Starkville native James “Cool Papa” Bell played Negro League Baseball from 1922 to 1950. In this episode, he looks back fondly on the grueling schedule of long days and nights on the road with few amenities for little pay.
Until 1947, blacks were not allowed to play major league baseball, but Bell discusses how they would play and often beat the major league teams during winter season baseball in Mexico and other South American countries.
Baseball broadcasting legend Walter “Red” Barber was born in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1908. In this episode, he recalls his humble beginnings and taking his family to see the beautiful homes there after becoming successful.
Barber began working at the campus radio station while in college as a way to earn extra money. He soon realized he wanted a career in sportscasting. Barber was just starting out when he met fellow Mississippian, Dizzy Dean. He shares his memories of the famous pitcher. As a play-by-play sportscaster, Barber was driven to be the best. He claims learning about each man on the team before the game allowed him to “talk with his eyes.”
In a 40 year career calling games for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, Barber was famous for his colorful vocabulary and distinctive catch-phrases like "Sittin' in the catbird seat," "Walkin' in the tall cotton,” and "Slicker than boiled okra.” In a podcast extra, he discusses the inspiration for a couple of the more famous ones.
Roscoe Jones of Meridian grew up watching the news with his grandmother. He credits her for inspiring him to get involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Jones was 16 years old when he joined the Meridian chapter of the NAACP Youth Council. In this episode, he shares his memories of meeting Civil Rights workers Mickey and Rita Schwerner in the spring of 1964.
Schwerner, James Chaney & Andrew Goodman were killed in Neshoba County on June 21st, 1964. Jones recalls begging Schwerner to take him along for the ride. The deaths of the three men taught Jones to avoid publicity whenever possible. It wasn’t until the release of Mississippi Burning that he decided to speak up about his time in the movement.
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.
In 1963, Pete Johnson’s uncle, Paul B. Johnson, Jr, ran for Governor of Mississippi. In this episode, he discusses how his father managed his uncle’s campaign and the strategy they successfully employed. He also recalls his uncle's unflappable demeanor.
Because of term limits in place at that time, Gov. Johnson was unable to run for a second term and decided to run for Lt. Governor, instead. That year, Pete Johnson campaigned with his uncle. He shares some humorous stories of the characters he met as they went around the state like “Stiff” McCaffrey and “Blowtorch” Mason.
PHOTO: Moncrief Collection - Miss Dept. of Archives & History
F.W. Bishop was born on a farm near Shaw, Mississippi in 1897. In this episode, he recounts how as a boy, his job was to chase bears out of the cornfield. He remembers a steady diet of smoked bear meat. Growing up, Bishop worked a variety of part-time jobs to make ends meet. After high school, he married and spent his life in Cleveland. He discusses opening the town’s first filling station and being elected mayor.
Doug Smith grew up in Hattiesburg during the 1950s. In this episode, he recalls how his mother inspired him to join the Civil Rights Movement. He discusses such topics as the March on Washington, Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, voter registration drives and being arrested 32 times. Smith also shares his memories of how his mother came to have the first integrated funeral in Hattiesburg and of running for his life through the woods of South Mississippi with fellow activists.
PHOTO: McCain Library & Archives, USM
Retired Justice Reuben Anderson was the first African-American appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. In this episode, he recalls growing up during the Civil Rights Movement.
When Anderson enrolled at Tougaloo College in 1960 he dreamed of becoming an Civil Rights attorney. He remembers the campus as central to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Anderson was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1967. He describes the challenges black students faced at that time.
As a young attorney in the late 60s, Anderson litigated school desegregation cases across the state.
During WWII, women took jobs traditionally held by men. Bonnie Stedman of McComb began working for the railroad at the age of 17. In this episode, she shares her memories of working nights in remote railroad offices around Mississippi and Louisiana, relying on a toy gun protection and catching a ride on a troop train to get back home.
In a podcast extra, Stedman remembers when the dairy strike of 1945 turned violent, resulting in broken cameras and spilled milk.
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.
Samuel Olden had just graduated Ole’ Miss in the Spring of 1941 with a Masters in History when he saw a notice posted on a bulletin board that the State Department was seeking candidates for service in South America. When the Japan bombed Pearl Harbor seven months later, he was stationed at the legation in Quito, Ecuador.
After serving in the Navy during WWII, Olden returned home to Yazoo City. He recalls being invited to join a new government agency called the Central Intelligence Agency in 1948. In this episode, Olden discusses his first field assignment spying on the Russians in Vienna and why he finally decided the life of a spy wasn’t for him.
Coach David 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.
PHOTO: Old postcard of the Tylertown High School
Steeped in tradition, the holidays are a source of vivid childhood memories for many. This week's episode is a compilation of some of our favorites: three Mississippians from very different backgrounds share their stories of that special time of year.
Lou Mallory of Natchez grew up in South Georgia, the daughter of a sharecropper. She remembers having little money at Christmas, but never feeling poor.
As a girl, Ellen McCarley would ride the train from Port Gibson to Vicksburg to go Christmas shopping with her mother. She recalls her mother’s Christmas parties as having something for everyone.
Charles Wright would travel with his grandmother each Christmas to their family gathering in Bude. He describes the large spread of food and the atmosphere of Love.
Happy Holidays from the Mississippi Moments family to you and yours!
PHOTO: Robert C. Waller collection, USM Archives
Marcelle Bienvenu grew up in Saint Martinville, Louisana. In this episode, she discusses her family’s passion for cooking and how Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced the world to Cajun cuisine. Bienvenu was working at Commanders Palace restaurant in New Orleans when they hired Prudhomme. She recalls his “Trinity” of spices.
Bienvenu is a columnist with the Times Picayune and has published several cookbooks. She also teaches cooking classes and courses on culinary traditions of the American South.
Podcast Extra: Bienvenu explains how which part of Louisiana you’re from determines the way you cook Creole food.
Kris Gianakos of Meridian comes from a large Greek family. In this episode, he discusses his favorite way to prepare leg of lamb. Lamb is a staple of Greek cooking. For his family, it was a dish usually served during the holidays. He also describes avgolemono soup, a traditional Greek chicken soup and explains why it always reminds him of home.
PODCAST EXTRA: According to Gianakos, wherever he travels, he runs into other Greeks eager to share their traditional foods. As examples he cites two Greek-owned restaurants in Memphis and Oxford.
Glenn Hughes is the Extension Forestry Professor at Mississippi State University. In this episode, he discusses the importance of the Longleaf Pine to our state’s history.
Up until 1890, harvested trees were transported by teams of oxen. Hughes explains how advances in technology led to the clear-cutting of our pine forests. He also reveals South Mississippi's connection to America’s most famous battleship – the USS Constitution –commissioned in 1797 and known as Old Ironsides.
PODCAST EXTRA: Early in our state’s history, pine tree sap was harvested for a variety of uses. Hughes defines the term “naval stores” and explains its importance.
Fewell Thompson was born in Hattiesburg in 1891. In this episode, he recalls how, as a child, he frequented the home of his neighbor, Captain Hardy and his wife, Hattie Hardy, the town’s founder and namesake.
Thompson’s father had a horse and mule business in downtown Hattiesburg in the early 1900s. He discusses how his father would have the livestock shipped by train from Saint Louis and how people would come to town for supplies and spend the night camping in the "wagon lot" on Main Street.
During WWI the US Cavalry still rode horses into battle. Thompson remembers serving in the Army’s Veterinary Corps and the first time he tried to give a horse ether.
Hattiesburg’s role as a transportation hub earned it the nickname “The Hub City.” In a podcast extra Thompson recalls the many railroads that crisscrossed the town.
In 1962, James Meredith attempted to become the first African-American to enroll at Ole’ Miss. In this episode, Ken Fairly, then, a Hinds County Deputy, discusses being selected to be part of Governor Ross Barnett's security detail when the Governor traveled to Oxford.
Fairly describes how Barnett and his advisors conspired to stop Meredith from attending Ole’ Miss by arresting him en route to Oxford on trumped up charges. During the standoff between the Governor and the Kennedys, Fairly recalls having a front row seat to history.
PODCAST EXTRA: As protesters continued to pour into Oxford, Fairly remembers being ordered to quietly return to Hinds County, just hours before the riots broke out.
On the evening of October 11, 1973, Charles Hickman and Calvin Parker were fishing the Pascagoula River when they had a close encounter with a UFO. In this episode, Hickman describes being taken aboard an alien spacecraft!
After filing a report about their abduction they returned to their jobs at Ingles Shipyard. Hickman recalls not being prepared for the media circus that followed.
Hickman and Parker were questioned repeatedly by authorities and examined by the medical staff at Keesler Air Force. In a podcast extra, Hickman recounts the chain of events.
The lives of Charles Hickman and Calvin Parker were forever changed after that night in October of 1973. Hickman gave numerous interviews and wrote a book about his experience. Parker attended UFO conventions and started his own television production company in 1993 called UFO Investigations. Charles Hickman passed away at the age of 80 on September 9, 2011.
In 1965, George Hall of Hattiesburg was an Air Force reconnaissance pilot stationed in Thailand. In this episode, he recalls the day in September his plane was shot down over North Vietnam. Hall spent the next seven and a half years as a prisoner of war. He describes life at the infamous Hanoi Hilton and the torture he endured at the hands of his captors.
When he was finally released in 1973, it took time for Hall to readjust to life in Hattiesburg after so long a POW. He remembers being shocked by the price of a hamburger.
Unlike many Vietnam veterans, Hall returned home to a hero’s welcome. He discusses playing mental golf to pass the time and his discomfort with being called a “War Hero.”
In 1997, USM professor Andrew Wiest began teaching a class on Vietnam. In this episode, he recalls looking for ways to make history come alive for his students and the unexpected results of those efforts.
After meeting Vietnam veteran John Young, Wiest was inspired to write The Boys of ’67. He details the writing process and the book’s impact on the men of Charlie Company and their families.
In 2014, the National Geographic Channel premiered The Boys of ’67, a documentary based on the book. Wiest explains how the project came about and the challenges it presented.
The documentary received Emmy Award nominations in four categories. In a podcast extra, Wiest discusses the prospect of winning an Emmy and what it means for the men of Charlie Company.
After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Communists seized private property and issued new currency. In this episode Thao "Kim" Pham of Ocean Springs recalls how her mother traded all of their old money for gold so her husband and of nine of their twelve children could escape from Vietnam and start a new life.
Pham recounts how they used the occasion of her grandmother’s funeral to slip out of the country and escape by boat to Indonesia. She describes the standing-room-only conditions on the boat and how her father bribed their way into an Indonesian refugee camp where she spent the next year and a half missing her mother and wondering what would become of them.
It was almost two years before Pham was able to get word to her mother that their family was alive and well. Now the owner of several successful businesses in Ocean Springs, Pham discusses the mutual respect and admiration she and her mother share in a PODCAST EXTRA clip.
For thousands of years Native Americans used fire to manage the forests of South Mississippi. In this episode Ecologist, Tate Thriffiley explains why this practice was good for the longleaf pines and the entire ecosystem.
By 1930, virtually all of the longleaf pines in Mississippi had been harvested. Thriffiley describes the mistakes made in replanting the DeSoto National Forest and explains why a host of State and Federal agencies have teamed up with conservation groups to promote the planting of longleaf pines in Mississippi.
PODCAST EXTRA: Keith Coursey is the Prescription Forester on the DeSoto National Forest. He recounts the history of the Forest Service and its evolving attitude towards fire.
PHOTO: South Carolina Dept of Natural Resources
CNN sent correspondent Kathleen Koch to Mobile, Alabama to ride out Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, when she was finally allowed to travel to her hometown, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, the level of devastation and suffering she witnessed was overwhelming.
In this episode, Koch describes feeling intensely conflicted between the detachment her job required and the desire to cast aside her role as a reporter and do anything possible to alleviate the suffering she encountered. She and crew decided to use their time off the air to search for the missing and help survivors.
After Hurricane Katrina, South Mississippi residents came together in a spirit of cooperation and self-reliance. Koch recalls a resourceful group of young people she met at their unauthorized shelter and a mad dash to Wal-Mart to bring them much needed supplies.
John Hairston was the Chief Operations Officer for Hancock Bank in Gulfport, when in Fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina threatened the coast. In this episode, he remembers preparing for a hit, but predicting a miss.
When Hancock Bank's corporate headquarters was wiped out, all of the bank’s records and computers were destroyed. Hairston explains how they were able to transfer all of their operations to Chicago within four days. Hairston recalls handing out tens of millions of dollars to anyone with an IOU and giving a new meaning to the phrase "money laundering."