Jewel Rushing grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. In this episode, he remembers befriending the hobos who used to camp outside of town and discusses how growing up in that time of hardship inspired him to help others later in life.
In 1968, the Mayor of McComb asked Jewel Rushing to serve on the city’s public housing board. He recalls organizing a Boys and Girls Club chapter after watching poor kids playing in the streets. Rushing also served on the Board of Directors of the McComb Salvation Army for many years. He recounts how a generous donation by a retired railroad worker allowed them to keep their doors open.
During his lifetime, Rushing worked tirelessly as a community activist. He served on numerous boards including the Southwest Community College Board of Trustees, the McComb Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, and the United Way of Southwest Mississippi. He explains how growing up poor inspired him to try and help young people overcome their circumstances.
Jewel Rushing passed away on September 13, 2011, at the age of ninety.
As the daughter of famed restauranteur Mary Mahoney, Eileen Mahoney Ezell grew up immersed in Biloxi history and tradition. In this episode, she recalls being asked to serve as Mardi Gras Queen Ixolib for 1976. For Ezell, serving as the Gulf Coast Carnival Queen was a whirlwind of festivities. She describes the Coronation Ball, parades, and other events that make Mardi Gras so special.
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant opened for business in Biloxi on May 7, 1964. Ezell remembers her mother as real people person who loved the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Since 1908, Biloxi’s Mardi Gras has continue to grow and evolve into a world class celebration. In this interview recorded in 2004, Ezell discusses how the Gulf Coast Carnival Association works to ensure the future of the event while respecting traditions of the past.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Punter, Ray Guy, redefined the position for all who would follow. A tremendous athlete, Guy was as good a pitcher as he was a punter. After finishing high school in his hometown of Thomson, Georgia, he decided to come to Southern Miss to play football and baseball. Guy recalls why choosing a smaller school like USM was a “no-brainer.”
Although Guy could kick footballs great distances, he often chose height over yardage. He discusses the strategy behind his high, hanging kicks. During his years playing football with the Oakland Raiders, Guy shattered many NFL records. He explains why records are meaningless if the team doesn’t win.
Even though Ray Guy was first nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, he was not inducted until the Class of 2014. In this interview, recorded shortly before the induction ceremony, he describes how his former coach John Madden would present him for enshrinement and the festivities to follow.
PHOTO: Famed Raiders Coach John Madden (L) and Ray Guy (R) the night of the enshrinement ceremony in 2014.
Claudette Romious grew up the Delta town of Alligator, Mississippi. In this episode, she discusses her father’s various business ventures including a garage, gas station, café, grocery store and juke joint. She also shares her memories of growing up as the daughter of a hardworking African-American entrepreneur.
The Rabbit Foot Minstrels tent show travelled the South entertaining both white and black audiences. Claudette Romious recalls sneaking into the adult-oriented burlesque show as a child.
As a teenager, Romious and her sisters worked in their father’s juke joint on the weekends. She describes learning how to handle drunk customers and not be afraid of confrontations.
When Romious’s father passed away in 1979, people called and came from all over the country to express their condolences. She remembers the diverse array of mourners and their stories of how her father had helped each of them to achieve their dreams.
Hattiesburg resident Samuel Lahasky has lived in cities with both large and small Jewish populations. In this episode, he observes how Jewish communities in the South tend to be more closely knit than those in the North. Lahasky shares his memories of growing up in Abbeville, Louisiana, and later moving to Atlanta at the age of six. He compares and contrasts those experiences as well as the differences between the Jewish communities at Tulane versus LSU and Hattiesburg.
Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi provides summertime recreational and cultural activities for Jewish youth. Lahasky recalls attending the camp as a child and the lifelong friends he met there. Since 1946, Temple B’nai Israel has served the Hattiesburg Jewish community. Lahasky explains how being a member of a smaller synagogue requires a greater level of commitment.
There have always been negative stereotypes associated with Jewish people. Lahasky discusses how he uses humor to gently disabuse his non-Jewish friends and coworkers of these mistaken beliefs.
PHOTO: Temple B’nai Israel, Hattiesburg – WDAM.com
Dr. John Quon’s father immigrated from China in 1924 and settled in Moorhead, Mississippi. In this episode, he discusses how immigration laws prohibited Chinese nationals from owning property until 1943. Quon’s family lived in the back of their Moorhead grocery store until it became too crowded. He recalls how threatening letters led his father to purchase a cotton farm and build a home away from town.
Quon began working in his family’s grocery store at the age of five. He remembers working long hours during growing season and how their lives centered around the business.
After years as a successful merchant and cotton farmer, Quon’s father became well-respected as a businessman and patriarch. He recounts how his father sponsored other Chinese families and describes how their home became a meeting place for the Delta Chinese-American community.
Walter Wallace grew up on a dairy and cotton farm in Cleveland, Mississippi in the 1930s. In this episode, he shares his memories of helping his family with the daily chores. He recalls having to milk ten cows each morning before going to school.
According to Wallace, Cleveland was a busy town in the 1930s and 40s. He remembers the crowded streets on Saturdays and riding the train with his mother to Memphis. Prior to 1936, the Wallace home had no electricity or indoor plumbing. He describes sleeping on the porch in the summertime and the excitement of finally getting electric lights.
In 1940, Wallace’s father passed away, leaving him and his mother run to the farm. He recounts trying to bargain with the cotton buyers for the best price and attending college at Delta State.
James Lindsey grew up on his father’s cotton farm in Bolivar County in the 1940s. In this episode, he shares his memories of a life spent farming in the Mississippi Delta.
Lindsey remembers plowing the fields with mules and picking cotton by hand before the days of mechanization. Later as an adult, Lindsey began his career as a cotton farmer on four hundred acres near Cleveland, Mississippi. He recalls increasing the size of his farm to around 3,500 acres and why he later decided to downsize.
Advances in farming equipment, chemicals, and genetically-engineered seeds have led to higher yields per acre for cotton growers. Lindsey discusses the balance between increased cost and profit.
At the time of this interview in 2009, Lindsey had witnessed a drastic decline in the number of cotton farms in the Mississippi Delta. He explains why so many of his neighbors have moved away from cotton production to other crops.
PHOTO: MS State Univ. Extension
Hattiesburg native Clarence Williams was drafted into the army in the final days of WWII. In this episode, he shares some of his many experiences gained during a decades-long military career. Not many veterans can claim to have served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but Williams saw service in all three conflicts.
Williams recounts his brief service in Germany and returning to Mississippi afterwards to finish high school. Then while attending college at Tuskegee, he was recalled to active duty for the Korean conflict. Williams remembers how his unit would have to jump into their foxholes when the Chinese attacked.
Clarence Williams served as an Air Force Manpower Survey Officer during the war in Vietnam. He describes his duties in planning for the deployment of supplies and equipment. In a military career spanning over twenty-five years, he visited many countries. Williams expresses gratitude for the opportunities the Air Force provided him and his wife to see the world.
In 1918 New Orleans residents George Walter and Annette McConnell Anderson purchased 24 acres of land facing the Mississippi Sound in Ocean Springs. Annette wished to establish a retreat for artists. They named their new venture, Fairhaven. Their three sons, Peter, Walter and Mac, shared Annette’s love of the Arts and found inspiration there. Shearwater Pottery was founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson. In this episode, his nephew, John Anderson explains how Shearwater Pottery got it name.
As a painter, Walter Anderson, lived the life of a hermit, spending much of his time on Horn Island, painting Gulf Coast wildlife in his own unique style. His youngest son, John, recalls his father’s strained relationship with the rest of the family and shares an emotional early memory.
Even though Walter Anderson died in 1965, his work was unknown to the Art world until the 1970s. John Anderson remembers how an exhibit at a Memphis gallery helped turn his father into a cultural icon.
The Friends of Walter Anderson was established in 1974 to help catalog and preserve the late artist’s work. Anderson explains how that group led to the establishment of the Walter Anderson Museum.
Rev. Carolyn Abrams is perhaps best known as the mother of voting rights advocate, Stacey Abrams, but she has accomplished much more than being the matriarch of a dynamic and successful family. After earning her first master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in Library Science, she spent fourteen years working as the director librarian for William Carey University. She then answered the call to ministry, joining her husband Robert in attending the Emory University Candler School of Theology, where both received Master of Divinity degrees.
Abrams grew up in Hattiesburg during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode she recalls attending segregated schools and being barred from entering whites-only establishments. Growing up in the segregated South, young black students had limited job opportunities available to them. Abrams explains how parents and teachers stressed education as the key to a better future.
Abrams and her husband encouraged their six children to earn good grades and to aim high in life. She discusses the accomplishments of each child and the role education played in their success.
As a lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Abrams has witnessed many positive changes in her community. She describes the challenges of today and the need for young people to return to the Church.
PHOTO: Abrams family portrait, Hattiesburg American.
Growing up black in the 1940s, Katharine Carr Esters learned at an early age to stand up for herself. In this episode, she shares her memories of racial segregation and the struggle for dignity and respect. She recalls being taught by her father to “know who you are, and to be what you can be.”
During the Jim Crow era, blacks in the South were expected to sit in the back of public buses behind a partition. Esters describes an altercation she had with a bus driver in 1946 and how her letter to the bus company led to a change.
Before the Civil Rights Movement, black adults were not called Mr. or Mrs. by white people. Esters remembers insisting her mother be addressed as Mrs. by their bank in Kosciusko. Throughout her life, Esters has been an advocate for the marginalized in our society. She explains why it’s important to treat each other respect, dignity, and fairness.
Dr. Joseph Clements, a former USM professor, was drafted into the U.S. Army in the Fall of 1941. In this episode, he shares his memories of the war. Clements remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor while training in Texas and his first assignment in Alaska, where he encountered the “midnight sun.”
During WWII, thousands of allied troops gathered in England in preparation for the invasion of France. Clements recalls fondly the diversity of the people he met while waiting for D-Day.
As allied forces battled their way across the French countryside, livestock was slaughtered indiscriminately. Clements describes the devastation and a grateful French woman who offered them a homecooked meal. Before America entered WWII, Joseph Clements watched newsreel footage of the fall of France. He recounts visiting the spot where Hitler danced after forcing the French to surrender.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was written by Sean O'Farrell and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
PHOTO: French surrender to German forces during WWII near Compiègne, France.
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.