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.
As a lifelong resident of Port Gibson, James Allen witnessed many important moments in his hometown’s history. In this episode, he shares some of those memories. Allen attended the Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson in the early 1920s. He recalls the night McComb Hall burned and three student’s harrowing escape from the third floor.
Allen’s father owned one of the first car dealerships in Port Gibson. He recounts his father’s favorite story of selling a retired rancher his first automobile and how the man tried to coax the car up a hill. People have been decorating the cars of newlyweds since the earliest days of the automobile. Allen describes the lengths to which they would go to harass their just-married friends.
F. S. Wolcott’s travelling minstrel show used Port Gibson as its home base during the off season. Allen remembers how Wolcott would wait to pay his credit accounts until the merchant asked for the money.
PHOTO: Chamberlain-Hunt Academy postcard
Lt. General Emmett H. "Mickey" Walker joined the Mississippi State ROTC program in 1941. In this episode, he recalls being activated in 1943 and going through basic training in the Texas summer heat. As war raged in Europe during WWII, soldiers who were wounded or killed in action needed to be replaced. Walker discusses being a replacement soldier and his long journey to the front lines.
During WWII, the German-held city of Metz in Northeast France, was considered a veritable fortress. Walker describes how Allied forces were able to take the city in half a day’s time.
The Battle of the Bulge was a last-ditch effort by the Germans to split Allied forces with a surprise counter-offensive through the Ardennes Forest in December of 1944. Walker remembers driving all night through the harsh Belgium winter with General Patton’s Third Army.
Mississippi’s Country Comedian, Jerry Clower, described himself as having “backed into showbusiness.” Clower began his career as an assistant county agent in Oxford before taking a job selling seed corn and then fertilizer for Mississippi Chemical Corporation. It was while calling on customers, he began telling stories about his rural upbringing in East Fork, Mississippi. The homespun humor, combined with Clower’s gregarious personality, led to more and more speaking opportunities at churches, trade shows, and civic clubs until finally, he was convinced to cut a record in 1970. The unlikely success of that recording, sold by mail order and out of the trunk of Clower’s car, and the airplay it received by supporters like country DJ Big Ed Wilkes, led to a recording contract with MCA. By the time Clower was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1973, he was appearing on television programs nationwide and performing live at rodeos and state fairs.
In this episode, his daughter, Katy Clower Johnson shares her memories of the man she called Daddy. She recalls being introduced to the audience of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of three by country music legend, Roy Acuff. At the peak of his career, Clower performed over two hundred shows per year. Johnson remembers travelling with her father and how he used those trips as educational opportunities.
During his twenty-seven year career, Clower amassed a large collection of memorabilia. Johnson and her mother, Homerline Clower discuss their decision to open a Jerry Clower Museum. Johnson also considers her father’s legacy and how it compares to the man she knew.
Bill Stallworth was a Biloxi city councilman when Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast in August 2005. In this episode, he recalls the shock and fear in the eyes of his constituents as he viewed the devastation. Basic necessities like food and water were unavailable for days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Stallworth gets emotional when he recounts early efforts to feed the survivors.
Before the storm even ended, relief workers from across the country began making their way towards the Gulf Coast. Stallworth remembers how two volunteers from Oxfam America helped him fund and organize relief efforts throughout the city.
Three years after Hurricane Katrina, Stallworth reflected on the rebuilding efforts to date. He shares his hopes for the future and the lessons to be learned from that experience.
PHOTO: Linda VanZandt
Linda VanZandt began working for the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2003, shortly after graduating from USM with a degree in International Studies. During a trip to Vietnam, she recounts being deeply affected by the generous spirit of the Vietnamese people and their culture. In this episode, VanZandt explains her decision to reach out to the East Biloxi Vietnamese fishing community after Hurricane Katrina.
While assisting with relief efforts on the Gulf Coast, VanZandt befriended many of the Vietnamese-Americans living in Biloxi. She recalls being led to conduct an oral history project to preserve their stories for future generations. VanZandt developed a traveling exhibit documenting the stories of the Gulf Coast Vietnamese fishing community. She remembers the impact it had on second and third generation Vietnamese-Americans.
Developers of the Two Mississippi Museums made extensive use of the oral history collection at USM. VanZandt discusses assisting the exhibit designers and how the Center’s Vietnamese-Americans of the Gulf Coast Oral History Project impacts how this community is represented there.
Dr. Stephen Sloan accepted the position of Assistant Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2003. In this episode, he discusses those years and how his tenure was shaped by the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. Sloan begins the conversation with memories of how his family survived the storm and the cleanup that followed.
Soon after Katrina, the COHCH began conducting oral history interviews of the survivors. Sloan describes the need for such a project and the positive response it received. Based in part on those experiences, Sloan co-authored a book on conducting post-crisis oral history projects. In Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis, he reflects on the need to protect the mental health of interviewers, as well as the interviewees.
In 2007, Dr. Sloan left the Center to become Director of the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University. He recalls fondly his time at USM and how it shaped his career.
Curtis Austin became the Assistant Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2000, before assuming the Directorship one year later. During his seven year tenure, the Center would expand its Civil Rights Documentation Project, becoming the definitive resource for researchers, teachers and museums seeking answers on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.
In this episode, Austin recalls growing in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers. He recounts his education and early career. His first oral history interview after becoming assistant director of the Center was of 104 year old King Evans. He remembers how it changed the way he thought about voting rights. As director of the oral history program at USM, Austin interviewed some key players in the Civil Rights Movement. He expresses pride in the Center’s work and discusses its importance.
Austin also discusses the Roots Reunion, a live Americana music program presented annually by the Center during the 1990s and 2000s. He describes the program’s impact.
The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has always relied on grant funding for special programs and projects. Austin expresses disappointment in the university’s unwillingness to assist the Center financially during lean years and questions their level of support for this “hidden gem” during previous administrations.
Dr. Shana Walton began working with the Mississippi Oral History Program in 1992. As an anthropologist, Walton worked to expand the MOHP’s mission to include preserving the state’s cultural heritage. She and Director Chuck Bolton assembled a team that included not just historians, but also political science majors, anthropologists, and folklorists. During that transformative decade, the MOHP became the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, a prominent name in the preservation of Civil Rights history. In this episode, Walton recalls conducting oral history workshops for local communities interested in preserving their memories.
It was during this period that Walton met, hired, and befriended a legend in the Civil Rights Movement, Worth Long. The son of an AME preacher, Long rose to prominence in 1963, when he became leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma, Alabama. By the time Long began working with the COHCH in the 1990s, he was suffering from a degenerative eye condition that was slowly robbing him of his sight, but that did not slow him down in the least.
Worth Long traveled around Mississippi by bus conducting oral history interviews even though he was legally blind, relying on the kindness of strangers to help him reach his destination. Shana Walton remembers how Long used his blindness as an opportunity to make friends and preserve stories. As a civil rights activist, Worth Long heeded his father’s advice on how to set aside anger and see the good in people. Walton marvels at how her friend’s love for humanity would overcome the emotions of the moment.
Oseola McCarty received national acclaim for donating the bulk of her life’s savings to the University of Southern Mississippi. Shana Walton discusses recording McCarty’s oral history and the impact of her gift.
PHOTO: Alabama Department of Archives and History
During the yearlong celebration of our 50th Anniversary, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has been interviewing former directors and staffers to preserve our own history. This week, we share the memories of Dr. Charles Bolton.
In 1990, Chuck Bolton became the fourth director of the Mississippi Oral History Program at USM. A Picayune native, Bolton had graduated from USM with a bachelor’s degree in history and moved to Durham, North Carolina to attend graduate school at Duke University. In this episode, he remembers his oral history professor and mentor Larry Goodwin and how being from Mississippi lead to a unique first interview.,
After receiving his Ph.D. in History, Bolton returned to USM to accept a teaching position in the History Department and the Directorship of the MOHP. He recalls the legacy of the Mississippi Oral History Program’s first director, Dr. Orley Caudill and how they were able to build on those early successes.
The Stennis Space Center Oral History Project was launched in 1991 by the Mississippi Oral History Program. Bolton discusses the roots of that fourteen year project and the opportunities it created. In 1992 Shana Walton was hired to be Assistant Director of the Mississippi Oral History Program. Bolton explains how her background in Linguistic Anthropology allowed the Program to evolve into the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
PHOTO: Ellisville Blues legend, Tommie T-Bone Pruitt performs at an early Roots Reunion show, an annual Cultural Heritage program put on by the Center during the 1990s and early 2000s.
This week, for our 50th Anniversary, we begin to document the story of us with a short series of episodes based on interviews conducted this spring of former directors and staffers. Unfortunately, our first director, Dr. Orley B. Caudill, Sr., passed away in 2015 at the age of 97. But luckily for us, his son, Brandt Caudill was willing to share his memories of his father and he had plenty of good stories!
Orley Caudill was working as a grocery store manager in Wenatchee, Washington when WWII erupted and soon found himself in the Army, guarding the Pacific coastline from possible Japanese invasion. He transferred into the Army Air Corp and served in the Pacific Theater as a navigator, bombardier, and radar operator. Caudill saw plenty of action. On one mission, his crew’s B25 bomber limped home with 450 bullet holes!
After the war, Caudill remained in the Air Force and flew night bombing missions during the Korean War. On one mission, their pilot was awarded the medal of honor and Caudill a bronze star. Caudill became an Air Force Public Information Officer and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base for several years. He then served in Paris, taking his young family with him. Later, he served in the Pentagon before a final tour of duty in Vietnam. All told, he flew 120 combat missions!
By the time Caudill retired from the Air Force after 27 years, he had earned a Ph. D. in Political Science and moved his family to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to teach at USM in 1968. In 1971, he became the first director of the newly formed Mississippi Oral History Program and kept a grueling pace of 100 interviews per year until he retired in 1986.
In this episode Brandt Caudill recounts his father’s 27 year career in the U. S. Air Force. He recalls his father’s decision to move to Hattiesburg and teach Political Science at USM. Caudill also remembers his father’s love for oral history and the famous Mississippians he interviewed. Finally, he reflects on his father’s natural curiosity and zest for life throughout his 97 years.
Lloyd Munn grew up in Mendenhall, Mississippi, the third of four brothers. In this episode, he remembers being part of a musical family and why he chose to play the harmonica.
Munn began sitting-in with bands at the George Street Grocery and Subway Lounge in the 1990s. He recalls the talented musicians he met and befriended at those iconic Jackson music venues. Greg “Fingers” Taylor played harmonica in Jimmy Buffett’s band, the Coral Reefers, for many years. Munn discusses his friend and mentor and how he always told him to “respect the music.”
“The Warrior Bonfire Program provides opportunities that improve the lives of Purple Heart recipients on their lifelong journey of recovery and healing.” Munn describes the impact of the program.
Even though Kat Bergeron was not born on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, when she moved here with her family in the early 1960s, she fell in love with the sights, sounds, music, history and lore of the area. In other words, all the things that make a place feel like home. It’s a phenomenon she calls having a “sense of place.” In this episode, she explains what it means to have a “sense of place” and why it’s important.
Since the 1980s, Bergeron has been a feature writer for the Gulf Coast Sun Herald. She discusses the difference between writing about history and being a historian. According to Bergeron, most legends are based on truth, even if the facts have been lost over time. She recalls how her friend Jim Stevens helped dispel a popular myth about the Biloxi lighthouse.
The shoreline along the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been called the world’s longest manmade beach. Bergeron rejects that notion and describes how the original sand washed away over time.
After the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, NOAA asked us to conduct an oral history project to preserve the stories of those who fished the Gulf for a living. What one hears in these interviews a decade later is a myriad of emotions: pride in the past, exasperation at the evolving markets and conditions, and fear for the future. This week, we return to the interview of Thomas Schultz, junior, a fifth generation fisherman who, though he had retired, was still very much involved with preserving a way of life that he felt was slipping away.
2011 - Before the days of motorized fishing boats, fishermen relied on manpower and the wind to ply their trade. In this episode, Thomas Schultz of Biloxi describes how his father’s family would row a skiff thirty miles to sell their catch.
Schultz spent decades catching and selling shrimp with his own shrimp boats. He recalls being out in the Gulf for weeks at a time and how the price of shrimp has fluctuated. After Schultz retired from shrimping, he remained active with the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a group of industry professionals dedicated to ensuring “the continued vitality and existence of the U.S. shrimp industry.” He explains why he thinks the threat that shrimping poses to the sea turtle population has been greatly exaggerated.
According to Schultz commercial fishing is a great life and allowed him to provide for his family. He worries that pollution and government regulations are discouraging the next generation of fishermen.
As a new class of inductees ascend to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, we look back to this classic episode featuring Jai Johanny Johanson, a founding member of the Allman Brothers band. "Jaimoe" as he is known, had many interesting stories to share and we were all ears! Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995, please enjoy this classic MSMO. We will be back next week with a new episode.
2012 - Ocean Springs native Jai Johnny Johanson got his first big break as a professional drummer in 1966 when he joined Otis Redding's band. Over the next couple of years, he played for several big names including Percy Sledge, Joe Tex, Johnny Jenkins and Clarence Carter, but by 1968, found himself struggling to make ends meet. Johanson was about to leave the south and move to New York to pursue a career in Jazz when he heard of a young guitar player named Duane Allman, looking to form a new band. The two men were soon joined by bassist Barry Oakley and that trio would serve as the foundation for the Allman Brother Band.
In this episode, Johanson shares his memories of that time including the phone call he got from Cadillac Henry about joining Otis Redding’s band. He recalls going to see Percy Sledge at the Apollo and how he got the nickname, Jaimoe. Finally, he discusses what made Duane Allman such an exceptional musician and the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band.
PHOTO: J. Bayer: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlbnyc/3388544821/
1975 – Doyle Ball moved from Amite County, Mississippi to Kansas in 1912 and took a job on a large cattle ranch. In this episode, he recalls learning to rope and ride and how to tend to the cows when they were sick.
During WWII, Ball leased out his farm in Crystal Springs and began working at a shipyard. He describes building mine sweepers and other ships critical for the war effort. After the war, Ball returned to his home in Crystal Springs and opened a dairy farm. He discusses the different types of farming operations he managed during his long career.
In 1975, Ball could look back with pride on the sixty-five years he spent in agriculture. He considers the changes he has witnessed and offers advice to any young farmers just starting out.
Some of Sam Alman’s earliest memories are of sleeping upstairs in his family’s fledgling soft drink business as the machinery below filled the bottles to be delivered the next day. And his stories of a life spent as part of the Gulf Coast community are filled with love and appreciation for the place he called home.
2004 – Sam Alman’s father moved their young family to Gulfport in the 1930s in search of new opportunities. In this episode, he recalls how they opened a soft drink bottling company and lived upstairs in those early days.
For his final two years of high school, Alman attended the Gulf Coast Military Academy which opened in 1912. He explains how the training he received there prepared him for life in the Navy during WWII.
Mardi Gras was an important part of Alman’s life from an early age and he participated in the Gulf Coast festivities for most of his life. He remembers serving as the King of Mardi Gras in 1971 and how local businesses would build their own floats.
During his lifetime, Alman watched the Mississippi Gulf Coast grow and prosper. He reflects on the changes he witnessed and why he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
1974 – During the timber boom of the early 20th Century, logging camps harvested virgin pine trees across Mississippi. In this episode Carriere native Spence Lumpkin recalls visiting one of the camps as a boy in the early 1930s. Prior to the development of mechanized tree harvesting, giant yellow pines covered Mississippi. Lumpkin describes the way these majestic forests were clear-cut by northern profiteers.
After the timber companies harvested all the pine trees in South Mississippi and moved on, locals searched for new crops to support the economy. Lumpkin discusses how late frosts, insects and hurricanes eventually wiped out the peach, satsuma and tung trees they planted.
As a life-long resident of Carriere, Spence Lumpkin survived several major storms. He remembers the hurricane of 1947, as well as, Betsy and Camille.
1978 – G. R. Sullivan of Raleigh, Mississippi joined the army one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In this episode he recalls being assigned to an armored reconnaissance unit and boarding a ship bound for England. On Christmas Day, 1943, Sullivan’s troop ship lay off the coast of Gibraltar. He describes the submarine countermeasures and being attacked by the German Luftwaffe.
While stationed in Algiers, North Africa, Sullivan had been driving for the company commander. He recounts being asked to serve as a scout car driver for General Dwight Eisenhower, a position he held for nine months until his unit left North Africa.
As fighting raged on in Italy, G. R. Sullivan’s unit was driven from a small village by German artillery. He remembers being assisted by a colonel with a jeep, a radio, and a lot of American firepower.
For as long as he could remember, Will Davis Campbell wanted to be an evangelical preacher in a small southern church. He was ordained by the elders of the East Fork Baptist Church at the age of seventeen and was attending Louisiana College when the United States entered WWII. Campbell volunteered for the army in 1943 and was assigned to a medical unit in the Pacific. While serving in that capacity he read the historical novel Freedom Road by Howard Fast and his views on race relations were challenged “in a very dramatic and lasting fashion.”
After the war, Campbell attended Wake Forest, Tulane, and Yale Divinity School. He graduated and was called to be the pastor at a Baptist church in Taylor, Louisiana, but his progressive views on race and the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision inspired him to seek a more academic position. Campbell became Chaplin at the University of Mississippi but again his progress stance on the issue of race generated a great deal of controversy. After two and a half years, he resigned and went to work for the National Council of Churches as a field director for race relations, a role that would thrust him into the national spotlight as the Civil Rights Movement began heating up.
1976 – Will Davis Campbell grew up in the East Fork community with plans of becoming a preacher. In this episode he recalls how his thinking on race relations evolved while serving in the army. Campbell became a field director for the National Council of Churches in 1956. He explains how that position brought him to Civil Rights hotspots throughout the South.
In 1957, a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School. Campbell recounts escorting the students through the angry mob gathered out front. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference recruited a group of 125 rabbis, priests, and ministers to come to Albany, Georgia in 1963 to be arrested and immediately bailed out of jail. The plan was to shine a national spotlight on the city’s anti-congregation laws. Campbell remembers how Andrew Young allowed the clergymen to remain incarcerated overnight to get the "full activist experience."
CAUTION: CONTAINS RACIALLY EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
As a professional musician in the early 20th Century, Joe Berryman faced many challenges. Before the days of airliners and modern highways, just getting to the next gig could take days or even weeks. Please enjoy this classic Mississippi Moments from 2018.
1972 - 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
When Claude E. Ramsay sat down with us in April of 1981 to discuss his career and tenure as President of the Mississippi AFL – CIO, the three main topics of that series of interviews were: worker’s rights, voting rights, and civil rights. Forty years later, those same three issues are still grabbing headlines across the nation. Whether it is Amazon employees in Alabama trying to unionize, GOP efforts to restrict voting after the 2020 election, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the uptick in violence against Asian, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, the struggle for better working conditions, access to the ballot and freedom from discrimination continues against the same forces using the same tactics and reasoning.
1981 - In 1939, Claude Ramsay went to work for the International Paper Company in Pascagoula. In this episode, he recalls joining the paper-workers union and rising through the ranks to become president. Ramsay was elected President of the Mississippi AFL – CIO in 1959. He discusses working with Medgar Evers to secure voting rights and labor rights for all Mississippians. Ramsay also details his meeting with President Kennedy the day after Evers’s assignation.
In 1964, after years of complaints about the anti-union, anti-civil rights biases of WLBT, the AFL – CIO joined the United Church of Christ in petitioning the FCC to revoke the Jackson television station’s license. Ramsay explains why they felt it was important to take a stand against “right wing propaganda.”
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination based on gender and ethnicity. Ramsay discusses how the law also aided efforts to organize Mississippi’s workers.
Through the years, we have delved through our large collection of veteran oral histories, many times, to find impactful war stories that really bring home the hardships and sacrifices of our soldiers and sailors during WWII. This is not one of those episodes. For while Albert Russell did escape calamity on multiple occasions during his service as a navigator aboard a Navy patrol bomber in the Pacific theater, the man clearly had more fun and more good fortune that most during the war. In training, Russell frequently enjoyed the nightlife in Atlanta, Washington DC, and San Francisco. While serving in the Pacific, he met and cavorted with one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses of the day, Carol Landis, who was touring with a USO group in Australia at the time. Clearly, the man knew how to enjoy his downtime.
1977 - Albert Russell joined the Navy in 1942 and served as a flight navigator in the Pacific. In this episode, he describes basic training and the methods of navigation in those early days. As young Navy ensign during WWII, Russell was assigned to a base near Pacific fleet headquarters. He remembers taking an early morning swim in the private pool of Fleet Admiral Bull Halsey.
While on leave in Australia, Russell met and befriended two USO performers: actress Carol Landis and singer Martha Tilton. He recalls a month of dancing and dining and being the envy of his commanding officer.
During WWII, bad weather was a constant source of danger for patrol planes in the Pacific. Russell recounts how a typhoon forced him to change course repeatedly for nineteen hours.
Besides cotton, the timber industry generated more money and jobs in Mississippi during the early 20th Century than any other. When European settlers came to the territory, they found vast stands of virgin long-leaf yellow pine trees. But it took until the late 1800s before the technology was developed to harvest these giant trees for their high-quality lumber. By WWI, hundreds of sawmills covered the Piney Woods and their tree-cutting and turpentine camps often attracted a rough breed of men from around the country, drawn by the lure of plentiful work. Our storyteller for this episode helped build many of the sawmills and railroads used to process and transport this valuable commodity.
1976 - Charles Ainsworth was born in 1885 near Sontag, Mississippi. In this episode, he describes the hard, dangerous work of cutting timber in the Piney Woods. During the timber boom years, logging camps harvested trees from across the state. Charles Ainsworth remembers the men who worked these camps as “some of the meanest people in world.”
As a young man, Ainsworth helped construct sawmills throughout the Piney Woods. He recalls earning the respect of the mill owner in D’lo through determination and hard work.
Ainsworth moved to Hattiesburg in 1916 and began building houses. He recounts gaining a reputation for working smarter and saving his clients money in the process.