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