Billy Ferrell became Sheriff of Adams County in January of 1960. In this episode, he describes the rising tensions brought on by the Civil Rights Movement during the second half of his first term in office. During the 1960s, the Ku Klux Klan tried to intimidate anyone they perceived as supporting civil rights. Ferrell remembers countering threats against his family with some intimidation of his own.
While campaigning for a second term as sheriff, Ferrell was asked to give a political speech to a group of local Klansmen. He explains his reasons for agreeing to meet with the group and discusses how completely they had been infiltrated by the FBI.
On September 25, 1964, Klansmen bombed and damaged the home of Natchez Mayor John Nosser. Ferrell recalls going to check on the mayor afterwards and being questioned by the FBI.
THIS EPISODE CONTAINS MILD PROFANITY.
After graduating from medical school in 1947, Dr. Tom Mayer took a temporary job with the Mississippi State Department of Health while waiting to begin his internship. In this episode, he remembers trying to vaccinate school children in Walthall County. Later, he returned to McComb to set up a medical practice at the urging of a friend.
In the mid-1950s, Mayer was hired by the Illinois Central Railroad to be the company doctor. He discusses the advantages and disadvantages of being a railroad physician. At that time, penicillin had only recently been discovered. He recalls the limited number of available drugs and one old doctor’s story of a fifty-cent price limit.
Working around trains has always been a dangerous job and as a railroad doctor, Mayer has seen it all. He recounts some of his more memorable cases and reflects on the many friendships he collected during his career.
(contains a bit of graphic description of a patient's injuries)
Lusia Harris-Stewart grew up in Minter City, Mississippi, the tenth of eleven children. In this episode, taken from her 1999 oral history interview, she recalls how her love of basketball grew from a way to escape chores, to a way to attend college. Her standout abilities as a player on the Amanda Elzy High School girls’ basketball team caught the attention of Delta State recruiter, Melvin Hemphill, and she was invited to join the women’s team, in 1973.
For Harris-Stewart, adjusting to life at Delta State included overcoming her shyness. She remembers the support of her fellow students as the women’s basketball team rose to prominence, becoming national champions in 1975, ’76, and ’77.
In 1976, Harris-Stewart won a silver medal in the first-ever Olympic women’s basketball tournament. She discusses the historical significance of scoring the first points in Olympic history.
After graduating college in 1977, Harris-Stewart coached basketball at the college level and played professional ball before returning to her high school alma mater as a coach and teacher. She recounts her career and the honor of being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Sean Buckelew and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
In 1959 Dr. Gilbert Mason was the only black physician on the staff of the new Biloxi Hospital. At that time, the 26 mile man-made Biloxi beach, paid for with Federal funding, was designated for whites only, in violation of the original agreement. In this episode, Mason explains his decision to try and integrate the beach.
After he was arrested, Mason and group of black citizens petitioned the Harrison County Board of Supervisors to make the beach available to all citizens. The board refused and the group made a second attempt in April of 1960. Mason describes being attacked by an angry mob while police watched the violence unfold.
In response, NAACP President Medgar Evers gathered citizen complaints to present to the U.S. Justice Department, who then filed suit against the board. Three years later, seventy protesters returned to the beach carrying black flags in honor of Evers who had been assassinated the week before.
The original group arrested for trespassing on the beach in 1960 was awaiting their verdict in county court the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Mason recalls how they honored the slain President. The case eventually made it all the way to the US Supreme Court and in 1968, Harrison County was forced to desegregate Biloxi Beach, making it available for use by all its citizens.
Amzie Moore of Cleveland, Mississippi, had to fend for himself from the time he was fourteen years old. In this episode, he recalls wondering why there was such economic disparity between the white and black communities. To his young mind, there must have been something special about white people that allowed them to attain a higher standard of living than blacks. It was only after serving in Europe during WWII Moore realized this was not the case. He came home determined to work towards a better life for himself and his community. He got financing to open his own Pan-Am service station, the only one between Memphis and Vicksburg that allowed black customers to use the restrooms. And he became politically active, first with the Black and Tan Republicans and later joining the Democratic Party. He also joined the NAACP.
In September of 1955, while serving as NAACP President for Bolivar County, Moore received a call from the grandfather of a boy named Emmett Till. He explains how Till’s death marked a turning point in Mississippi. Prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1964, Southern states used poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise poor minority voters. Moore discusses how they worked to overcome those obstacles through the formation of the Freedom Democratic Party. Later, as leader of Project Head Start, he fought to bring affordable housing and new job opportunities to poor people in the Mississippi Delta. Moore looks back with pride at all they were able to accomplish.
In 1948, Gladys Noel Bates agreed to be the named plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the black Mississippi Teachers Association against the state of Mississippi to demand equal pay for black teachers, knowing that she and her husband would most likely lose their jobs.
After news of the suit made headlines, Bates remembers the other teachers avoided being seen with her for fear of reprisals. She describes how being blacklisted by the state prevented the couple from teaching anywhere in the South.
Bates and her husband left Mississippi in 1960 and became teachers in Denver, Colorado. She recalls how their plan to keep a low profile was thwarted by a desire to improve racial relations. Soon, Bates had developed a reputation in the Denver public school system as someone who could work with people of all races. She gives several examples of the strategies she used to unite parents and students in the common goal of a better education for all.
CONTAINS RACIAL EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
In October of 1966, Father Peter Quinn became pastor of Holy Rosary, a small, black, parish in Hattiesburg. Interested in working with the youth of the community, he formed a group that would later become the Catholic Youth Organization. In this episode, he describes how their young people participated in picketing and boycotts during the Civil Rights Movement.
As an activist priest in Hattiesburg in the 1960s, Quinn often received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. One night, his station wagon was fired on by men in two pickup trucks who tried to force him off the road. Afterwards, he was protected by a group of volunteers called the Deacons of Defense.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. kept a grueling schedule of personal appearances during the Movement. Father Quinn recalls how on King’s last trip to Hattiesburg, just ten days before his assassination, he borrowed Quinn’s bed for a much-needed nap. After King was killed, violence erupted across the nation. Quinn describes leading a protest march through downtown Hattiesburg after pleading with the kids to leave their knives and guns at home.
PHOTO: Huffington Post
Henry Walton of Mendenhall, Mississippi, grew up in Waycross, Georgia, the son of a high school principal. He was seven years old when his father took him to see a performance by Birch the Magician and it inspired him to take up magic as a hobby.
In this episode, Walton discusses that experience and the Gilbert Mysto Magic Sets he later received for Christmas. He began collecting books on magic, learning card and coin tricks to fool his friends and family. Walton also recalls how a high school variety show gave him the chance to debut as a magician before a large audience.
After WWII, Walton traveled the South, installing telephone office equipment for Western Electric. While stationed in Tampa, he met a man well-known by magicians for building quality magic apparatus. He remembers how Warren Hamilton offered to build him an entire magic show and sponsored his membership in the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
After moving to Mississippi and getting married, Walton decided to take up magic, again, as a hobby. When Birch the Magician came to Jackson to perform, Walton took his wife to see his childhood inspiration. It was there he met Jackson magician, Gene Grant, and the two men became friends. He recalls how they formed a Mississippi chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (local chapters are called “rings” after the famous linking rings trick). Soon, “Ring 98” was attracting members from across the state to their monthly meetings where they performed for each other and the public at special events.
PHOTO: Walton performs at Jackson Mall, 1974.
Mississippi author Shelby Foote, best known for his three volume history of the American Civil War, was born in Greenville, Mississippi in November of 1916. In this episode, we revisit his oral history interview, conducted by Dr. Orley B. Caudill on March 4, 1975, at his home in Memphis.
Foote discusses growing up in Greenville, how everyone attended the same school and what they did for fun during the Great Depression. He was just five years old when his father passed away, leaving him and his mother alone. He recalls how his mother always supported his decisions and never said hurtful things.
Anticipating America’s entrance into WWII, Foote left college after two years, returned to Mississippi and joined the National Guard. He remembers writing his first novel while waiting to be deployed, and selling short stories to the Saturday Evening Post. He also talks about his style of writing, which he describes as a slow, deliberate process.
David Baria and his wife decided to move their family to Bay Saint Louis in the spring of 2004. In this episode, taken from his 2008 interview, he recalls their idyllic life on the Gulf Coast, prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina the following year.
On August 28, 2005, people began fleeing the Gulf Coast area as Katrina approached. Baria remembers the challenges his family faced as they prepared for its arrival. After riding out the storm at his brother’s home, Baria, his brother and uncle rode down to Bay Saint Louis to survey the damage. It was then he realized their historic home, which had withstood many storms since 1875, had been completely wiped away.
They quickly developed a plan to help survivors by setting up a distribution network of water, fuel, food, clothing, medicines and cleaning supplies and then got to work. Unfortunately, just ten days later, Baria’s son was hospitalized with a mysterious illness. The child was in a coma for over a week before succumbing to what turned out to be rabies.
The family was determined to remain on the Gulf Coast and rebuild their lives. Baria began attending meetings of local citizen groups concerned with such issues as insurance companies that refused to honor homeowner policies and proposed building codes. He explains how a perceived lack of leadership inspired him to run for the State Senate.
David Baria served in the Mississippi Senate from 2008 to 2012 and is currently a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from the 122nd district.
MSMO Holiday Classic from 2015: MSM 463 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.
Many Mississippi families raised hogs for food and would cure the meat in a small shed called a smoke house. In this episode, Natchez native Charles Wright explains how neighbors would help each other out during hog-killing time.
Among the many pork products, Wright’s family would make with the meat from their hogs, was hogshead cheese. Hogshead Cheese is a cold cut meat product that originated in Europe during the Middle Ages. He remembers how his family would prepare Hogshead Cheese as a Christmas treat. Each Christmas, Wright’s family would gather at his great aunt’s house in Bude. He recalls the wide variety of wild game, fish and home-brewed beverages everyone would bring.
When Wright’s family assembled for the holidays, there was always an abundance of love. He gets emotional thinking back on those days when they could all gather together.
PHOTO: Bude, MS, depot. http://www.thetracksidephotographer.com
Ellen McCarley grew up near Port Gibson, the youngest of twelve cousins living on Drake Hill. In this episode, she recalls her idyllic childhood and the games they played to pass the time.
Before automobile ownership became common, Mississippians would travel to neighboring towns by train. McCarley remembers riding the train to Vicksburg to go Christmas shopping with her mother. Every Christmas Eve, the Drake family, would gather together for the lighting of the tree. She describes how her mother worked to make it a special time for all.
McCarley’s aunt ran a boarding house on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans in the 1930s. She recounts visiting her aunt during Mardi Gras and witnessing a parade and dress ball.
After Japan attacked the US Navy Base at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, thousands of American teenagers volunteered to go and fight. In this episode, humorist Jerry Clower of Liberty, Mississippi, explains how growing up on a farm prepared him for life in the Navy. Raised in the rural South, Clower’s perceptions of race were limited to Black or White. He recalls an incident in basic training that opened his eyes to a wider world of ethnicity and prejudice. (caution: uses a racist word that he had never heard prior to joining up.)
Clower served as a radio operator on the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet, in the Pacific Theater. He remembers the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the lessons they learned from each.
While serving aboard the Hornet, Clower survived several attacks by Kamikazes. He describes feeling conflicted about watching the Japanese pilots die, and discusses suffering from symptoms of PTSD for many years after the war.
PHOTO: courtesy of the Clower family.
As family and friends gather this week for Thanksgiving, we revisit the 2010 interview of freelance food and travel writer, Julian Brunt, who views cooking as his form of creative expression. In this episode, he explains why he is so passionate about preparing meals for his circle of friends. As the wife of an army officer, Julian Brunt’s mother hosted dinner parties for the other officer’s families. He remembers how she would prepare traditional Southern dishes for their friends. He also recalls how they expected their children to dress for dinner and join in on mealtime discussions. This is one reason why Brunt considers good conversation to be the main ingredient of any successful dinner party.
When Julian Brunt cooks a meal for his friends, each of the five courses compliments the next. He shares some of his tricks to keep things interesting and why he enjoys reading about classic French cuisine.
Whatever the week holds for you, we wish you safe travels, good company, good food, and pleasant conversation.
PHOTO: Julian Brunt public Facebook post.
Dorothy Wilkins Fraley was born on a farm in the Fairview Community outside of Brooksville in 1918. She was in her 82nd year of life when she sat down to record her oral history in October of 2000 as part of the Noxubee County Oral History Project. This episode is a continuation of one we did in September of this year (MSM 587) about her memories of growing up on the family farm.
As the holiday season is now upon us, we wanted to revisit her interview and recollections of Christmases past. The first recalling family Christmas traditions of her childhood and the last, the family Christmas traditions that she and her husband forged with their own family in Macon. In the middle, come two clips detailing the arc of her marriage and career.
During WWII, women took jobs normally held by the men who were off serving their country. Fraley explains how a part-time job at the sheriff’s office led to marriage and a new home in the county jail. After Sheriff Fraley’s term in office ended, the couple decided to open their own grocery store in Macon. Dorothy Fraley recalls the challenges of those early days and how the business grew along with their family. Fraley and her husband bought a large home in Macon across from the Dreamland Theater. She describes her family’s Christmas traditions and how everyone was made to feel welcome.
Dr. Joe Berryman spent his life and career involved with high school, college and professional bands as a musician, composer, instructor, and conductor, as well as, a product representative and developer for several musical instrument manufacturers. After moving to Mississippi, he served as the band director at Itta Bena High School before coming to USM where he became coordinator of the band staff and taught percussion and orchestration. Berryman also worked with the Mississippi Lions All-State Band for well over a decade as director, writing much of the music, himself. At the time this interview was recorded in July of 1972, the band had won first prize at the Lion’s International Convention five of the last six years.
In this episode, Berryman discusses his early life and career. He was ten years old in 1914, when his family moved from Texarkana to Meridian. He recalls shipping their automobile and furniture by train because there were no highways. When he decided to become a musician, his parents wouldn’t pay for music lessons because they didn’t think he was serious. He remembers earning the money by selling magazines and taking the lessons in secret.
In the age of silent movies, musicians would provide live music to match the action on the screen. Berryman describes playing in the orchestra pits of the movie theaters in Kansas City. In addition to showing motion pictures, movie palaces of the day also booked live entertainment. He shares his memories of working the vaudeville houses in Topeka and providing sound effects for a hot-tempered comedian.
PODCAST BONUS: When he was not playing theaters in the 1920s, Berryman travelled with several tents shows around the Midwest. Known as chautauquas, these shows were intended to bring cultural enlightenment to isolated rural communities.
PHOTO: USM Archive
Troy H. Middleton was born on a farm in Copiah County, Mississippi in 1890 and lived there until he was fourteen years old when he left to attend Mississippi A&M College preparatory department. A&M was a land grant college, therefore it had military training in which the students were required to participate. Middleton rose through the ranks until his senior year when he was promoted to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. After graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army in 1913 and took part in the Mexican Border Campaign of 1914.
When the United States entered World War I, Middleton went to France as a company commander and by the end of the war he had received three promotions in one year becoming the youngest colonel in the Army. He then became the Dean of Administration for Louisiana State University. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he returned to active duty and subsequently went to Europe, participating in the North African, Sicilian and Italian Campaigns before going to Normandy for the main campaign against Germany as Commander of the Eighth Corps.
In this episode, Middleton discusses the traits of a good leader and how to earn the respect of your subordinates. He remembers his longtime friend and fellow commander, General George Patton. He shares his opinions of Patton’s good and bad points. According to Middleton, Patton had no qualms about visiting the front lines any time of the day or night. He shares a humorous story of a late night visit by Patton and his encounter with a sleeping soldier.
The Battle of the Bulge was the last German offensive of WWII. It was Middleton who made the decision to hold the town of Bastogne against overwhelming opposition, in the winter of 1944. Although he was heavily criticized by Patton at the time, it turned out to be the right choice. He reflects on what it meant to the course of the war.
PHOTO: L-R, Middleton, Eisenhower, Patton
John Gouras left the island of Patmos to come to America with his father in 1921. In this episode, taken from an interview conducted in 1974, Gouras shares some memories of his life and career spent as a Jackson restaurateur. He remembers selling his father’s homemade candy to local businesses in Lake Charles, Louisiana as a teenager and how he and his partner purchased their first eatery, the People’s Café, in Jackson for $800, in 1928. He recalls how they survived the Great Depression and opened their second café, the Mayflower, four years later.
Shortly after becoming a naturalized citizen in 1938, Gouras joined the Army Air Corp and served as a supply officer in the Mediterranean theater. He explains how his restaurant experience was put to use by General William L. Lee.
At the time of the interview, the Mayflower Café had been open for 42 years. It is still in business as of 2018. Gouras describes the Greek community of Jackson as industrious, close-knit, and well-respected. He discusses how they work to keep traditional Greek holidays and customs alive.
Growing up on his father’s plantation near Clarksdale, Marshall Bouldin, III, dreamed of being a commercial illustrator like his hero, Norman Rockwell. Encouraged by his mother to pursue his love of art, he left Clarksdale in 1939 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and there began a career that would gain him notoriety around the nation, even as it brought him home again.
In this episode, taken from our 1974 oral history interview, Bouldin details his evolution as an artist. During the year and a half spent at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, felt he learned from more by studying the Institute’s collection of paintings than he did attending class. When WWII broke out, he was forced to leave school. Deemed unfit for military duty due to a birth defect that left him with a limp, he worked as an illustrative draftsman for the Vultee Aircraft Company in Nashville, Tennessee.
After the war, Bouldin became the apprentice of a commercial illustrator in Connecticut where he honed his skills as he learned from the best in the business. He soon had his own studio and a New York agent who secured magazine work for him with publications like Colliers and Outdoor Life. It was after attending an exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh, Bouldin realized that he envied the freedom of expression that differentiated artists from illustrators. He explains why he decided to come home to Clarksdale and become a portrait painter.
Throughout his career, Bouldin rejected the stereotypes associated with professional artists. He discusses why it’s important to stay connected to the rest of society. As a portrait painter, he was required to sell his services like any other professional. However, he maintained it was always about making new friends, not money. Of the hundreds of portraits he was commissioned to paint, many of the subjects were famous, including, President Nixon’s daughters, William Faulkner, William Winter and Mike Espy.
African-American soldiers returned home to the Jim Crow South after WWII, determined to press for an end to black voter suppression and “separate but equal” segregation laws. In this episode we examine the military career and civil rights activism of Taylor Howard of Gulfport.
Howard was drafted into the all-black, 92nd Infantry Division in 1942. He recalls the racial tensions they encountered while training in Louisiana, as well as, their trek from the Arizona desert to the Italian Alps.
After the Battle of Anzio, entrenched German forces inflicted heavy losses on the 92nd Infantry Division in Northern Italy. Howard recounts how a regiment of Japanese-American soldiers helped turn the tide.
African-American soldiers returned home after the war, convinced they would now be treated as equals. Howard remembers being denied the right to vote by a group of angry white poll-watchers the following year.
PHOTO: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2181029
Dorothy Fraley of Macon grew up in the rural community of Fairview, outside of Brooksville. In this episode, she shares some of her memories of that time, like how they used to ride a mule and buggy to the store every morning to catch the school bus, and the telephone “party” line they shared with their neighbors.
Born in 1918, the year of the great flu pandemic, Fraley blames the large number of deaths that year for there being so few students her age. Before modern vaccines and drugs, infectious diseases could only be controlled by limiting exposure. Fraley remembers the time her sister was quarantined after contracting Diphtheria.
A popular hairstyle for girls in the 1920s and 30s was known as the Buster Brown. Fraley describes how she and her sister wore their hair as children and her first perm. During the Great Depression, many Mississippians survived by being self-sufficient and growing their own food. Fraley explains how her mother made their school uniforms using wool from her father’s sheep.
Staff Sergeant Undaryl Allen of the Mississippi Army National Guard was deployed to Iraq in fall of 2004. In this episode, he shares his memories of that time in this interview conducted in May of 2006. Although trained as a mechanic, Allen’s first month was spent as a gunner on escort duty. He explains how his faith and his family helped him handle the stress of going out on patrol.
As an army mechanic serving in Iraq, Allen worked on a variety of combat equipment. He recalls repairing vehicles in which his friends were injured or killed. While serving in Iraq, Allen was assigned to a Forward Operating Base near Bagdad. He describes how he and his tent-mates would pool their resources for “home cooked” meals.
PODCAST EXTRA: Allen and his crew would occasionally be shelled by enemy forces while retrieving broken down vehicles, forcing them to run for cover. Looking back on those dangerous times, he finds humor in their mad scrambles to the bunker.
PHOTO: Hannah Heishman, Pinterest
The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 provided funding for the training of local police officers. In this episode, Tyler Fletcher explains how that funding led the University of Southern Mississippi to develop a curriculum in Law Enforcement. Fletcher retired from the U.S. Army as Chief of Criminal Investigations in 1972. He recalls his decision to accept a teaching position at Southern Miss.
Later, when the decision was made to establish a School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Science and Security, there were several hurdles to overcome. Fletcher discusses the struggle to recruit students, gain academic acceptance, and win the support of law enforcement supervisors.
In the1980s, Mississippi moved to develop a set of educational standards for police officers. Fletcher remembers serving on the advisory board and USM's role in that effort.
Last week, Mississippians remembered Hurricane Katrina on the thirteenth anniversary of the massive storm’s slow march up the length of our state. Considered the most destructive natural disaster in our nation’s history, it sparked a series of recovery efforts that would be measured in days, weeks, months and years. Thousands of lives would be interrupted, many drastically so. Some for only a brief time, some permanently.
While clean-up of the millions of tons of debris left in Katrina’s wake seemed like an effort that would take many years, much of it was accomplished at an astonishing rate. On the surface, a sense of normality crept in and with it, an alleviation of the emotional and mental stress such disasters visit upon the survivors. Feelings of hopelessness, depression and despair are not forgotten, but hard to convey years later.
To fully recall those stressful emotions, revisiting the interviews of first-responders conducted in the days that followed is helpful. In those recordings, the raw angst can be heard in a way not possible with the written word. For this episode, we turn to an in-the-moment account of a key decision maker in the South Mississippi relief effort: Barbra K. "Babs" Faulk.
As Director of the South-Central Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross, Babs Faulk coordinated the relief agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath, the Red Cross served over half a million meals to those in need. Faulk discusses the agency's response and the importance of volunteers to the relief effort.
In this interview, conducted just two months after the storm, she recalls how they prepared to meet the challenge. As the head quarter's phones constantly drone in the background, the weariness and heartache of the previous eight weeks is unmistakable as she shoulders the blame for those they couldn't help.
The ferocity and devastation of Hurricane Katrina caught many Mississippians by surprise. Faulk’s frustration with the often lackadaisical response of many to impending disasters is apparent as she emphasizes the importance of hurricane preparedness and personal responsibility.
The disruption caused by the storm took an emotional toll on the survivors, but also on the relief workers and first-responders, themselves. Faulk reflects on the need for mental health workers and the long journey to recovery that lay before them in November 2005.