the storm with her son’s mother-in-law, a few miles inland. In this episode, taken from an interview conducted in 2007, she shares her memories of the days following the storm as people struggled to feed themselves. She recalls trying to feed 16 people with anything they could find.
A couple of days after the hurricane, Christian found out her home had been destroyed. She remembers coming to terms with the loss of everything she owned at the age of 77.
According to Christian, everyone was in a state of shock. She describes the despair she felt combing through the wreckage, and the joy of finding family keepsakes.
PODCAST BONUS: Because Hurricane Georges damaged her home in 1998, Christian decided not to rebuild a second time after Hurricane Katrina. She discusses her decision to move into an apartment, but remain on the Gulf Coast.
For many young people, participation in the Civil Rights Movement began with a membership in the NAACP. In this episode, Franzetta Sanders of Moss Point recalls joining the group and the work they did to promote Equality for all. During the 1960s, members of the NAACP would test local businesses for compliance with new Civil Rights laws. Franzetta Sanders describes their work in Moss Point and how the community reacted.
In the Jim Crow South, there were separate public restrooms marked for “Whites Only” and “Blacks Only.” Sanders recounts how a stopover at the Hattiesburg bus station resulted in their bus being surrounded by police.
Most Mississippi public schools did not begin to fully integrate until 1970. As the mother of six children, Sanders worked to make sure they had the best educational opportunities possible. She remembers those difficult early days and how things eventually got better.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Sanders worked diligently to break down racial barriers. She expresses frustration at the apathy of young people who are reluctant to join the NAACP.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Lucas Somers, and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
PHOTO: USM Digital Collections – Herbert Randall
Fifty years ago this week, Hurricane Camille left a wide path of destruction across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dr. Henry Maggio was working at a Bay Saint Louis hospital on August 17, 1969 when Camille slammed into the Gulf Coast. In this episode, he remembers feelings of dread as the storm came ashore.
As Hurricane Camille made landfall, it brought devastating winds and flooding to coastal communities. Maggio describes being stranded in the hospital during the storm. He discusses trying to reach the injured afterwards and his decision to evacuate the hospital.
After the storm was over, the long recovery and rebuilding process began. Maggio shares his memories from that time, like being reunited with his family, the loss of their new home, and all the people who brought needed supplies to aid in the recovery effort.
PHOTO: Fred Hutchings – Pass Christian, MS after Hurricane Camille
During WWII, young men from cities and towns across the nation, answered the call to serve. So too, did young men from isolated areas of the country—boys who had never been away from the farms where they were raised—but were still compelled to go to the battlefields of countries they had only read about in textbooks. For many, that rural lifestyle held advantages in wartime. For example, those who grew up hunting with their fathers found the experience of targeting game with hunting rifles and shotguns useful in the army.
In this episode, Thurman Clark of Laurel remembers training for combat and winning a prize for his marksmanship.
American soldiers deployed to the battlefields of Europe, crossed the Atlantic Ocean by the thousands on troops ships. Clark recalls the misery of being seasick for his entire seventeen-day voyage. As a member of the 66th Infantry Division, Clark was assigned to harass German installations in the occupied city of Lorient, France. He describes dodging artillery fire and the stress of keeping watch for enemy attacks at night.
For many Mississippi farm boys, WWII was their first time traveling far from home. Clark reflects on the culture shock of his time in France and the myriad of memories he brought back.
PHOTO: wikimedia commons
Bill Booth’s grandfather, Tom Booth, came to Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1912. There, he opened a hardware store on Main Street. “Pappy” Booth soon sold the business to his son, George H. Booth who changed the name to Tupelo Hardware. Owned and operated by the Booth family since 1926, it remains for many, the go-to place for hard-to-find tools. Famously, Gladys Presley bought her son Elvis, his first guitar there.
In this interview, conducted in 1991, Bill Booth shares with us some memories of his grandfather and of life growing up in Tupelo. During the early days of automobile travel, most Mississippi roads were primitive, unpaved wagon trails. Booth recalls how his grandfather once stopped to help a friend who was stuck in a stream.
As a lifelong citizen of Tupelo, Booth witnessed a lot of important changes over the years. He discusses the city’s first traffic light and one cantankerous driver’s reaction to it. For many Mississippians, their first time behind the wheel of a car was on a secluded country road. Booth recounts learning to drive his grandfather’s 1925 Buick on a trip to Shreveport.
PODCAST BONUS: President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Tupelo in 1934 to deliver a speech on the Tennessee Valley Authority. Booth remembers how his boy scout troop lined the path to the President’s car, and being patted on the head by FDR, afterwards.
PHOTO: MDAH - FDR in Tupelo 1934.
Edmond Boudreaux’s family came to Biloxi in 1914 to work in the seafood factories. In this episode, he shares his family’s long history in the seafood industry and how his father would work in the factory as child before and after attending school each day.
Growing up on “The Point” in East Biloxi, Boudreaux never thought of his family as poor. He recalls how he and his brothers would play and fish in the nearby marshes and bayous. According to Boudreaux, all people living on the Mississippi Sound develop a connection to the water. He explains how those ties remain constant, even as changes in technology have resulted in fewer people actually working in the seafood industry.
Over the years, the Gulf Coast fishery has weathered challenges from hurricanes, floods, and pollution. Boudreaux discusses those challenges and how recent events have affected the livelihoods of Mississippi fishermen.
In 1973, Gayle Greene-Aguirre, a professor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, was studying History at the University of Connecticut. In this episode, she recalls her decision to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps, College Junior Program. Green-Aguirre chose a career in the US Army based more on economic incentives than a sense of duty. She explains how that experience, and exposure to top secret information, made her a pragmatic patriot.
Green-Aguirre joined the US Army as the war in Vietnam was beginning to wind down. As a historian and officer, she gives her perspective on why that war was unwinnable.
When soldiers returned home from Vietnam, they faced a hostile American public, who viewed them as complicit in the atrocities committed against the Vietnamese people. Green-Aguirre discusses the burden shared by those returning veterans and how their legacy has evolved over time.
Kiln, Mississippi native Christine Harvey has spent much of her life defying expectations. In this episode, she discusses how stereotypes about her race, gender, and home state, have little to do with reality. In 1971, Harvey was one of two black players on the Hancock North Central Girls basketball team. She recalls being attacked by the opposing team and how her fellow students responded.
While attending college during late 70s, Harvey was offered a summer job at the Stennis Space Center. She explains how choosing a position that defied expectations, led to a career in photography. In 1997, after nearly two decades of helping preserve the history of the Stennis Space Center as a photographer, Harvey sat down with us to share her thoughts on identity and the importance of diversity.
Dr. Dollye Robinson grew up in a musical family, two blocks from what is now Jackson State University. In this episode, she recalls how being surrounded by music inspired her to become a band director. While attending Lanier High School, Robinson would often rehearse with the Jackson College band. She remembers how that experience landed her a music scholarship after graduation.
As a music major at Jackson College in the 1940s, Robinson joined the Duke Otis Orchestra. She describes the challenges of being a female, first-trumpet player in an all-male dance band.
After Robinson graduated from Jackson College, she became an assistant band director at a high school in Brookhaven. She explains how being teased by alumni from other colleges, over the meager size of the Jackson College band, led her to return to her alma mater to help recruit new members.
In 1952, Robinson became the Assistant Band Director and Instructor of Music at JSU. She left long enough to earn two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and has served JSU as the head of the Department of Music, Chair of the Division of Fine Arts, Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Mississippi Moments is written and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
Senator Thad Cochran was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, on December 7th, 1937. In this episode, he discusses his family’s long history in Mississippi and his parents’ careers in Education. As the son of public school teachers, Cochran was expected to excel in academics, sports and music. He explains how their emphasis on education and hard work made theirs an achievement-oriented family.
Even though Cochran’s parents worked hard to provide for their family, money was always scarce. He remembers how they scrimped and took on extra jobs to make sure he and his brother could attend college.
Cochran got his first experience in politics when his parents campaigned for various candidates and got him involved, as well. He also recalls his poker-playing grandmother’s run for county supervisor.
Mississippi Moments is written and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
There was a variety of landing craft utilized in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Cmdr. Rip Bounds of Hattiesburg piloted a Utility Landing Ship designed to carry the heavy equipment Allied forces would need to wage war on the Axis occupiers in France. He bravely guided his craft into enemy fire loaded with tons of highly explosive ammunition, landed on the beach, waited to be unloaded, and headed back for another load. He also carried troops to the beach and wounded soldiers back to a waiting hospital ship, often the same men. In this episode, he gets emotional as he talks about the "Red Cross ladies" who rode with him, providing comfort for the wounded on the bloodstained decks of his vessel.
Please note that this episode, produced in 2012, contains contact information that may not be accurate today. For more information, visit COHCH.org.
Mississippi Moments is produced by Ross Walton and narrated by Bill Ellison.
Founded in 1816, a full year before Mississippi achieved statehood, Natchez Children’s Services has always worked to provide our most vulnerable children, respite from abuse, hunger, and neglect. Nancy Hungerford began her tenure as director of the state’s oldest nonprofit in 1983. In this episode, taken from a 1999 oral history interview, she recounts some of the organization’s 200-year history. Originally set up as an asylum for Mississippi’s orphans, Hungerford describes how the organization’s name and mission have evolved over time to keep up with societal changes.
Although times have changed, the needs and concerns of children have remained constant: love, support, and consistent care. In Mississippi alone, there are thousands of children in foster care due to abuse and neglect. Hungerford recalls how the Natchez Children’s Home (now Natchez Children’s Services) provided stability for kids in need.
In 1999 Natchez Children’s Services still housed 16 children in their residential facility. Hungerford recalls how visitation day was often a day of hope and heartache.
To learn more about the vital work of nonprofits like NCS, visit http://ntzchs.org .
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.
Mississippi Moments is written and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
During WWII, American long range bombers decimated German industrial sites in order to shorten the war. In this episode, Phil McGuire of Macon recalls his decision to become a ball turret gunner on a B-17 flying fortress.
The B-17 heavy bomber, bristling with machine guns, is one of the most iconic planes of the war. They could survive heavy damage and still make it home again. Even so, being part of a B-17 crew was a high risk job with the most dangerous position being ball turret gunner. The tiny motorized Plexiglas and aluminum pods, tucked underneath the fuselage, held twin 50 caliber Browning machine guns. Unlike the rest of the crew, the ball turret gunner had no room to wear a flak jacket or parachute and had to lie on his back in a fetal position with his feet held in foot rests level with his head. McGuire discusses how he would tie his parachute in the plane’s waist close to his station in hopes of reaching it in time.
German forces relied on FLAK guns to protect them from Allied aircraft in WWII. McGuire describes his first bombing mission and the harmless-looking puffs of smoke the guns put before them. In the early days of the war, American bombers had to fly daylight missions deep into enemy territory without fighter escorts. McGuire recounts how one of his crewmembers mistook hostel gunfire as a friendly signal.
Podcast Bonus: Bomber crews were required to complete 25 combat missions before returning home. It was estimated the average crewman had only a one in four chance of actually completing his tour of duty. McGuire discusses fulfilling his obligation and spending the rest of the war as an aerial combat instructor.
Macon, Mississippi, county seat of Noxubee County, has a long and storied past. It served as the state capital during the second half of the Civil War and was the place where the Treaty of Dancing River was signed. When longtime resident, Joseph Maury, Jr. and his wife, Selma, sat down to share their memories in September of 1999, it was obvious they both had a great love for the town and the life they had shared together.
Joe Maury’s father became the Night Marshall in Macon during the 1910s when the city had a thriving saloon district. He describes how his father dealt with the rowdy, “over-the-river” crowd when they had too much to drink.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a scarcity of jobs forced people to find creative ways to earn a living. Maury remembers how the citizens of Macon got through those tough economic times and why the 8th of the month was so important to the town’s merchants.
While attending high school in Macon, Maury worked part time at a local grocery store. He recalls how a discarded cigarette and a basket full of fireworks caused a panic one Christmas Eve. In the late 1930s, he and two other young men were hired to help install river gauges in the Noxubee river. He explains how their enthusiastic use of dynamite to blow a cofferdam resulted in a hail of debris at the nearby Chevrolet dealership.
PHOTO: recent shot by Morgan Adams of the building where W.P. Chancellor's store was located.
Elmer McCoy represented Prentiss County in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1936 until 1952 and was chairman of the Education Committee for nine years. He authored important legislation including the free textbook law, homestead exemption, and state supported public schools. And he played a crucial role in the creation of Northeast Mississippi Community College.
McCoy was born in 1902 in the New Site community of Prentiss County. In this episode, he explains how a love of public speaking and debate, led him to consider a run for the state legislature. When McCoy began teaching in 1923, Mississippi did not have state-funded public schools. He recalls running for the legislature in 1935 on a platform of state-funded schools and free textbooks. As a teacher serving in the State House of Representatives in 1940, McCoy wrote the bill to provide Mississippi children with free textbooks. He remembers the hard work of everyone involved. He also discusses some of the memorable characters he met during his time in office.
Elmer McCoy passed away on November 17, 1995.
PHOTO: Clarion Ledger
In 1933, W.C. Nelms graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in Civil Engineering. In this episode, he discusses working for the Civilian Conservation Corp and their efforts to control the erosion that devastated so many Mississippi farms.
By 1934, it was estimated that 100 million acres of US farmland had lost its topsoil due to erosion. Nelms recalls how the CCC worked with Mississippi farmers to develop soil conservation techniques. One early solution, imported from Japan, would soon gain infamy. In the 30s and 40s, Kudzu vines were planted throughout the South as a way of controlling soil erosion. He explains the logic behind introducing the invasive plant to our ecosystem.
The U.S. Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act in 1935 and the Soil Conservation Service was formed. Nelms describes how the work of the SCS evolved into the development of state soil conservation districts.
To learn more about soil and water conservation in Mississippi, go to http://www.mswcc.ms.gov
PHOTO: Alamy Live News
Throughout WWII, U.S. armed forces remained segregated along racial lines. Even though over 900,000 African-Americans served in the armed forces during the war—proving their worth time and again—they were still viewed with suspicion by many of their white commanding officers and others.
LaMont Martin of Gulfport was drafted into the Army after graduating high school in 1942. In this episode, he shares some of his memories from that time, like how he and his buddy got left behind when the bus carrying them to Fort Benning, Georgia stopped for a meal in Alabama. After basic training, Martin was stationed in Massachusetts before being deployed to the European Theater. He remembers the day that he and a fellow soldier accidently wandered into a “white” USO club while visiting Boston.
Waiting to cross the English Channel into France, black soldiers were restricted from fraternizing with English women. LaMont Martin discusses the prevailing attitudes of that time and remembers how the reported rape of a German woman almost led to a race riot and the court-martial of their entire company.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Sean Buckelew, and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
Gulfport native Aurabelle Caggins lost her parents at a young age and went to live with her uncle’s family. In this episode, she shares her memories of growing up in a household where everyone was required to earn their keep. For Caggins that meant getting up each morning at 5 AM, to wash clothes in a cast iron pot, before walking to school.
When Caggins began attending school in 1925, students were required to purchase their textbooks. Often having no money for books or supplies, she remembers having to do homework, late at night, using books borrowed from her classmates.
Caggins began working odd jobs in high school to earn money for things like material for Home Economics class. Her grades earned her a $50 scholarship and she arrived at Alcorn State with enough money for her tuition and entrance fees, plus fifty cents. She describes her fear at being called to the matron’s office and the opportunity that meeting provided.
Aurabelle Caggins taught Home Economics in Gulfport for 38 years. She discusses the important life-skills her students received, and laments that Home Economics classes are no longer offered at many schools.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Sean Buckelew and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.