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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

V

isionaries MISSISSIPPI LEADERS

WHOSE VISION

HELPED SHAPE

THE SUCCESS OF

MISSISSIPPI.

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Reuben Anderson grew up in Jackson, “Drinking from separate

plete reversal of expectations – obtained a deferment specifically

fountains, thinking nothing of it … until I got older and started ques-

to advance civil rights in Mississippi.

tioning,” as he did after the murder of adolescent Emmett Till – roughly Reuben’s age – in 1955. The crime absolutely horrified him.

When these cases diminished, he and his colleagues started a private firm, handling criminal and civil matters. In 1975, Jackson

White people – except policemen – were rarely seen in his

Mayor, Russell Davis, appointed Anderson municipal court judge.

neighborhood, but he knew, “Certain lines were never crossed.”

He was the first African-American to serve in this capacity, as

His best friend’s father was civil rights attorney, Jack Young, and

he was in each subsequent elevation. He frequently ruled against

Reuben met many movement leaders at their home, cementing

law enforcement, but his obvious integrity precluded any overt

his ambition to follow in Young’s footsteps.

Reuben Anderson L AW Y E R , J U D G E , A N D P I O N E E R

racial claims. He received high ratings throughout his judicial career and never faced electoral opposition. Two years later, Governor Cliff Finch appointed him to the Hinds County court, and in 1982, Governor William Winter elevated him to the Circuit Court bench. Anderson especially remembers working in Yazoo County, where courtrooms were still segregated; he describes elderly blacks approaching him with undisguised pride. His happiest years were as a trial judge; he notes proudly that he had no agenda and was very available, truly valuing lawyers’ time. In 1985, Governor Bill Allain promoted him to the state Supreme Court, a position he did not want. Though quite proud to have served on the Court, the workload was all-consuming, and he feared missing out on aspects of his family’s life. He stepped down in 1991, to join Phelps Dunbar in Jackson, where he remains today. In 1996, Anderson was elected president of the Mississippi Bar Association, whose membership was 8% black. That same year, he was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. He has headed the Mississippi Economic Council, maximizing his friendships with over fifty CEOs nationwide. He is a director of BellSouth, Burlington Resources, Kroger, and Trustmark. In 2002, he led a bipartisan team to help fill vacancies on Governor-elect Haley Barbour’s staff. And he notes, with irony, that forty years after his turbulent stay, he was named Ole Miss Alumnus of the Year. He gives great credit to, “White folks who took an interest in my career,” noting a little-pondered reality: that integration was difficult for sympathetic whites, who walked a fine line – supporting

In 1964, he graduated from Tougaloo College, where he had been exposed to many notable activists. After the University of

change, while outwardly keeping a segregationist profile. His optimistic modesty belies the reality that he burned with the

Mississippi rejected him, he attended law school at Southern

same fire as other, more visible contemporaries from the civil

University. Within that year, a more open-minded dean took over

rights era. His quiet charisma, however, shows clearly as he recalls

Ole Miss’ law school, and Anderson received a scholarship. As

a “remarkable life” lived entirely in Mississippi.

the only black student in the class, he endured – without detailing the harassment, “The two toughest years of my life.” Hired by the NAACP, he began work the day after he graduated,

He is, however, specifically concerned with the talent – black and white – that continues to leave the state. He insists that the right kind of economic development will retain the young people

focusing primarily on school desegregation and public accommoda-

who are anxious to leave the state, usually for lack of opportunity.

tion cases, and often representing prominent leaders. When drafted,

Like many of his contemporaries, he believes there is still much to

he moved to New York, thinking that state’s selection service board

be done, much for Mississippi to be proud about.

more likely to recognize his need to remain stateside; his request

Comparing today with the Jim Crow South of his upbringing,

was denied, though, and he returned to prepare for Vietnam.

though, he smiles. “I’ve seen so much change that my perspective

Anderson then approached the board in Jackson and – in a com-

is one of amazement. It’s practically inconceivable.” ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Jim Barksdale BUSINESS LEADER AND PHILANTHROPIST Jim Barksdale has returned to his native Mississippi after 40 years

than doling out money as a gift. Education-related projects are at

of turning heads in the business world. In his current position as

the heart of his investments, and most recently, Jackson State

president and CEO of Barksdale Management Corporation, a

University has been the recipient of an endowment fund from the

philanthropic investment company, Jim is at home again in

foundation. The Barksdales have also funded the Honors College

Jackson, Mississippi, where he is investing his time, and his

at the University of Mississippi, opening the door for a Phi Beta

money, in the people of his home state.

Kappa chapter now present at the University.

After receiving his degree in Business Administration from

In a quote often used by his devotees, Jim sums up his philos-

The University of Mississippi, Jim began his career with IBM and

ophy. “I’ve always believed that in business the main thing is to

through the years has held various management positions in dif-

keep the main thing – the main thing.”

ferent states. Probably best known for his title as president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corporation from 1995-1999,

Holding fast to this idea, Jim is concentrating on his most recent “main thing”– a new appointment to the position of

Jim has had a rich and varied professional life. Prior to his Net-

Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding,

scape years, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief

and Renewal. In this capacity Jim, along with experts in rebuild-

Operating Officer for Federal Express. In January 2000, Jim and his late wife, Sally, gifted $100 mil-

ing – including engineers, architects, developers, and planners – are serving as facilitators in assisting the people of South

lion to the State of Mississippi to create a statewide reading insti-

Mississippi as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Their mission

tute. The Barksdale Reading Institute, based in Oxford, Mississippi,

seeks answers to the question on the minds of all Mississippians:

was formed to advance Jim’s idea that education, specifically

“What can the citizens of South Mississippi do to revitalize and

reading, is the solution to breaking the cycle of poverty and the

create a renaissance in this area?” Taking a key position in

socio-

helping discover the answers may prove to be his most

economic fallout of an undereducated state. The Barksdale premise

challenging role yet. ■

supports investing dollars in programs that can show measured improvement – a practice that has proven to be more effective

Photo: Barksdale explains to Mississippi children that reading is fundamental to education.

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Sister Thea Bowman F R A N C I S C A N S I S T E R O F P E R P E T U A L A D O R AT I O N Sister Thea was known for using her extraordinary talents – song, dance, story – along with Gospel teachings, to promote

at the Catholic University of America. Sister Charlene Smith, FSPA, long-time friend and coordinator

cross-cultural awareness in

of Thea House, Thea News,

Mississippi and throughout the

and Thea Fest – all tributes to

world. She cherished the gifts of

Sister Thea Bowman’s life and

all cultures and encouraged

legacy, says Thea wanted most

African-Americans to proudly

to be remembered as spreading

celebrate their own identity. Her

joy. “I think joy was her signature

efforts impacted and inspired

characteristic. She recognized

persons of every color and

the power of joy. She shared

creed; many want her consid-

her unique ‘Thea joy’ with

ered for sainthood. She has

every-one, especially children.

myriad admirers in Jackson,

Thea exuded warmth, hope,

where she served as Director of

love for humankind,”

Intercultural Awareness for the

she explained.

Catholic diocese. Catholics in

Sister Thea’s thoughts,

Mississippi and throughout the

though simple, were complex

land credit her for the inclusion of

in reality – “A church without

African spirituality and music in

room for all is empty” and

their liturgy. Others treasure the

“Together we can make a dif-

joy she brought into their lives.

ference.” During her short life

A native of Canton,

she emphasized diversity’s rich-

Mississippi, Bertha Bowman

ness, gathering different types

was born in 1937, in Yazoo City,

of people together, leading

the daughter of a physician and

them to embrace each others

a teacher and the granddaugh-

culture and benefit from one

ter of slaves. Realizing their daughter was not receiving the educa-

another. In a 1987 segment on 60 Minutes, she said to Mike

tion she needed, her parents transferred her to a school staffed

Wallace, “Sometimes people think they have to do big things

by Franciscan Sisters. She was baptized a Catholic in 1947. She

in order to make a change, but if each one of us would light a

entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration community

candle, we’d have a tremendous light.”

in 1953 in La Crosse, Wisconsin – professing her vows in 1958.

Sister Thea lit the candle in Mississippi. Today, we celebrate

Sister Thea, which means “of God”, later earned her BA at

her radiant light and the joy, the inspiration it has given to us –

Viterbo College (now University) and her masters and doctorate

and the world. ■

“This Little Light of Mine” Icon of Sister Thea Bowman by Carlene Unser, FSPA. c.2003. Courtesy of FSPA.

1937 -1990

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

George Bryan BUSINESS LEADER A native of West Point Mississippi, George Bryan’s name is one of the most recognized family names in the South, especially during a trip to the grocery store. Bryan is past president of Bryan Foods, one of the largest producers of meat products in the Southeast and also a division of Sara Lee Foods. Born in West Point, April 5, 1944, Bryan attended Mississippi State University and received a degree in Business Administration. Bryan “worked as a kid” at his family’s meat products company and officially began his career in the real world of business in 1964 at age 20 at Bryan Foods, his family’s West Point-based meat products manufacturing company. He was named president in 1974 after working in cost accounting and serving as both production manager and vice president of sales, ultimately spending 36 years in the meat industry. In 1983, Bryan was named senior vice president of Sara Lee Corporation and moved to Memphis two years later to open the company’s meat group offices. Bryan also served as president of Sara Lee Foods and past chairman of the American Meat Institute. He retired from Sara Lee in 2000. He is also a current board member of Regions Bank of Birmingham, Alabama. Bryan has served as general campaign chairman for the United Way of the Mid-South and is a past president of the Chickasaw Council Boy Scouts of America. Bryan was named an “Outstanding Mississippian” in 1979 by then-Governor Cliff Finch and was inducted into the West Point Hall of Fame in 1994. Bryan is currently on the board of Buckeye Technologies, a Memphisbased manufacturer and worldwide marketer of “value added” cellulose based absorbent products and is also involved in real estate development in Memphis, Tennessee, Park City Utah, and his hometown, West Point, Mississippi. Bryan lives in Memphis with his wife, Marci, and has four grown children. ■ Bryan “worked as a kid” at his family’s meat products company and officially began his career in the real world of business in 1964 at age 20 at Bryan Foods.

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John H. Bryan F O O D E X E C U T I V E A N D A R T PAT R O N In 1909, J.C. Bryan opened a meat market in tiny West Point, not

and many other familiar brands, overseeing annual sales growth

imagining that – in several generations – it would evolve into a key

from $2.4 to over $16 billion.

component of one of the world’s iconic companies. After offering

While retired, he has been involved with the local arts, extensively supporting the Art Institute of Chicago, and leading a multi-million dollar renovation campaign for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera. He explains, “I [have] a natural attraction to the arts and have always made aesthetic judgments.” Though he considers himself a Chicagoan “through-and-through,” he credits his mother, a West Point social worker, for his civic-mindedness. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley chose Bryan to raise private funds for the $475 million lakefront Millennium Park, 24.5 acres of hightech design, art, and architecture that doubles as a family-friendly, multi-faceted playground in the midst of urban concrete and glass. Bryan raised $205 million for the landmark. His interest in art extends far beyond Chicago. He is on the National Gallery of Art’s Trustees Council, served on President Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and was a White House Endowment Fund board member.

John Bryan receiving a plaque of gratitude from the City of Chicago for raising the funds for Millennium Park.

Bryan holds prestigious honors bestowed by the governments of France, Italy, and Holland; domestically, he has received the Life Achievement Award from the National Urban League, and “Executive of the Year” designations from many Chicago organiza-

pork products locally for over 25 years, his two sons built a full-

tions. The Grocery Manufacturers of America, in presenting its Hall

scale processing plant in 1936. Using family recipes, seasoned to

of Achievement Award, noted that he, “Built Sara Lee into one of

regional flavor preferences, they earned a reputation for high-quality

the world’s leading companies.” He is a laureate of the Mississippi

smoked meats throughout the South.

Business Hall of Fame and a member of the National Junior

Today, J.C.’s grandson, John H. Bryan, born as the processing plant was built, operates out of a luxurious office in a Chicago sky-

Achievement Hall of Fame. Bryan serves on the boards of BP Corporation, General Motors,

scraper. While young, interested in expanding the already-thriving

and Goldman Sachs. He was co-chairman of the World Economic

enterprise, he earned an economics degree at Rhodes College, in

Forums in 1994, 1997, and 2000.

Memphis, before working for the family. His ambition helped grow the business further; in 1968, at 32, he became Bryan Foods’ president. Shortly thereafter, Consolidated Foods – a Fortune-500 compa-

Today, Bryan Foods has plants in West Point, Tupelo, and Athens, Alabama. As one of Northeast Mississippi largest employers, Bryan Foods contributes to numerous local charities and the

ny – acquired it. The fifth-generation Mississippian recalls turning

United Way. The company re-invests in the area by sponsoring the

down one executive position, feeling his home ties were too strong,

Southern University Scholarship Program, supporting two large

but reconsidered when offered the position of chief operating offi-

institutions each in Mississippi and Alabama.

cer, moving his young family north in 1974. His rise was uncommonly swift; when Consolidated became

Despite his profound affection for his adopted home, Bryan gives the nod to small-town Mississippi for friendliness and familiarity. “Up

Sara Lee Corporation in 1975, Bryan became its CEO. The follow-

here, I can have a close friend die and not hear about it for days,” he

ing year, he was elected Chairman of the Board. Before his 2001

muses. “And nobody outside of my family’s going to make me chick-

retirement, he had acquired Hanes, Playtex, Jimmy Dean Meats,

en soup when I’m not feeling well. I do miss that.” ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Mary Hawkins-Butler M AY O R O F M A D I S O N In 1981, the city of Madison embarked on a journey. At the

Mississippi Municipal League in 1992. In 2002 she received the

heart of this journey was the vision of its mayor to create the kind

Good Housekeeping Award for Women in Government. One of

of community that would stand the test of time. Mary Hawkins

her most gratifying duties was serving as chairman of the task

Butler set about crafting a plan that some believed to be contrary

force responsible for authoring the Mississippi Hometown Retiree

to the tried and true method of luring business and tax base first

Plan under the late Governor Kirk Fordice. In addition to her other

and rooftops later. Mayor Mary, as she likes to be called, over-

honors, she was also selected by Southern Living Magazine as

turned the traditional formula for progress and focused on mak-

“Outstanding Southerner.”

ing premium housing the main industry – and thereby building a quality of life that would be irresistible to business. The plan has worked, and today the mayor is gratified and excited to watch the unfolding of her marketing scheme. “What has been on the drawing board is now on the ground,” she says. The plan has not been without its adversaries, and in spite of the predictions of the skeptics, Madison is booming. Under this mayor’s watch, the city of Madison placed 55th on the list of the top 100 best cities in the United States touted by CNN’s Money Magazine. One of the fastest growing small towns in the South, Madison under Mayor Mary’s leadership has capitalized on her philosophy of preserving the community instead of sacrificing the soul of her town at the altar of expansion. During a newspaper interview when she was a business owner, and long before she entered public office, Mary Hawkins commented on her hopes for Madison: “Our community’s growth will be wonderful as long as it is quality growth.” This prescient statement has always and still continues to direct her governing style, and she has never lost her focus on the importance of community. As one of the premiere planned communities in the Southeast, Madison

Building Liberty Village while building Madison the City.

has enjoyed unprecedented growth in the 26 years this mayor has been in office. The year 2000 Census reflects a 96.7%

Forming a sister city relationship with the town of Solleftea in

increase in population since 1990. With the highest per-capita

Sweden has been one of the Mayor’s crowning achievements. In

income of any city in Mississippi, an excellent school district, and

2004 the King of Sweden awarded her with membership in the

quality recreational facilities, Madison gives its mayor many rea-

Royal Order of the Polar Star. Most recently, Madison’s effort to

sons to boast.

strengthen economic ties between the two cities has culminated

The Mayor’s resume is studded with her manifold accomplishments – including her election as the first female president of the

in the recording of a theme song called “Bridge of Love” to honor the connection between the sister cities. Sweden’s popular vocalist, Carola Haggkvist joined Mississippi’s own Grammywinning gospel group, The Williams Brothers, in the recording of the song that has a release date for later this year. Mayor Mary’s hometown is a tribute to her determination and spirit. The journey continues, and Madison is poised for a bright future. ■

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Fred Carl, Jr. F O U N D E R O F V I K I N G R A N G E C O R P O R AT I O N Fred Carl, Jr., is a fourth generation Leflore County entrepreneur. Born in Greenwood, he is certainly proud to call Mississippi home. As his father before him, he was a successful design/build general contractor of high-end homes in the area. While designing a home for him and his wife, Margaret, he discovered he couldn’t satisfy her desire for a commercial range in their future kitchen. Building codes would not allow for commercial ranges without installing firewalls and venting systems, which interfere with cabinet space. In 1981, he sketched out his idea for a commercial-quality range that would meet the building code requirements. He gathered some investors, and in 1984 Viking Range was incorporated. Today, Viking Range and its subsidiaries employ more than 1300 people in Mississippi and is an industry-leading manufacturer of upscale kitchen appliances for the home – throughout the United States and 80 countries around the globe. Carl continues to give back to the state he is proud to call home with countless efforts. He donated $2.5 million to support small-town design, research, and education at Mississippi State’s College of Architecture, in 2003. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development, the Board of Directors of the Mississippi State University Foundation, the advisory board of the Mississippi State University College of Architecture, the Advisory Board for the College of Business and Industry at Mississippi State, and the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Blues Commission. In downtown Greenwood, the 14 buildings housing Viking employees and the Alluvian Hotel have won dozens of awards for historic preservation. Fred Carl, Jr., is not only proud to call Mississippi home, he’s happy to do his part in making Mississippi a better place to live and do business. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Dr. Wallace Conerly P H Y S I C I A N , A D M I N I S T R AT O R , A N D E D U C AT O R “He’s a rare blend of courage, character, vision, and ability

ty. Because of his tireless participation in volunteer work, UMC has

wrapped up in the cloaking of an ole’ Mississippi country doctor.

prospered and has enjoyed the reputation of a valuable corporate

And he’s done good.”

partner in Metro Jackson as well as the entire State of Mississippi.

Perhaps these words by Mississippi legislator, Steve Holland, best describe Dr. A. Wallace Conerly, vice chancellor emeritus for health affairs and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Known affectionately as “Wally” to his friends and colleagues, he is indeed a man for his time. Born in the small town of Tylertown, Mississippi, Dr. Conerly was influenced early on to pursue his medical degree. At the urging of his mentors – two country physicians in his hometown – he chose the route to medical school rather than the agricultural degree he had planned. After graduating with a BS from Millsaps College in Jackson, he attended the Tulane School of Medicine where he earned his MD in 1960. Dr. Conerly subsequently received special training while serving in the U.S. Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine and later became director of the Aerospace Medicine Division. Turning down a promising career in the military, he was drawn back to his Mississippi roots. “I was bound and determined to come back to Mississippi,” said Dr. Conerly. “Having grown up poor and seeing the needs of people here, and after being exposed to other places during medical school and the Air Force, I saw the good things that could be done by coming back.” He returned to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1971 as a resident in medicine and was appointed to the faculty in 1973. He served for 13 years as assistant vice chancellor before becoming vice chancellor for health affairs in 1994, a position he held until his retirement in 2003. Even after moving into the administrative offices, Dr. Conerly’s first love was always teaching. A pulmonary and critical

Dr. Conerly has served on the boards of the United Way, the

care medicine specialist, he always delighted in taking students to

MetroJackson Chamber, the American Red Cross, the Rotary Club,

the bedside where he trained them to be good diagnosticians.

and many others. In addition, he has worked to forge strong ties

During the Conerly years at the University of Mississippi Medical

with Mississippi’s Congressional delegation. Because of his role in

Center, the physical plant and research program saw enormous

obtaining federal legislation for the National Institute of Biomedical

expansion. Projects completed and still underway total more than

Imaging and Bioengineering and his collaborative relationship with

$335 million and include a children’s hospital, a critical care hospital,

NASA, he has focused national attention on the Medical Center. He

a comprehensive women’s hospital, a new adult hospital, a School

also was one of the key players in bringing the Jackson Medical

of Nursing addition, a School of Health Related Professions build-

Mall to fruition – a role that vividly demonstrates his commitment to

ing, and a student union. Grants and contracts awarded to UMC

fostering diversity in the community.

have more than tripled since he established the Office of Research

His two golden rules to live by are: “Do what is right and do what

in 1998. Endowments also grew significantly during his time at the

you tell people you will.” These guidelines have charted the course

institution’s helm.

for a lifetime of achievement. Mississippi is proud to call Wally

Dr. Conerly has always felt an obligation to support the communi-

Conerly a native son. ■

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Owen Cooper H U M A N I TA R I A N Owen Cooper was born in Warren County in 1908. He con-

He replicated this cooperative idea in India, where a business

tributed significantly to the state of Mississippi in many areas:

colleague said of him during the building process: “He was the

agriculture, business and industry, highway system development,

best promoter I ever saw. He was honest, and his heart was in

education, health care, civil rights, Head Start, and religion, just

the right place.”

to name a few.

In the service of Mississippi farmers who were without basic health care, Cooper lead in forming the Mississippi Commission on Hospital Care, which received and disbursed federal funds to build hospitals in rural areas. When he realized that many farmers could not afford the newly available hospital services, he led in the organization of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi. Farmers needed security for themselves and their families against accidental death or disability. Cooper founded the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company and Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Company. He was also courageous. In the 1960s, when it was not popular to do so, he reached across racial and religious divides to join hands with people of good will in promoting racial tolerance, understanding, and harmony. Along with Charles Young and LeRoy Percy, he founded Mississippi Action for Progress – an organization that has grown into one of the most successful Head Start programs in the country. Owen Cooper had many posts from which he worked to make a better Mississippi and United States. He served on the President’s Personnel Advisory Committee, the Federal Farm Credit Board, and the Committee for Arms Control and Disarmament during the Jimmy Carter Administration. He was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 2001. If you asked Owen Cooper how he was able to accomplish so much in so many areas, he would give you his simple answer: find people who know how to give legs to your ideas and stay out of their way while they do their work. There is truth to this. But at the

Owen Cooper and his wife in 1975. Photo courtesy Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

1908 -1986

heart of his effectiveness lay these personal qualities: a creative vision, an organizing genius, an unshakable will, and, underlying it all, a passion for service. Not long before he died, in his own words, this is what he said: “I would like to be remembered as a man who spent most of his

His special interest was in helping farmers. To this end, in the late 1940s, he created Mississippi Chemical Corporation, a cooperative owned by Mississippi farmers that provided them with fertilizer at a stable and affordable price.

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life trying to help his fellow man and particularly trying to help people in need.” Owen Cooper, thank you for your life of service in making our world a better place in which to live. ■


Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Tommy Couch FOUNDER OF MALACO RECORDS Tommy Couch grew up listening to the soulful sounds of

Gospel Charts with names like The Jackson Southernaires,

rhythm and blues in the 1950s, and for the last 38 years he

The Reverend James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, and the

has built an industry around the music he loved. While booking

Mississippi Mass Choir.

bands for fraternity parties at Ole Miss in the early 1960s, he learned the trade secrets of dealing with musicians

By the 1980s, after releasing the record breaking blues album “Down Home Blues” (1981), by Z. Z.

and set in motion a career that has brought him

Hill, Malaco had become the leading contempo-

meteoric success for more than three decades.

rary southern blues label. Strengthening this

After graduating with a degree in pharmacy, Tommy moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and

position even more, the label then signed the legendary Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1985. That

began a short-lived career as a druggist. It did-

same year Tommy Couch, Wolf Stephenson, and

n’t take long for him to opt out of the drug-

Stewart Madison purchased the Muscle Shoals

store and into the music studio. The name Malaco was conceived when

Sound Studios label and publishing company, expanding the scope and potential of the company. The

Tommy and his brother-in-law,

1990s marked even broader expansion for Malaco as they

Mitchell Malouf, combined their

targeted a younger audience with a more contemporary

last names and formed a company to book bands for the local Jackson music scene. In 1967, joined by another friend and fraternity brother, Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson, they set up shop and started their own recording studio in a warehouse that remains the present day location of Malaco Records. The young company struggled in the early days – booking

sound. They purchased half of the Memphis-based national distributor Select-O-Hits – dramatically widening their market focus into the urban contemporary, jazz, and contemporary Christian markets. Part of the Malaco success story is their undaunted determination to continue producing music that during the 1970s and 1980s had fallen out of fashion in mainstream audiences. Most music labels were steering clear of traditional sounding 60s styled R&B,

bands, promoting concerts, and renting the studio for small cus-

blues, and gospel genres, but Malaco capitalized on the niche.

tom projects. Their fortune changed when a well-connected New

Today, the Malaco name is recognized internationally, and Malaco

Orleans producer, Wardell Quezergue, dissatisfied with the quality of

Records manufactures and markets musical and video products

the recording studios he had been using, cast his lot with Malaco

through 11 wholly-owned record companies and 6 distributed labels.

and arrived in Jackson with a group of New Orleans vocalists. Out

Commenting on his decision to stay in Mississippi rather than

of that recording session came two hits – King Floyd’s “Groove

relocate to a bigger market, Tommy Couch says, “It really wasn’t

Me” (1971), and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” (1971). These early

a decision. We were here, our family was here, and it was home.

successes set the stage for the Malaco label’s impact on the

Besides, Mississippi’s talent pool has always been wide and deep.

blues and soul circuit.

Per capita, Mississippi has produced more trailblazing talent

After a slump in the early 1970s, the studio

than any other state. Virtually every genre of contemporary pop-

released the block-buster hit “Misty Blue”

ular music evolved from the impact made by Mississippians, and

(1976), recorded by Jacksonian Dorothy Moore, a

their contributions continue to influence and inspire musicians

single that earned gold records around the

all over the world. It feels good to be a little part of that.

world. Following that success, they recorded

Growing up in this region, the music must be in our DNA. If we

Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” (1979) – a mega hit

had thought about it and relocated to a bigger market, we

in the disco market selling more than 10 million

would’ve been swimming upstream. I have no idea whether

copies. During the same time, the company was

we would have had more or less success elsewhere, but we’ve

tapping into the gospel market and later dominated Billboard

never had any second thoughts about farming the rich soil where

Photo, top: Tommy Couch. Photo, bottom: Mississippi Fred McDowell, classic bottleneck slide guitarist, made a lasting impact on blues music.

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Woods Eastland BUSINESS LEADER Ask Woods Eastland what he’s most proud of and he’ll tell you the success of Staplcotn – the largest cotton marketing organization in the United States. As CEO of Staplcotn, Eastland oversees the marketing of more than four million bales of cotton annually which generates more than $1.3 billion in annual revenue. This fact makes Staplcotn the second largest privately held business in Mississippi. Ask Eastland what he’s enjoyed most in his life and he is quick to answer, “Farming.” A producer of cotton, soybeans, and rice in Sunflower County, Mississippi since 1974, he explains, “Farming involves a lot of long hours, but the hours are not intense – working at a comfortable pace, a farmer is able to see the financial results at the beginning and ending of each year. Farming is gratifying work and you don’t need to wait years to see the result of your efforts.” Born in Greenwood, the son of Senator James O. Eastland, Woods Eastland attained his BA from Vanderbilt and his JD from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1970. He practiced law in private practice and was also on the Jackson School of Law faculty from 1972-74. He stopped practicing law in 1973 and moved back to Sunflower County, Mississippi, to farm the family land. He was elected a director of Staplcotn in 1977 and served as Chairman of the Board from 1981-1986. “I feel very lucky indeed to have found a way to combine farming, law, and business. Working with Staplcotn, a co-op that is owned by farmers and promoting farmer’s interests, allows me the ability to promote the very business that I love,” Eastland explained. In addition to his duties at Staplcotn, Eastland is Chairman of the National Cotton Council, Director of Amcot – an organization of the four largest cotton marketing co-ops in the United States, Director of the Delta Council, and Director of The Seam – an organization dedicated to marketing cotton via the Internet. Past positions include: President and Chairman of Cotton Council International, Member of the Board of Managers of the New York Cotton Exchange, Director of the Memphis Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and member of the Board of Governors of the New York Board of Trade. A self-effacing man, Eastland tones down all of his accomplishments. “I’m helping Staplcotn help area farmers. I have a job I love – promoting an industry of which I am proud to be associated. What more could a person ask?” Mississippi couldn’t ask much more of Woods Eastland. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Myrlie Evers-Williams ACTIVIST Myrlie Evers-Williams detailed her life’s journey from poor smalltown girl to activist and corporate executive in Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on Becoming the Woman I Had to Be (1999). Born in Vicksburg in 1933, Myrlie Beasley’s childhood was

Works. There, she managed a $1 billion budget. Mrs. Evers returned to Mississippi several times a year to reconnect: “Experiences are embedded in my senses, the feel of Delta dirt under my feet, the smells of pine trees and magnolia blossoms,

defined by her domineering, loving grandmother, “Mama,” who raised her in a neighborhood where social status was determined by the number of seats in the family outhouse. She remained close to her mother, and eventually reconciled with her father. In 1950, she entered Alcorn A&M College, where she met Medgar Evers, an Army veteran active in the emerging Civil Rights Movement. Her grandmother – though college-educated and encouraging Myrlie to “be someone” – disapproved of his “radical views.” Against Mama’s wishes, she left school, and they married in 1951. Her new husband’s zeal for the movement often made her feel like a lower priority. Early in the marriage, she acknowledges emotional arguments and horrible fear. After Medgar became the state’s NAACP field secretary in 1954, they collaborated to organize voter registration drives and demonstrations, but Myrlie’s uneasiness continued. When they moved from the Delta to Jackson, she felt safer. The serious, sober Medgar loosened up, and their growing family enjoyed barbecues, dancing, and outdoor activity. Safety, of course, was illusory; both knew he would die violently, a fact that necessitated many intense conversations. In June 1963, Medgar Evers was murdered in the family driveway. Though displaying a brave face, Myrlie was filled with rage that manifested itself in self-destructive behavior. Realizing that her family

the sight of kudzu tiling down a hillside, the strains of a blues gui-

needed a clean break, they moved to Claremont, California, a small

tar.” She remembered Medgar saying, “Once it changes,

college community outside of Los Angeles, where she pursued her

Mississippi will be the best place in the world to live.”

sociology degree. She made personal appearances for the NAACP and, in 1967, wrote her first autobiography, For Us, The Living.

On each trip, she monitored the activities of Byron de la Beckwith, the man tried twice – but never convicted – for the murder, and began pur-

Upon graduating, she took the position of assistant planning/

suing a third trial, nearly thirty years after the crime. Through tenacious

development director for the Claremont Colleges, while continuing

effort, combined with unexpected new witnesses and evidence, Hinds

her speaking engagements; she was also a contributing editor for

County Assistant D.A., Bobby DeLaughter, built a convincing case.

Ladies’ Home Journal. In 1970, she ran for a seat in the U.S. House

In 1995, Myrlie was elected chairwoman of the NAACP, a posi-

of Representatives, and soon discovered that – at every event – she

tion she held until 1998. She has received the Congressional Black

was identified as Mrs. Medgar Evers. Wishing to be “Myrlie the

Caucus Achievement Award, the League of Women Voters’ Woman

activist,” and not “Myrlie the widow,” she re-organized her campaign

of Honor Award, the NAACP’s Image Award, California’s Woman of

and polled very well in a losing effort against a popular incumbent.

the Year Award, and seven honorary college degrees.

Following the election, she became consumer affairs director for

But perhaps her greatest honor was an exclamation, following

Atlantic Richfield Oil Corporation, a position she held until 1988, when

Beckwith’s conviction, by The Clarion Ledger, “Thanks to Myrlie,

L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley appointed her Commissioner of Public

Mississippi is free at last.” ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 231


Bill Gresham BUSINESS LEADER William “Bill” W. Gresham, Jr., president of Gresham Petroleum

After graduating high school, Gresham enlisted in the Navy and

Company, Gresham Service Stations, Inc., and an officer and

served in World War II. When the war was over he became Navy

director of Gresham McPherson Oil Company, Greenwood; Belzoni

reserve then transferred to the Army National Guard. He was called back to active duty during the Korean War. After the Korean War Gresham came back to Indianola to work in his father’s business, Gresham Petroleum Company. Gresham’s brother-in-law, John McPherson, also joined the company and the two have grown Gresham Petroleum Company into a multifaceted business, while opening a number of new companies. The Gresham and McPherson families and companies currently employ 900 Mississippians. Gresham would go on to retire from the National Guard as a Major General and the Army as a Brigadier General. Gresham is deeply committed to seeing Mississippi succeed in its endeavors. “I hate seeing Mississippi on the bottom of all those lists,” said Gresham. “I do anything in my ability to help promote business in the state and help improve Mississippi’s national reputation.” Gresham does just that by working close to city and state government serving on committees that influence state laws and lawmakers. Gresham has served as the vice president and president of the Mississippi Economic Council, he was one of the original members of the Mississippi Gaming Commission – serving 2 four-year terms, and served on the Mississippi Ethics Commission. Gresham has served as president of the Mississippi Propane Gas Association, the Mississippi Petroleum Marketing Association, the Indianola Chamber of Commerce, and the Indianola Rotary Club. He previously served as director and vice-president of Petroleum Marketers of America Association in Washington, D.C., and is

Delta Terminal, Inc.; Indianola Insurance Agency, Inc.; and Double Quick, Inc., as well as a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, has lived in Indianola Mississippi his entire life. “We’ve got a

past director of the National Propane Gas Association. A true American, Gresham is not only a veteran and successful businessman, he is involved in issues that affect all Mississippians

great community and state and I try to do anything I can to

and performs his civic duty to represent his fellow citizens and

improve life in Mississippi,” said Gresham.

make life better in Mississippi. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Dr. Arthur Guyton AUTHOR AND RESEARCHER Dr. Arthur Guyton, born in Oxford, September 8, 1919, is considered

His successor as chairman of the department of the American

one of the world’s most recognized physiologists and is credited with

Physiological Society, Dr. John Hall, said Guyton taught and men-

making several major discoveries related to the cardiovascular

tored more than 150 scientists and at least 27 who are now

system which literally changed the course of scientific research. In 1939, Guyton graduated at the top of his class from the University of Mississippi and entered Harvard Medical School. His surgery internship at General Hospital in Boston was interrupted twice – once for military service in World War II and again in 1947 when he contracted polio. The disease, which left him with residual paralysis, led him to design instruments and aids for the disabled. These inventions earned him a presidential citation in 1956. In 1948, Guyton and his wife, Ruth, moved to Oxford where Guyton began teaching at the medical school. He was chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center from 1955 until he retired in 1989. In the 1950s, overturning conventional scientific beliefs of the time, Guyton made integral discoveries related to “cardiac output” and demonstrated that it was the body’s tissues’ need for oxygen that determined cardiac output rather than the pumping ability of the heart. Guyton was also the first to measure correctly the pressure in the interstitium, the fluid between cells that makes up about one-sixth of the body. These discoveries were key to understanding clinical conditions such as edema and congestive heart failure. Again, in 1966, an early computer model led to his theory of “infinite gain,” showing the kidney to have preeminence as the long-term regulator of blood pressure. He is also the author of what is arguably the best selling and most widely read medical textbook of all time – the Textbook of Medical Physiology.

department chairs. “Dr. Guyton inspired people to do their best.

The book has been translated into 15 languages and has been

As his trainees continue to receive many awards and honors for

utilized by students for close to 50 years. The Association of

their work, and as they are recognized for their insight, it is per-

American Medical Colleges honored Guyton with its 1996

haps easy to forget that we have had a tremendous advantage –

Abraham Flexner Award in Medical Education, acknowledging the

we have stood on the shoulders of a giant.”

book’s influence on the education of physicians.

Arthur and Ruth Guyton had 10 children – all of whom are

During his tenure at UMC, he received every major award a

Harvard-educated physicians. He died in a car accident in 2003.

physiologist is able to receive: The Research Achievement Award

His legacy lives on – not only through his research, writing, and

from the American Heart Association, the William Harvey Award

10 children, but also by The Arthur C. Guyton Awards for

from the American Society of Hypertension, and the Special

Excellence in Integrative Physiology – an award established by

Scientific Achievement Award from the American Medical

the American Physiological Society in his honor. ■

Association, to name a few.

1919 -2003

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Dr. James D. Hardy TRANSPLANT SURGEON endary, and surgeons who trained under Dr. Hardy remember him for teaching them the art of thinking and speaking on their feet with his rapid-fire questioning. His insistence on the highest standards for surgeons was one of his most noteworthy accomplishments, and UMC has since carried forward a long tradition of producing exceptional surgeons – still trained according to the inexorable principles set by Dr. Hardy. His daughter, Katherine Little, remarks, “Daddy’s greatest satisfaction as he looked back over his life was not the recognition he received for his transplant work, but the training of excellent surgeons and physicians throughout Mississippi and beyond – raising the bar of healthcare.” In 1963, a team of surgeons led by Dr. Hardy performed the first human lung transplant and a year later, the world was astounded by his next attempt – transplanting the heart of a chimpanzee (when a human heart was not available), into the body of a terminal patient, paving the way for a new era in transplant surgery. In The James D. Hardy Archives at UMC, Dr. Hardy is quoted. “The operations set in motion the inexorable process of human imagination and gradual acceptance which has evolved Dr. James D. Hardy served with distinction as President of the American College of Surgeons.

1918-2003

into our current almost casual attitude toward transplantation.” His paper on the subject of the heart transplant describing the stringent ethical guidelines his team had practiced was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and Dr. Hardy continued to build on his successes as a surgeon and a trailblazer.

Pioneer, scholar, teacher, mentor, surgeon, author, husband, and

Throughout his career, he wrote 23 books, two of which were

father – Dr. James D. Hardy is remembered as one of the fore-

standard surgery texts in American medical schools. He also pub-

most scientific visionaries in the world. The scope and volume of

lished more than 500 articles in medical journals and served as

his contribution to medicine is staggering, and his groundbreaking

editor-in-chief of The World Journal of Surgery. In 1986, the

work at the University of Mississippi Medical Center laid the foun-

University of Pennsylvania Press published his autobiography, The

dation for the advance of transplant surgery worldwide. A native of Alabama, Dr. Hardy received his M.D. in 1942 from

World of Surgery 1945-1985: Memoirs of One Participant. After his retirement in 1987, he continued to receive honors and acco-

the University of Pennsylvania, where he became interested in

lades, and in 2002, he published a much more personal account

research and scientific publication.

of his life, The Academic Surgeon - An Autobiography, published

After his service during WWII, Dr. Hardy returned to Penn for a surgery residency, where he was awarded the Master of Medical Science in physiological chemistry. When the University of Mississippi was seeking potential

by Magnolia Mansions Press, Mobile, Alabama. Dr. Hardy and his devoted wife Louise, who remained his constant supporter throughout his career, were the parents of four daughters. Encouraged and mentored by his living example of an

department chairs for the new four-year medical school to be

unwavering work ethic, all four daughters became doctors. Two

opened in 1955, Dr. Hardy accepted the chair of surgery and was

are practicing physicians and two hold doctorate degrees.

charged with setting the standards for surgeons with operating privileges in the new hospital. His unique teaching style is leg-

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Mississippi will forever remember Dr. Hardy as the quintessential “man for all seasons.” ■


Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Slew Hester C R E AT O R U S TA N AT I O N A L T E N N I S C E N T E R Mississippi has long been distinguished as an incubator for tal-

general manager at River Hills Tennis Club and long-time friend of

ent in the world of sports. Tennis is no exception, and in 1978, a

Hester. “He actually put on a hard hat and helped oversee the

wildcatting oilman from Jackson put Mississippi up front on the

building project,” says Chadwick. Added Bill Hester, Slew’s older

worldwide tennis radar screen. Already established as the key founder and first president of Jackson’s River Hills Tennis Club, built in 1963, W.E. “Slew” Hester, Jr., was elected president of the United States Tennis Association in 1977, and American tennis would never be the same. Even though debilitated by crippling arthritis, Hester was doggedly determined to expand the scope and potential of the Association’s premier event, the U.S. Open, by creating a new national tennis center to replace the ivy-covered West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, a private tennis club which had hosted the U.S. Open for over fifty years. Realizing that a larger and more appropriate arena was needed to accommodate his vision of what the U.S. Open could be, he began to search for places to build his dream. Changing the venue of this event was not to happen without controversy, but despite his detractors, he pushed ahead with the plan. Hester found the

son: “Daddy was a blue-collar type of guy in a sports coat who

spot he was looking for – Flushing Meadow Park in Queens – the

simply did not know how to take ‘no’ for an answer. His first love

site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.

was public tennis, and the first event held at the National Tennis

Once the site was selected, and with a construction deadline

Center was a tournament for the construction workers whom Daddy

of less than one year, Hester defied the odds and succeeded in

credited with accomplishing the impossible and doing something

completing the new center in time for the 1978 Open. The newly-

that both his detractors and supporters said could not be done –

renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium, the centerpiece of the USTA

building a major facility in New York City in less than 12 months.”

National Tennis Center and the then-largest tennis stadium in the

An outstanding athlete himself and a big man for tennis, Hester

world, played host to record crowds of both white-collar and

played football at Millsaps College in Jackson before he took up

blue-collar tennis fans. Today, the U.S. Open draws more fans

tennis which he did with a passion and which resulted in his win-

than any other annual sporting event in the World, and they all

ning over 500 state, sectional, and national tennis tournaments.

come to watch renowned athletes play the game Slew Hester

He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in

loved. In recognition of the man who is Chairman Emeritus of the

1968, and in 1981, Hester became the only Mississippian ever

Open, inside the tennis center is a restaurant affectionately

inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

known as “Slew’s Place.”

Mississippians remember Slew Hester for his remarkable contri-

“Slew Hester is a hero in New York,” says Barney Chadwick,

bution to the world of tennis and for his indomitable spirit. ■

Slew Hester, second from the right, presents awards to Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova at the U.S. Open.

1912 -1993

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W. G.“Mickey” Holliman BUSINESS LEADER Born in Columbus in 1937, and raised in Shuqualak, Mickey

Holliman cites Asian competitors and industry reaction

Holliman received his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State

to the ensuing, necessary transition from domestic manu-

University in 1960, and immediately joined furniture manu-

facturing to offshore sourcing. Fortunately, certain produc-

facturer Futorian (now Stratford) in New Albany as an

tion realities determine that the Tupelo area will not be

industrial engineer, eventually ascending to manage

crippled any time soon. In a “discretionary goods”

its Stratolounger division before joining Alvin Bland in

industry susceptible to factors such as rising utility

1970 to establish Action Industries in Tupelo.

and gasoline prices, though, companies need to

Manufacturing upholstered reclining chairs, the product line grew rapidly, but stymied by a lack of

adapt to all possibilities. Holliman serves on the Boards of BancorpSouth,

financial resources, Action Industries partnered with

Southern Pipe and Supply, North Mississippi Health

Lane Furniture in 1972. Over the next twenty years,

Services, the CREATE Foundation, and MSU’s

the company achieved remarkable growth, becoming a major force in the industry. Holliman was President and CEO of Action until October 1996, when Furniture Brands International (FBN), the Saint

Development Foundation. He was also Chairman of the Board of the North Mississippi Medical Center for three years. He was selected MSU’s National Alumnus of the

Louis, Missouri-based owner of Lane (as well as Thomasville

Year in 1998, and simultaneously named its College of

and Broyhill), asked him to consider succeeding their

Business and Industry Alumnus of the Year. He is a key

retiring chief. He was flattered, but declined, deciding the

adviser for curriculum, research, and service, as well as

commitment was too profound to justify leaving Tupelo,

a leading corporate partner with the furniture manage-

his grandchildren, civic activity, and active involvement with

ment/general business administration degree program.

MSU. Several months later, they offered again, and he

A supporter of both academics and athletics, he has

refused a second time. Finally, ending a nine-month process,

impacted tremendous university growth. Recently,

he was selected Furniture Brands International’s President

he was honored again when the Holliman Athletic

and CEO, under the condition that a jet would be provided, and that he could spend as much time as possible in Mississippi. In

Center opened on campus. Holliman is equally proud of his role with the CREATE

1998, he was elected Chairman of its Board of Directors, and

Foundation, North Mississippi’s foremost philanthropy/development

their arrangement has worked out very well for both parties.

organization, with a distinguished history of effective community

In 2001, Holliman acquired Henredon, Drexel Heritage, and

engagement. While fostering numerous relationships, its mission

Maitland-Smith, all recognized makers of fine home furnishings

is to build permanent endowment assets, strengthen community

and accessories. Today, FBN is the world’s largest manufacturer

development, provide leadership on key issues, and address

of residential furniture. In 2002, he was named Furniture Today’s

these through targeted grant-making. In short, its leaders collab-

“Leader of the Year”; a year later, he was inducted into both the

orate to enhance quality of life.

Mississippi Business and American Furniture Halls of Fame. Holliman isn’t shy about discussing the industry’s present state. “I’ve been in the business for 46 years, and I have never wit-

He visualizes and terms feasible a statewide conference – or “brain trust” – of entrepreneurs and business leaders, where certain economic growth consensus is reached and plans laid

nessed conditions as difficult as today,” he says. Within fifty miles

out. Mississippi, he says, must retain its significant talent and

of Tupelo, more upholstered furniture is produced than anywhere

work harder to draw new economic opportunity.

else in the world. And, FBN operates four manufacturing plants

He “loves a challenge,” he says, and will remain at FBN for several

locally, employing 4,000 workers, and occupying 2.5 million

more years. Clearly, Holliman is as committed to his state and his

square feet.

alma mater as he is to the furniture business. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Warren Hood ENTREPRENEUR AND PHILANTHROPIST Warren Hood’s Clarion-Ledger 2004 obituary defined him, in

of his employees. The company merged with Masonite in 1970, as

remarkably concise phrasing as, “A businessman, civic leader,

the largest producer of southern yellow pine in the eastern United

and friend to many charitable organizations.” It editorialized that,

States. Not wishing to move to their Chicago headquarters, Hood

“He won’t be remembered for what he made, but for what he

took an advisory position that enabled him to stay home.

gave away. He battled poverty and deprivation as only one who had lived through it could.”

In 1970, U.S. Labor Secretary, George Schultz, handpicked Hood – with physician and NAACP leader, Gilbert Mason, to co-

Born in 1916 in Copiah County, his was a close, somewhat

chair Mississippi’s advisory committee on school desegregation.

prosperous farming family. Though they lost everything during the

Though he knew they would alienate some, they effected a rela-

Depression, his father – undeterred – became a dairy farmer. “We

tively peaceful transition.

ate what we grew, and suffered no great hardship,” Hood recalled.

He led the Jackson Redevelopment Authority in the 1970s,

After a year of college, he began working at a cousin’s “little pecker-

overseeing construction of several significant fixtures of today’s

wood sawmill.” Today, his son Warren, Jr., marvels that, “At 24, with-

skyline. Without his vision, “Downtown Jackson would have been

out a penny, he decided to be his own boss,” and acquired the mill.

lost,” according to another Authority member.

He soon purchased a planing mill

A position on the Board of the William

and a lumber plant, moving to Jackson

Bond Home, for elderly persons of limited

in 1948. Though times were tough, he

means, became a lifetime commitment.

always had money or property in

Into his 80s, he dined with residents every

reserve and, by age 33, was expand-

Thursday, enjoying their friendship and

ing aggressively … demonstrating

looking out for any necessary repairs.

innate business sense, promotional

He was finance chairman for William

ability, and delegation/motivational skill.

Winter’s four gubernatorial campaigns.

Hood humbly insisted, “I never ran

Says the former governor, a friend for over

anything except that first mill. I relied

forty years: “Beyond his generosity is an

on excellent managers.”

almost infallible common sense. He was

He had a remarkable ability to remem-

imminently fair in all his relationships.”

ber faces and names … even after

When approached, in 1981, about a

decades. A consummate dealmaker,

fledgling organization addressing juvenile

Hood could sit among businessmen

drug use, he became its first and most

with widely divergent ideas, analyze

generous donor. Today, DREAM is a

each, and then form a cohesive plan that worked for everyone. Hood founded Mississippi Industries to revitalize undercapital-

nationally recognized leader in school and community substance abuse prevention. In 1987, the Warren Hood Scout Reservation

ized, poorly managed industrial companies, “To bring them back

opened on 1,700 acres that he donated to the Boy Scouts. For

and create jobs for Mississippians.” When Hurricane Camille

the rest of his life, he would drop by frequently to check on its

destroyed two million acres of timberland, he chaired the Salvage

needs. Though not a college graduate himself, Hood received

Council. For 26 years, he was a Belhaven College trustee and its

honorary doctorates from Belhaven and Millsaps Colleges, and

most prolific fundraiser. He constantly accepted key positions with

contributed to numerous universities and schools.

humanitarian organizations while heading or founding industry and civic associations.

Upon his death, at 87, Winter’s eulogy was profound: “He never held public office, nor did he aspire to, but he left a mark on

At each of Hood Industries’ numerous manufacturing plants, he financed community college educations for all interested children

Mississippi that has not been exceeded or even equaled by most of its public leaders.” ■

1916 -2004 M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 237


Stuart C. Irby PHILANTHROPIST Stuart C. Irby was a successful businessman active in interna-

But life wasn’t all work and games for Stuart C. Irby. He spent

tional politics and dedicated to corporate and philanthropic causes.

his time dedicated to improving the lives of Mississippians

A native of Jackson, he did many things to help the state’s econ-

through many charitable causes. Stuart M. Irby says one of his

omy and citizens.

father’s most dedicated causes was the French Camp Academy.

His father, Stuart Chalmers Irby, founded Irby Construction

The school, located in French Camp, Mississippi, is a Christian

Company in 1926. Stuart, after returning from World War II and

boarding high school. The school is not a reform school or a col-

graduating from LSU, came to work for the company in the late

lege prepatory school. Ed H. Williford, director of development for

1940s. He became president in 1955. Under his lead, the company

French Camp Academy, describes the school as, “A place where

branched off two divisions, and he built the electrical company from

young people that come from broken or troubled backgrounds

a local power-line contractor to one of the largest in the world.

can come to learn and grow. These are not youths who have had

When gaming became legal in the state, although he was not a

trouble with the law; but rather youths who are living in troubled

fan of gambling, then Governor Kirk Fordice convinced him to

circumstances. We offer a safe environment for young people in

become the state’s first Chairman of the Gaming Commission.

crisis to live and to be educated.” He added, “Stuart C. Irby stood

“He studied Las Vegas business models and learned the trade.

head and shoulders above everyone in his efforts to help French

While he was Chairman, they built 30 casinos and developed a

Camp Academy.”

new industry for the state – adding thousands of jobs,” said his son, Stuart M. Irby.

Stuart C. Irby was proud to call Mississippi home and he made it a better place for future Mississippians. ■

Stuart Irby pictured second from left with friends.

1924 -2001 238 | P R O U D T O C A L L M I S S I S S I P P I H O M E


Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Leslie Lampton FOUNDER AND CEO – ERGON, INC. Leslie Lampton, Sr., founder and CEO of Jackson-based Ergon,

blessed us in using that opportunity to help others,” says

is high on Mississippi. A Jackson native and lifelong Mississippian,

Lampton. “Watching people grow in an environment where they

Lampton makes no apologies for choosing to headquarter his glob-

are treated like family is a great joy to me. Success is not about

ally recognized corporation in his home state. “Mississippi is a good climate for business. You can get anything you need right here in Mississippi to operate a successful company,” says Lampton. “Finding quality people here has given us the ability to build a team. No one makes a better product anywhere in the world, and our belief is that we offer quality in everything we do.” Leslie Lampton completed his education in the Jackson public schools, and after serving in the Navy during WW II, he finished college and returned to Jackson in 1948 to get married and begin management training for Firestone Tire and Rubber. After a return to military service during the Korean War, he came home again in 1954 and started his own company. In the beginning Lampton Oil Company operated out of a small building on South Farish Street in Jackson. Recognizing that there was a need for service related to the petroleum industry, Lampton’s small company filled the niche and soon began to work with contractors all over the state. The company began building a series of terminals around waterway systems for moving fuel to all the southern states. As the years went by, the business became more diversified, and

From left to right: Leslie B. Lampton, III, Robert H. Lampton, Leslie B. Lampton, Sr., William W. (Bill) Lampton, and Lee C. Lampton.

today, Ergon has grown into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

chasing money, but about surrounding yourself with good people.

Ergon’s engineered products and services group is a refiner,

If you keep your employees happy, your business will reflect that,”

transporter, producer, distributor, and marketer of petroleum prod-

he adds. As the father of four sons who are the directors of sepa-

ucts. The Diversified Technology (DTI) subsidiary specializes in the

rate divisions within the company, he can be confident that his

development and fabrication of equipment for markets such as

philosophy of functioning as a family team will endure.

communications, telephony, process control, military applications,

Diversified Technology Inc., one of the Ergon subsidiaries,

and homeland security. Finally, the real estate division, Ergon

annually recognizes academically talented students for hard work

Properties, manages commercial real estate development projects.

and determination through endowed scholarships that the company

Leslie Lampton is reluctant to take credit for the enormous suc-

established in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering at

cess of Ergon. To Lampton, the concept of family and personal

Mississippi State University. The Ergon/DTI scholarships vary in dollar

connection stands at the center of his life and his business prac-

value and are awarded to incoming MSU students and to qualified

tice. The company he founded is the result of his desire to create

chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering

a family owned business and to promote that same family atmos-

students. The Ergon Foundation has been recognized as one of the

phere in the operating of his companies. To him, Ergon is not a

top 40 Mississippi foundations to award grants. Ergon’s tradition

diverse collection of 50 companies, but an organization that repre-

of rewarding people for high performance honors Leslie Lampton’s

sents 2500 families. “The Lord has given us an opportunity and

core belief that people are his company’s most important asset. ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 239


Thalia Mara BALLET DANCER Thalia Mara had been an internationally known ballet dancer, director, and educator for decades when the Jackson Ballet Guild extended her an invitation to create a professional ballet company and school for the state of Mississippi. A native of Chicago, she moved to Jackson in 1975 and considered Mississippi home until her death in 2003. Not only did she create a professional ballet company and school for the state – originally Jackson Ballet, now known as Ballet Mississippi – in 1979 she secured the International Ballet Competition (IBC), by an act of the United States Congress, for the City of Jackson. This prestigious world-class event is presented in the tradition of sister competitions Verna, Bulgaria, and Moscow, Russia, and is held in Jackson every four years. IBC Executive Director, Sue Lobrano, says the competition’s impact on the state’s economy and image is staggering. “In our last competition, in 2002, the estimated economic impact was $6.2 million for the state. The media coverage reached 63.8 million people between print and broadcast coverage; we estimate those impressions translate to almost $3 million in ad costs.” The 2002 twoweek competition was attended by more than 39 thousand people. Lobrano added that Mara’s original dream was to form a professional dance company for the state. “By ‘professional,’ I mean that the dancers were paid to perform. Along with all of her accomplishments, I think the fact that her dance company is still thriving is how she would most like to be remembered,” she explained. Former student of Mara’s and current Artistic Director of Ballet Mississippi, David Keary, agrees. “We have tried our best to carry on with Thalia’s legacy – which I must admit is a hard act to follow – by promoting performance ballet while generating new dancers

Ballet Mississippi, Keary has refocused the company’s efforts of growing interest in ballet in the state by reestablishing the Ballet Mississippi School, the Outreach School, and the Youth Company. The recipient of dozens of awards – The Lifetime Achievement Award by the Professional Dance Teacher’s Association and the

through the school. She loved Mississippi almost as much as she

Best of the New South Award by the City of Jackson to name two

loved the dance. Being able to marry the two is the best way to live

– Thalia Mara’s legacy lives on. The legacy is fueled not only by

up to her wishes,” he explained. Since becoming Artistic Director of

the former Jackson Municipal Auditorium that since 1996 has bared her name, but also by the countless dancers and audiences that are, and will be, able to appreciate the ballet in Mississippi. Thanks for the dance, Thalia. ■ Thalia Mara in her office and as she received the Gold Medal for “Lifetime Achievement in the Arts” during the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson. Pictured with her are Sue Lobrano, Executive Director of the IBC and Bruce Marks, Chairman of the IBC Jury.

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Phillip Martin TRIBAL CHIEF control over their own affairs, the Council amended their Constitution in 1971 to establish a new Tribal government composed of a democratically elected legislative branch, judicial system, and an executive branch headed by a Tribal Chief as principal executive officer for the government. Phillip Martin was elected Chief in 1979 and is now serving his seventh consecutive, four-year term. His experience with grants while director of the local Community Action Agency (1966-71) and relationships he cultivated in Washington, D.C., helped him secure federal funding to build roads, a high school, housing, and a hospital on the reservation. After the Tribe built an 80-acre industrial park on the reservation, the Chief began his long-range economic plan. He began with contracts for low paying manufacturing jobs, moving over time into better paying skilled labor jobs. Today, the Tribe has transferred the low tech jobs to Mexico and is focused on attracting high-tech industries to the reservation. Visionary is the perfect word to describe Chief Phillip Martin, whose

The Tribe’s diversified portfolio includes a number of enterprises

leadership and far-sightedness helped transform the Mississippi

in manufacturing, service, retail, hospitality, entertainment, and

Band of Choctaw Indians from abject poverty, unemployment, and

gaming. The Tribe owns a commercial laundry service, nursing

utter despair in the 1950s into a thriving financial empire with over

home, construction company, and a printing and direct mail busi-

$450 million in annual revenues, over 9000 permanent, full-time

ness. Pearl River Resort includes The Silver Star Hotel and

jobs, and a re-investment strategy that insures continued prosperity

Casino, Golden Moon Hotel and Casino, Geyser Falls Water

in the future. His entrepreneurship not only benefits Choctaws but

Theme Park, Clear Water Key and Beach Club, and Dancing

also brings tourism dollars and jobs to the state. The Tribe is the

Rabbit Golf Club, a 36-hole championship golf course designed

third largest private employer in Mississippi, and 65% of their

by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate.

employees are non-Indian. Opportunities for Choctaws were almost nonexistent when

Chief Martin worked diligently to improve healthcare, housing, and education, establishing early childhood education centers

Martin was growing up on the reservation, described by Peter J.

throughout the reservation and a scholarship program. He is past

Ferrara in the 1998 book The Choctaw Revolution as “a pocket of

president of the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association and respect-

poverty in the nation’s poorest state.” Born in 1926, Martin was

ed as a driving force for tribal groups nationally. In recognition of

11 when his father, Willie, died leaving his mother, Mary, with six

his efforts, he has received numerous awards, including the Frontline

children to support on her own. At 13, he was placed in a

Award from the John C. Stennis Space Center, two Hammer Awards

Cherokee boarding school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and

from Vice President Al Gore, Hero of the Taxpayer Award, and the

despite starting far behind, graduated with his fellow classmates

Leo Reano Memorial Award from the National Education Association.

at 18. He joined the Air Force in 1945 near the end of World War

Locally, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from

II, becoming a radar specialist and staff sergeant by the time he

Millsaps College, Highest Flying Eagle Award from Meridian

left in 1955. Witnessing the determination of the German people

Community College, induction in the Mississippi Business Hall of

to rebuild despite the war’s massive destruction gave Martin hope

Fame, and the Mississippi Distinguished Civilian Service Award from

that his people could rise above their dismal circumstances.

Governor Barbour for his support of the Mississippi National Guard.

After his discharge, he married Bonnie Bell, and, using the G.I. Bill, studied to become an electrician at Meridian Community

Chief Martin isn’t considering slowing down as leader of the Tribe even after over 50 years of Tribal Government. When Chief

College. Beginning his leadership in 1957, he won a seat on the

Martin quits he says it will have to be at the will of the people. His

tribal council and was elected chairman in 1959. Desiring greater

enthusiasm and love of the job remains undiminished. ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 241


Lee & Pup McCarty MISSISSIPPI MUD POTTERS Lee and Pup McCarty never dreamed their barn studio in Merigold, Mississippi, would become an international destination when they landed there 51 years ago. What began as a little pottery business in this tiny Delta town has blossomed into a renowned art studio, gallery, and gardens, attracting visitors and buyers from all over the world. After completing their education at Delta State, Ole Miss, and Columbia University, the McCartys abandoned their plan to move to California, and instead, returned to Lee’s hometown of Merigold. With Lee’s background in chemistry and Pup’s talent as a potter, they began to create their own unique style of pottery in the barn workshop that doubled as their living quarters. “When we left the academic world, our desire was to create pottery, jewelry, painting, and a way of life – what better place to do that than our home state of Mississippi,” says Lee McCarty. Interestingly, the first clay used in the early pottery was dug from a ravine in Oxford, on the property of William Faulkner, and today, Mississippi mud is still used to fashion their work. The fin-

pieces. To celebrate 50 years as Mississippi artists, they designed

ished products are colored with their signature glazes in jade,

a commemorative vase shaped like a “Delta” and signed on the

nutmeg, and cobalt blue. It is easy to recognize a McCarty piece

bottom with the number 50. “Here in the Delta, we have had a

by the black wavy line running through it, signifying the Mississippi

lifetime of daily enjoying our work, our environment, and especially

River, and each piece is signed on the bottom with the trade-

our friends and families,” says Lee.

marked McCarty signature. McCarty pieces range from the popular, whimsical birds, rabbits, and squirrel figures to the more functional dinnerware and serving

McCarty Pottery is intriguing to visitors who come not only to enjoy the pottery, but also to wander through the meandering gardens cultivated by Lee and Pup with hundreds of native Mississippi plants and trees. The gardens, carefully tended by the couple, are the results of years of collecting and the perfect complement for the cypress walls and rough-hewn quality of the barn studio. The McCartys have been honored on a number of occasions for their work and contributions to the arts. The University of Mississippi Museum featured the couple with an exhibit called Masters of Merigold: 40 years of McCarty Pottery. In the late 1990s, the Japanese Government invited them to exhibit in Tokyo, and their work has been displayed at the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. Lee and Pup McCarty are a national treasure in Mississippi. Their prodigious work shines as one more reminder that Mississippi is indeed a climate for genius. ■ Left: Lee & Pup stroll through the McCarty gardens with “granddaughter,” Sarah Bennett Smith. Above: Lee works his magic at the wheel with Mississippi mud.

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Oseola McCarty PHILANTHROPIST money in several banks and her life savings had accumulated to more than she needed. With the help of bank personnel, she worked out a plan to cover funds to care for her if she needed assistance and to provide an inheritance for the few members of her extended family. What was left – $150,000 and approximately 60 percent of her $250,000 life savings – she gave to the University of Southern Mississippi. She designated that the gift start a scholarship fund. Having very little formal education, she valued education and hoped that her money might help a talented African-American achieve a degree. Word spread quickly of McCarty’s gift. The fund grew, via additional endowments from other USM supporters and Americans moved by Oseola’s gift, and she became a celebrity. Within a year, she had been interviewed by every major media company, received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Clinton, received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Harvard, and was one of Barbara Walters “Ten Most Exciting People of 1995.” Oseola McCarty is the University of Southern Mississippi’s most

In October of 1996, her book, Simple Wisdom for Rich Living

well-known benefactor. Born in Wayne County, Mississippi, on

was released. A review of the book in Newsweek, said that

March 7, 1908, she moved to Hattiesburg as a small child. Upon

McCarty reminds us, “That even the humblest among us can leave

the illness of her aunt, McCarty quit school in the sixth grade to

the world a better place for having walked on it.” Her simple

help the family make ends meet and to care for her aunt and

secrets for living a rich life included recognizing the difference

grandmother. She took in laundry and ironing – charging the

between wants and needs and being happy and thankful with

going rate of $1.50 per bundle.

what life has to offer. A book written about her, The Riches of

She ran her laundry business for 75 years and served multiple generations of clients. She put what she didn’t need in the bank. When

Oseola McCarty, by Evelyn Coleman, is on the required reading text of many educational syllabi throughout the world.

she started charging $10 per bundle – she thinks it was, “Sometime

At the age of 91, Oseola McCarty died in 1999 of liver cancer, in

after the war, I commenced to save money. I would put it in savings.

Hattiesburg. Her legacy lives on through the nine students who have

Never would take any of it out. I just put it in. It just accumulated.”

attended USM on the Oceola McCarty Scholarship to date. And by

In 1967, McCarty was left alone after the deaths of her grand-

the countless individuals who have been touched by her generosity.

mother, mother, and aunt. She kept washing

In an interview with USM, she was asked why

and living frugally in the home she inherited

she didn’t spend the money on herself, her reply

from her uncle. She didn’t own a car and

was, “Oh, but I did.”

walked everywhere she needed to go – including the local supermarket, which was

Thanks for the lessons, Oseola. May we continue to learn from your richly lived life. ■

more than a mile away. Arthritis forced McCarty into retirement in 1995. At the age of 87 and having taken care of her family and other people’s laundry for more than 75 years, McCarty had no one to take care of her. She now had her

Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, then President of the University of Southern Mississippi,presenting Oseola McCarty with an honorary degree. She is pictured above with her favorite book.

1908 -1999

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 243


George McClean PHILANTHROPIST George McLean spent most all of his life dedicated to improving

Development Council in the 1940s and starting one of the coun-

the lives of the people of Northeast Mississippi. He was instru-

try’s first reading programs for early public education – The Lee

mental in the rebuilding of Tupelo after a massive tornado devas-

County Reading Aide Program. Funded with a grant of $1 million

tated much of the town in 1936.

from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the program was

1936 was also the year the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal was born. A newspaper since the 1870s, 1936 was the year it

later adopted by the Mississippi Legislature and now provides an assistant teacher in every first through third grade public classroom in the state. McLean wanted his newspaper to be guided by informing the publics it served and bettering the area rather than profits alone. The newspaper continues to carry on his legacy today. Arguably, the greatest legacy to McLean’s life is his conception of the Christian Research, Education, Action, and Technical Enterprise Foundation (CREATE). As the first community foundation in the state of Mississippi, CREATE has been fostering philanthropy in 13 counties of Northwest Mississippi for more than three decades. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for people living in Northwest Mississippi by: building permanent community endowment assets, strengthening the regional community’s development capacity, providing leadership to key community issues, managing charitable funds, and addressing community opportunities with targeted grant-making. CREATE’s funding was begun, and is sustained, by a grant from McLean and his wife, Anna Kiersey McLean in 1973. Upon McLean’s death in 1983, his wife gave all of the newspaper’s stock to the CREATE Foundation. Their reasoning was twofold: profits from the paper would help finance the foundation’s efforts, and ownership of the newspaper by a not-for-profit organization assured the publication’s continued independence. The McLeans viewed local ownership as independence from large communication corporations that were buying up local papers across the country. Thanks to McLean’s endowment and the continued good

began publishing daily and was renamed. Under McLean’s own-

work, the newspaper continues to help the CREATE Foundation

ership, the paper operated under his direction to serve God and

to provide funds to more than twenty organizations promoting

the community. Among many of the programs the paper instigated

the development of youth, health, music, and the arts in

for the region is the establishment of the Rural Community

Northwestern Mississippi. ■

1904 -1983

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Richard McRae, Sr. ENTREPRENEUR In the year 1902, Samuel P. McRae, Sr., opened a small retail operation on West Capitol Street in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1916, McRae’s relocated a few doors east where it remained for the next 54 years. Richard D. McRae, son and successor to Samuel McRae, spent much of his boyhood learning the retail business at his Saturday job at the family store – picking up trash, unpacking boxes, gift wrapping, and running the cash register. He later graduated to driving the delivery truck after school on weekdays and on Saturdays. Through the years, he watched and learned as McRae’s developed a very important and loyal customer base. After graduating from the University of Mississippi with a degree in Commerce, and at the end of World War II, Richard McRae returned to Jackson and the downtown store to begin his career. His vision to expand and update the original store resulted in a McRae’s that was three times in size and the beginning of even bigger plans. The next 43 years saw unprecedented growth and expansion of the McRae’s retail empire. The idea of a branch store was almost unheard of in the early 1950s in Mississippi, but Richard

By 1994, McRae’s had attracted the attention of Tennesseebased Proffitt’s (now Saks Incorporated), at that time a small, but

McRae was determined to follow his dream by

growing regional department store in the

taking a risk. Undaunted in this endeavor, he was

Southeast. The family made the decision

successful in opening the first McRae’s suburban

to sell. Today, McRae’s is part of the Belk

store in 1955 at Meadowbrook Mart in Jackson.

chain of department stores.

Next, he opened another store in Westland Plaza

Richard McRae’s story is one of family

– later replaced by the Metrocenter store. For the

and character. His father’s model set the

next decade, McRae’s stores opened all over the

tone of Richard McRae’s life. Integrity and

state of Mississippi, as well as in Louisiana, Ala-

a respect for people have always been his

bama, and Florida.

standard – both in his personal life and in

Joined by his sons, Richard and Vaughan, in the 1970s, McRae continued to expand his holdings by purchasing the Pizitz chain in Alabama,

the way he conducts business. By practicing the lessons taught by his father, he has also made Mississippi a better place.

giving McRae’s a total of 28 stores. Building a chain of 28 stores

Today, Richard McRae serves as president of the Selby and Richard

like McRae’s was not done by one person. Through the years,

McRae Foundation, which provides philanthropic support to cultur-

Mr. McRae had a loyal family of associates. Most of the execu-

al, social, health, educational, and religious organizations primarily in

tives were Mississippians and grew up in retailing with the com-

Mississippi. Giving back to the place he calls home, he continues to

pany. He had wonderful support from the Deposit Guaranty

shape the future of his beloved Mississippi. ■

National Bank (now known as Amsouth Bank), which was then a Mississippi bank, and who believed enough in him to give the financial support for the company’s growth.

Since 1902, McRae’s Department Store has been a Mississippi tradition. The newest branch store is located in the upscale Dogwood Festival Market in Flowood.

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John Palmer C O M M U N I C AT I O N S T E C H N O L O G Y M O G U L / A M B A S S A D O R T O P O R T U G A L Long before communication technology became dominant in everyday life, and long before pagers, cell phones, and computers became the norm, Jackson entrepeneur, John Palmer, purchased a local radio common carrier, the first in a series of strategic moves that would make his vision a reality. It was 1965, and with-

and during the next sixteen years, with Palmer at the helm as

in eight years, Palmer had developed more than nine regional

chairman and president, MCCA became a significant player in the

paging companies throughout the South.

cellular telephone business. In 1989, Palmer sold MCCA to BellSouth retaining specific businesses within the company that eventually became SkyTel Communcations. SkyTel became a leader in advanced wireless messaging and launched the first nationwide two-way wireless messaging network. In a recent interview, Palmer revealed that his strategy with SkyTel was very deliberate. “Our thinking with SkyTel was more on a national basis. We pioneered wireless messaging, and running scared gave us foresight. I was always scared of what someone else would do before us.” Palmer served as chairman of SkyTel until its sale to MCI WorldCom in 1999. John Palmer’s business acumen is evident, but he has also made his mark in the realm of community and national service. In November, 2001, he was named Ambassador to Portugal. He has served on the President’s Export Council as a Private Sector Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce and as a Private Sector Trade Advisor to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He was a member of the boards of three New York Stock Exchange companies, AmSouth Bank, EastGroup, and Entergy Corporation. Ambassador Palmer is also quite active in civic leadership, which includes several board memberships: chairman of the National Trustees of the National Symphony Orchestra; the Institute for Technology Development; Foundation for the Mid-South; Trustee

Born in Jackson, July 13, 1934, Palmer earned BA and MBA degrees from the University of Mississippi before embarking on a wildly successful career in communications technology. Palmer is

of Millsaps College; and president and director for The University of Mississippi Foundation. Ambassador Palmer was also president of the Cellular Tele-com-

a pioneer, a true visionary whose foresight in the realm of tele-

munications Industry Association and Telocator, both national trade

communications catapulted him to the top of the playing field

associations. He is a past member of the Young President’s Organ-

where he has made an indelible mark on the technology sector of

ization and the Chief Executives’ Organization and holds an honorary

the United States.

law degree from Millsaps College. He and his wife Clementine have

According to Palmer, his initial foray into the communications industry in the late sixties was less about strategy and more about an effort to “pull together an industry,” one that started locally, expanded regionally, and then nationally. In 1973, he formed MCCA (Mobile Communications Corporation of America),

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four grown children, and his prediction for the future of communications technology is simple: wireless, wireless, wireless. ■


Proud toCall Mississippi Home

William A.“Bill” Parsons D E P U T Y C H I E F, K E N N E D Y S P A C E C E N T E R He was head of Stennis Space

Columbia accident just [made] it

Center, located in Mississippi’s

that much tougher.”

Hancock County, when the shuttle

Dan Carpenter, deputy chief of

Columbia disintegrated during re-

staff at Johnson Space Center who

entry in February 2003, killing all

served with Parsons in the same

seven astronauts on board and

Marine infantry battalion in California

grounding NASA’s manned space

and Okinawa, says: “Bill is one hell

program.

of a leader. He’s adaptive and he’s

William A. “Bill” Parsons, a native

a tough guy. I assure you he has

of Magnolia, took the tragedy person-

no trouble making a decision.”

ally. While working at Johnson Space

But as his mother, Betty Creed

Center in Houston, he had become

of Magnolia, notes: I’m glad he

friends with the crew. And from a

chose to come back home to

program standpoint, it infuriated

Mississippi. I think that’s the job

him that suddenly America’s only

he’s always wanted.”

way into space was to hitch a ride

Parsons, who stands 6-foot-5,

with the Russians.

earned an engineering degree

Two months after Columbia’s acci-

from the University of Mississippi

dent, Parsons was named shuttle pro-

in 1979, then his masters degree

gram manager – in charge of plotting

from Central Florida. While work-

America’s path back into space. And

ing as a plant engineer at a

in July/August 2005, he fulfilled his

sawmill in Magnolia, Parsons went

duty with the historic 13-day STS-114 Return to Flight mission

to see a shuttle launch in 1985 while visiting his in-laws near

that not only helped replenish and repair the International Space

Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It changed his life.

Station but renewed NASA’s confidence that it could send humans

“Initially, I was a little bit awe-struck,” he recalls. “Then I was

into space, have them perform complicated in-flight maneuvers

jumping up and down, and by the time it was out of sight, I had

such as rendezvous, docking, and spacewalks, then bring them

tears in my eyes. I decided right then I wanted to work for the

home safely. The mission’s only glitch was a 1-pound loss of insu-

space program.”

lating foam from the external fuel tank during the launch; falling

It took five years of stubbornly pursuing his dream, but Parsons

foam had doomed Columbia when it struck the orbiter shortly

finally landed a job with NASA. He worked at four major flight cen-

after liftoff, creating a basketball-sized hole near the left wing.

ters, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida, before being

Parsons was forced to ground the shuttle program again until the

named director of Stennis Space Center in 2002. Stennis is where

foam problem could be solved, but he did so following a flight that

the shuttle’s main engines are tested.

accomplished nearly every major objective. A few weeks following STS-114, Parsons came back home to

“I’m a lucky person to have been involved in the Return to Flight, and to be involved in the space program at all,” Parsons

Mississippi and resumed his previous duties as head of Stennis

says. “And tell the people of Mississippi that I’m lucky to have

Space Center. He was worn out, mentally and physically. He

been raised there. Being raised there, plus spending four years

needed quality time with his family.

active duty in the Marines, gave me a value system that helped

“The shuttle job is tough under normal circumstances,” says Mark Carreau, a space reporter for the Houston Chronicle. “The

me through the two-and-a-half years [after Columbia]. It’s been tough, but we did it.” ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 247


Hartley Peavey BUSINESSMAN/INVENTOR play the guitar by a friend. With a passion for music and, by his own admission, very little talent, Hartley played guitar in a few garage bands before he faced the painful truth – that he would never make it onto the Rock Walk of Fame as a musician. His real talent lay in making the equipment to produce the sounds he so dearly loved. As fate would have it, his thwarted ambition to be a musician became the turning point in his life, and today, Peavey is one of the most recognized names in music and sound equipment in the United States and abroad. Peavey holds more than 130 patents and manufactures more than 2,000 products recognized worldwide. Sound systems and public-address equipment manufactured by Peavey in Meridian are installed in more than 3,000 airports and other public venues around the globe. When Peavey Electronics Corporation was started in 1965, the music business had exploded. The “British Invasion,” (i.e. the Beatles, the Rolling Stones) ushered in what Hartley Peavey refers to as the “golden age of the conglomerates.” All the big companies like CBS, LTV, and Gulf & Western wanted a piece of the action, and it was in this inflated market for musical prodComing of age in 1950s Mississippi, Hartley Peavey, like many

ucts and equipment that Peavey made

of his teenage counterparts, wanted nothing more than to play

his mark by introducing “sane” pricing.

rock ‘n’ roll music and drive hot rod cars. His father owned a music

Peavey took on the giants, and his com-

store in Meridian and had been a musician himself, so it was no

pany has been a benchmark in the indus-

stretch for Hartley to have musical ambitions. After attending a

try ever since.

Bo Diddley concert, he convinced his father to spring for his first

Ask Hartley Peavey why he is proud to

guitar – a classical instrument which he promptly restrung with steel strings. In return for building an amplifier, he was taught to

call Mississippi his home and he is quick to point out that Mississippi has produced more artists – musical and otherwise – per capita than any state in the nation.

Founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics, Hartley Peavey has made his mark in the music industry for 40 years. The child of a musical family, Peavey was destined for success.

“Something in the water,” he jests. Ask what he does at Peavey, and he claims to be a catalyst – making things happen, while remaining unchanged in the midst of his brainchild’s astonishing growth and success. This year, Peavey Electronics Corporation is celebrating 40 years in business, and Hartley Peavey still maintains his youthful exuberance and a genuine passion for his vocation. Some think of him as the most influential musical expert in as many years – ever since that “other” rock ‘n’ roll king from up the road in Tupelo hit the scene. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Dr. John Perkins COMMUNITY DEVELOPER Is there good news for the poor and oppressed of Mississippi? Unfortunately, not very often. But God raised up someone from Mississippi’s rich soil – one raised poor, black, and oppressed. The spirit of the Lord fell upon him and equipped this third-grade dropout to rebuild poor communities. One measure of John Perkins’ uniqueness, wisdom, and commitment, is that he has received eight honorary doctorates. Perkins, blessed with may talents, is a zealous evangelist and Bible teacher as well as an innovative community developer. He’s also known as a fearless Civil Rights leader who served on several presidential commissions. Born in New Hebron in 1930, Perkins was introduced to hate at the age of 16 when a white marshal gunned down his brother. He left for California to escape the problems of his hometown in 1946, only to return in 1960, to found Mendenhall Ministries. In little more than a decade, this effort in Mendenhall, Mississippi, produced a daycare center, youth program, church, school, cooperative farm, thrift store, housing repair ministry, health center, and an adult education program. “I don’t believe in the government’s present welfare system. It undermines people’s dignity and dulls their creativity. Our program helps

racial, ethnic, and economic barriers. United in faith, we then find avenues to create local jobs, better schools, health care, and home ownership. Our effort is to create long-term change.” At 75, when asked what he is most proud to have accom-

people believe in themselves and their own potential. It equips

plished, his answer is, “The friends I have made and the young

them to make a difference in their lives and their communities,”

people who have found positive direction for their lives. I’m happy

Perkins explained.

that I have been able to convince young people to go away and

He founded the Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson,

learn skills, ideas, and to see the world. And then, to come back

Mississippi, and through this ministry he inspired the start of

to Mississippi to create change and mentor other young people to

development projects in the neighboring towns of Canton, New

do the same.”

Hebron, and Edwards. In 1989, he co-founded the organization that is arguably the

Generations of Mississippians have followed in Perkins’ footsteps and thousands have produced long-term change through-

largest legacy to his life, the Christian Community Development

out the state and nation. Dr. John M. Perkins has created hope

Association (CCDA). From its 37 founding members, the CCDA has

for the future for all Mississippians. ■

grown to more than 6,800 individuals representing more than 600 churches, ministries, and businesses across the United States. Perkins describes his program as the “R’s” of community devel-

Small photo: Drs. John M. and Vera Mae Perkins are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Mississippians.

opment – Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution. “First, we inspire people to relocate and live among the poor. Then, we focus our efforts on reconciling people across denominational,

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 249


Gail Pittman POTTERY DESIGNER sale on September 9, 2005 and sales were rapid. All of the proceeds are being sent to the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and the Governor’s Fund. “The colors reflect a coastline, and the red in the pieces are representative of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. We named the set ‘Home and Future’ because of Jeremiah 29:11, which reads, ‘For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ It is my hope that the pieces reflect the tapestry of lives and businesses that have been adversely affected by Katrina. It is also my hope that they give a message to the world that Mississippi is open for business and ready to rebuild,” Pittman said.

Gail Pittman was less than one year old when she moved to Indianola, Mississippi, where her father had taken a job as the high school football coach. She followed her father’s footsteps and became a teacher. In 1981, she retired from teaching upon the birth of her second child. Needing an outlet for her creativity, she started designing and making pottery on her kitchen table. Today, her designs are sold throughout the world from a network of more than 500 specialty and gourmet stores, and her company operates a manufacturing plant in Ridgeland. She also designs all the dinnerware for Southern Living’s publication, Southern Living at Home and serves as the publication’s creative director. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern part of the state in August of 2005, Pittman knew she had to do something.

Pittman’s company sales of Christmas ornaments and Easter eggs have also generated enough income to Habitat for Humanity to build 12 homes in Mississippi. Generating jobs and money for Mississippi projects seems to

She explained, “In 1979, we lost everything we owned in a flood.

come naturally for Gail Pittman. The company started around her

The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army were the first to

kitchen table and she explains it’s still a homey business. “We still

respond. They fed us, gave us information, and – perhaps most

gather around the table – there’s just many more people meeting

importantly, provided us an anchor in a senseless time, in which

at the table.”

we were unable to make life-changing decisions. I knew

The table is well set – thanks to Gail Pittman. ■

I needed to generate income for the charities.” She sat down and designed a bowl and tray – which she named Hope and Future. The pieces were put up for

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Photo above: A festive table in the showroom. Left: The Hope & Faith bowls.


Proud toCall Mississippi Home ▼

© ERIK FREELAND

Robert Pittman MASS MARKETER ExTRAORDINAIRE Robert Pittman, the son of a Methodist minister born in Jackson, Mississippi, has led a storied career, working his way up from his first job at age 15 as a disc jockey on a Brookhaven radio station to become the leader and innovator behind a number of the country’s leading mass market consumer brands, co-founding the MTV network, helping to bring America Online and the Internet into the mainstream consumer market, and turning around stagnant, but well-known brands like Six Flags Theme Parks and Century 21 Real Estate. Pittman might be best known for bringing the world Music Television, or MTV. He was also CEO of Quantum Media, president and CEO of Time Warner Enterprises, CEO of Six Flags Theme Parks, CEO of Century 21 Real Estate, president and CEO of AOL Networks, president and COO of America Online, Inc., Co-Chief Operating Officer of AOL Time Warner, Inc., and COO of AOL Time Warner, Inc. Pittman became a program director at the age of 18 and would soon become known as the “Boy Wonder” in radio circles for tak-

ship from five million subscribers to almost 30 million during his

ing numerous radio stations and formats to the top of the listener

tenure. Following the company’s merger with media company

ratings that radio stations live and die by. For his track record of

Time Warner, the largest corporate merger to date, he was

success in a variety of formats, radio historians and programmers

named Co-Chief Operating Officer and then Chief Operating

consider Pittman the most successful radio program director ever.

Officer of AOL Time Warner.

Pittman’s reputation for creative and analytic brilliance led him

Pittman’s career has been shaped by his strong work ethic and

to Warner Satellite Entertainment Company to program the Movie

his down-home, no-nonsense, team-focused management style.

Channel, his first television job. Pittman’s radio experience gave

Pittman is quoted in Business Week, “There’s no rocket science

him the foresight, and understanding of promotion, marketing,

to it. It’s just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and doing it.”

and image, to develop the concept of an all-video television music

Pittman credits his upbringing in Mississippi for giving him an

channel known as MTV. Under Pittman’s leadership as COO and

understanding of the mass market consumer that often eludes

later CEO of MTV Networks, MTV was the first basic cable net-

those who only know life in big urban centers. He also credits his

work to become profitable. Pittman then oversaw the re-design

father and mother and the communities where he grew up for his

and re-launch of Nickelodeon; the creation of VH1 and Nick at Nite;

strong social values, which have led him to champion a positive

the expansion of MTV into global markets in Europe, Australia,

and supportive workplace for all employees and to be personally

and Japan; and the company’s 1984 initial public offering.

involved in a number of charitable organizations working to

After leaving MTV Networks, Pittman brought his signature understanding of the consumer to several other industries. As

improve the lives of others. Pittman initially began his career as a radio announcer to earn

the companies’ CEO, Pittman revitalized both Six Flags Theme

enough money to learn to fly, and earned his private pilot’s license

Parks and Century 21 Real Estate during the early to mid-1990s,

while he was still a teenager. Today he flies jets and helicopters

and led Time Warner’s new business efforts in the early 1990s as

and serves on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Air and

President and CEO of Time Warner Enterprises.

Space Museum. In addition, he is a strong supporter of a number

Pittman also played an important part in the Internet revolution.

of philanthropic causes, from Live Aid in the 1980s to the Robin

He joined America Online, Inc., in 1996, turning the Internet into a

Hood Foundation, New York’s well-known non-profit poverty fight-

mass market medium by growing the online service’s member-

ing organization, where he is currently Vice Chairman. ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 251


Jack Reed, Sr. BUSINESS LEADER There is a certain intuition all great retailers have – to inherently

and commitment to quality. “We know our customers, and we

know what customers need and want, and most importantly, how

treat them like they’re part of the family,” Reed commented. “One

to make those products available. Jack Reed, Sr., uses this ability

of the reasons we have survived has been our commitment to

in operating his family business, Reed’s Department Store, located

serve Tupelo and the region,” said Reed. “I love the business, but

in Northeast Mississippi, as well as committing to public service

I’ve always felt it was second. We have to do our part to help the people of this area, to benefit the community.” Perhaps Reed’s greatest gift to the state of Mississippi is his work in public education. “Education is the key to more and better jobs in Mississippi,” said Reed. He has served as chairman of the National Advisory Council on Educational Research and Improvement, and he served as the first chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education. Reed toured the state with Governor William Winter in support of Winter’s landmark Education Reform Act of 1982 and continues to speak on the subject and work for improvements statewide. Reed and Winter co-chair the Coalition for Children and Public Education. Reed received the Governors Lifetime Achievement Volunteer of the Year award, the Hardin Award for Distinguished Service to Education in Mississippi, Friend of Education Awards presented by the Mississippi Associ-ation of Educators and the Mississippi Association of School Administrators, and the Martin Luther King Drum Major for Peace Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Reed is the founding director of LIFT, Inc., a community action agency, and Lee United Neighbors, which later became United Way of Northeast Mississippi. Reed has also chaired such organizations as the Community Development Foundation, the Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Retail Merchants Association, and the CREATE Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the

endeavors, to help provide the residents of Mississippi with

future of Northeast Mississippi. A past president of the Yocona Area

resources to improve their quality of life.

Boy Scout Council, Reed holds the Silver Beaver and the Silver

The Reed family has owned and operated Reed’s Department Store since opening on Main Street, in Tupelo, in 1905. Although

Antelope Awards for service to boyhood. A long-standing member of the First United Methodist Church in

the product lines and locations have expanded throughout the

Tupelo, Reed has served as chairman of the administrative council

years, the department store and its employees have been serving

for the church and on the National Board of Religion and Race for

the community for over 100 years by providing individual attention

the United Methodist Church. The past president of the Kiwanis club, Reed has also been a 50-plus year member of the American Legion and was named Citizen of the Year in 1971 by the Tupelo Junior Auxiliary. Mississippi is blessed to have individuals like Jack Reed, Sr., who take an interest in the state and community and give of them-

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Victor Smith H U M A N I TA R I A N Over a decade ago, Victor Smith and Lee Paris, along with a group of businessmen in Jackson, Mississippi, invited Pat Morley,

fields were ripe for harvest and there was much work to be done. From its earliest establishment in the Jackson area, Habitat for

founder and CEO of Man in the Mirror, a Christian ministry for

Humanity has been enriched by Victor Smith’s devotion. He contin-

men, to speak to their association. Morley and Tom Skinner, an

ues to serve on its board of directors and under his leadership,

African-American minister, challenged the group to move outside

teams of lay people from his own Northminster Baptist Church, as

their individual comfort zones by extending themselves beyond the

well as other area churches, have given of their time and resources

racial boundaries that had always defined

building Habitat houses in Honduras. Most

their friendships. Out of this challenge

recently, Salt and Light Ministry Foundation

was born Mission Mississippi, an interde-

has completed a new medical and dental

nominational ministry founded on the

clinic as part of the Honduran mission.

principle that tearing down walls of misun-

Believing in the simple premise that, “every-

derstanding promotes reconciliation and

one needs a decent place to live,” he has

relationship. The hope and vision of

also been instrumental in the ongoing work

Mission Mississippi is that people learn to

of Habitat in his local community. The

see beyond the barrier of skin color and

Nehemiah Project – part of Habitat’s focus

cultural differences and begin to under-

on revitalizing the inner city of metro

stand each other in the spirit of brother-

Jackson – has steered its efforts toward

hood by forming relationships one person

building houses for displaced victims of

at a time – united by the common bond of

Hurricane Katrina. In addition to his work

God’s love. As one of the earliest organiz-

with Mission Mississippi and Habitat for

ers of Mission Mississippi and a key fig-

Humanity, Smith is committed to support-

ure in its success across the state, Victor

ing foreign missions in Africa. “Here’s Life;

Smith is gratified to witness the spread of

Africa” has brought the message of the

this unique ministry into other communities in Mississippi. When he came to Jackson as a newlywed in the early 1950s,

Gospel to thousands of Africans. Bill Buckner, Regional Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has worked closely with his

Victor Smith began married life as a busboy and dishwasher at

friend and board member. “Victor is one of the wisest and most

Primos, his father-in-law’s restaurant. By a stroke of good fortune,

compassionate men I’ve ever met. He is tireless in raising resources

his first investment in an oil well paid off, and his career as an oil

to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Buckner.

producer was launched. For the next 50 years, he made his mark in

At 75, Victor Smith has no intention of retiring. He admits to paus-

the business community and expanded his career into real estate

ing in the midst of his busy day to send up a prayer asking God

development, establishing upscale projects in the Jackson area.

what projects he might give up. Since no clear answer has been

When Mississippi voted to legalize gaming, he was appointed by

revealed, he somehow manages to fulfill his obligations and to have

the governor to fill the spot left vacant by Stewart C. Irby on the

fun doing it. His philosophy is, “You’ll never be any different five

Gaming Commission. His work with the commission led to his

years from now if not for the people you meet and the books you

leadership in the Council on Compulsive Gambling, an organization

read.” For Victor Smith, each day brings new opportunities to be a

that provides help for people addicted to gambling.

servant and a partner in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. ■

Victor Smith determined that his life’s journey needed to take a new direction and a clearer focus. This very successful entrepreneur would be transformed by his faith and would become a man with a mission. This mission would be to answer God’s call for ministry – not in the pulpit – but out in the community, where the

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 253


Dolphus Weary MENTOR AND MINISTER tutorial and enrichment program on his summer breaks from college. After college, Weary moved back to Mendenhall to join Reverend Perkins in his ministry. Mendenhall Ministries was born from that union and, with Weary in the driver’s seat, evolved into a million-dollar ministry and community development program. Mendenhall Ministries is now considered to be the model for poor communities throughout the country. Weary saw that the poor and black communities were far behind the white community in essential services such as education, healthcare, and legal services. All of these necessities required money that the poor community didn’t have. Through fundraising and volunteer service, Mendenhall Ministries began providing tutoring and pre-school options for the community. One program for high school students allowed them to work for the Mission Mississippi President, Dr. Dolphus Weary, has devoted

ministry and earn money for tuition. They were able to build

his life to Christian service and Christian community development

a community center for recreation and meetings. Through many

in Mississippi. Weary’s mother raised him and seven siblings in a

trials and tribulations, Mendenhall Ministries recruited a doctor

small community outside of Mendenhall, Mississippi, called D’Lo.

and finally a lawyer to service the community under the Mendenhall

The poor sharecropping family faced tremendous odds and, like

Ministries umbrella. With the help of many others, Dr. Weary was

many children in the same situation, Weary dreamt of leaving

able to bring once-unavailable services to the poor community.

Mississippi one day never to return. As he matured, Weary real-

Throughout the years, Mendenhall Ministries has helped many in

ized that if anything could afford him the opportunity to escape

the Mendenhall community and continues to do so. Mendenhall

his situation it would be his basketball skills. Weary was able to

Ministries was named the 541st daily point of light by President

earn a scholarship and secure a job coaching basketball to fur-

George H. W. Bush in 1991.

ther his education far away from the fields of Mississippi at Los

After 26 years of service, Dr. Weary left Mendenhall Ministries to

Angeles Baptist College and Theological Seminary. These same

become the executive director of Mission Mississippi. The organi-

skills afforded him the opportunity to travel to Asia to play bas-

zation, based in Jackson, is devoted to encouraging and demon-

ketball and preach Christianity. Weary related to the people of

strating unity in the body of Christ across racial and denominational

Asia very well and was urged to make a career out of the mis-

lines. In Dr. Weary’s words, “We believe the Christian church has

sion. God had a different plan for Weary, though, and brought

the greatest opportunity to affect race relations in Mississippi. The

him back to the place and situation he spent so many hours

only problem is that, traditionally, if the Baptists call a meeting, the

dreaming of escaping.

Methodists won’t come. In the same respect, if a black congre-

Meeting a mentor, Weary’s life and belief system changed dra-

gation calls a meeting, the white congregation won’t attend. So,

matically in high school when he met Reverend John Perkins.

Mission Mississippi calls the meeting with the hope that people

Reverend Perkins wasn’t like the preachers Weary had grown up

from all backgrounds will attend.”

knowing. Weary recalled, “He lived simply, just like the rest of us.

Dr. Weary was named president of Mission Mississippi in 2005.

And he walked around town in jeans and a shirt, just like the rest

He has written a book with William Hendricks that chronicles the

of us. I thought, ‘If this guy’s a preacher, where’s his Cadillac?’”

early part of Weary’s life and the building of Mendenhall Ministries

At the urging of Reverend Perkins to make a difference in Mendenhall, Weary started a summer vacation Bible school and

254 | P R O U D T O C A L L M I S S I S S I P P I H O M E

entitled, I Ain’t Comin’ Back. His second book, entitled, I Can’t Never Leave, will be printed soon. ■


Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Dr. KennethWilliams PHYSICIAN/ENTREPRENEUR Service Corporation, he was required to work for two years in an area experiencing a shortage of healthcare workers. Williams began his medical practice in Byhalia, in 1989 with Northeast Mississippi Healthcare. Three years later, and able to practice anywhere he wanted, he established Williams Medical Clinic (WMC) in Holly Springs – in a trailer with a staff of two. WMC Dr. Kenneth Williams is a fourth-generation healthcare professional who has dedicated most of his adult life to promoting and generating quality healthcare services in rural Northeastern

now employs more than 150. In 1999, the only local hospital was in financial trouble, and the people of Holly Springs feared it was in danger of closing.

Missis-sippi. He possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that has cre-

Williams purchased the hospital, and today, known as Alliance

ated 300 jobs in and around Northeastern Mississippi.

HealthCare System (AHS), it is on solid financial ground and offers a much wider array of medical services. AHS is the only privately held, minority-owned hospital, and one of a few physician-owned hospitals in the country. A $30 million project is underway to build a new campus near Highway 78, which will house a much larger hospital, a heath and wellness center, and an allied health program to be partnered with a local learning institution. Ground breaking is scheduled for 2006. Williams is happy to have had the ability to give back to his home state. “My parents instilled in me to be a good person, to break down stereotypes, to have the ability to succeed, and to pass on my learning. Medicine is what I know, so that’s where I began. I am proud to have started in Mississippi, and hopefully, I will be proud of what I passed on,” he said. In 2002, Williams and his wife, Regina, endowed the University

A native of Moss Point, he graduated from the University of

of Southern Mississippi with $1 million to establish a fund to pro-

Southern Mississippi in 1981 with a degree in Biology; he earned

vide annual scholarships. The purpose of the fund is to attract

his medical degree at Meharry Medical College and completed

minority students to the medical field and to encourage them to

his residency and internship at Wayne State University in Detroit.

practice in rural areas. To date, the fund has provided three

Because he was repaying his loan from the National Health

schol-arships, and Williams has his fingers crossed that three doctors will be providing their efforts to rural Mississippians. In April of 2005, Williams was named by the Mississippi U.S. Small Business Administration as Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year – having been nominated for “business achievements associated with the establishment of WMC, the resurrection of the local hospital – AHS, and several other medical service businesses he bought, upgraded, or started, to provide people of Holly Springs with quality healthcare.” Kenneth Williams, M.D., has spent most of his adult life giving back to the state he is proud to call home. ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 255


William Winter H U M A N I TA R I A N Among his significant accomplishments, Governor Winter is best known for spearheading the passage of the Education Reform Act of 1982, which among other things established public kindergartens for all Mississippi children. When the legislature failed to pass his recommended reforms during the regular session of 1982, Governor Winter called a special session in December focusing solely on education in Mississippi. He and his allies had been able to generate strong grassroots support throughout the state, which led to the passage of the education reform act during the special session. The act was the nation’s first comprehensive education reform act in the 1980s and was considered the most significant educational legislation enacted in Mississippi since the establishment of the Mississippi public school system in 1870. For his efforts, Governor Winter received the 2001 Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Award from the National Education Association. After serving in the U.S. Infantry during World War II, Winter was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives before he graduated from law school at the University of Mississippi. He was reelected to the House in 1951 and 1955. He served in 1950-51 as legislative assistant to U.S. Senator John Stennis. Winter also served in the Korean War and has held positions of state tax collector, state treasurer, and lieutenant governor. While serving as lieutenant governor, he received the Margaret Dixon Freedom of Information Award from the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press for his continuing support for the opening of the political process to both the general public and the press. Winter, an author, historian, and lawyer, has held many academic and public service positions in the state of Mississippi throughout his life. In 2003, the Mississippi Legislature named the William Forrest Winter, born in Grenada, Mississippi, was the

new Archives and History Building for Winter, the long time presi-

58th governor of Mississippi, holding office from 1980 -1984. His

dent of the Department’s Board of Trustees. He received the presti-

governance echoed his belief that every person regardless of

gious Dunbar Rowland Award form the Mississippi Historical

race or class should be entitled to the same rights and privileges

Society for his lifelong dedication to the study and preservation of

that the most privileged citizens enjoy.

Mississippi history. Winter served on President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race in 1997-1998, and the University of Mississippi founded the William Winter Center for Racial Reconciliation in 1999. Winter, who practices law in Jackson, Mississippi, as a member of the firm of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, is married to the former Elise Varner of Senatobia, Mississippi, and they have three daughters, Anne, Elise, and Eleanor, and five grandchildren. ■

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Proud toCall Mississippi Home

Unita Blackwell Wright P O L I T I C A L A C T I V I T S T, F I R S T B L A C K M AY O R I N M I S S I S S I P P I To say that Unita Blackwell is a political activist is a vast under-

in President Jimmy Carter’s Energy Summit at Camp David in 1979.

statement. She was much more than that – in fact, she was, per-

Unita Blackwell has done countless deeds to improve her com-

haps, one of the key players in the Civil Rights Movement. She was

munity and the lives of Mississippians. Those deeds were noted and

born March 18, 1933, in Lula, Mississippi, to parents of share-

future efforts were helped in 1992, when she became the recipient

croppers and along with her sister, was literally passed around

of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award.

among family members in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas ▼

“to be raised.” In an oral interview conducted in 1977 by Mike

© NATALIE PERKINS OF THE DEER CREEK PILOT

Garvey, Blackwell says, “I was born in this Delta. And we never got too far away from it, you know. I was raised between Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.” Because of limited educational opportunities for blacks in Mississippi, Blackwell had to cross the state line to attend school, in West Helena, Arkansas. She became a field worker for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964, joining their efforts to register black voters in Mississippi. Also that year, she served as a delegate of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In the spring of 1964, she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a field worker. She was arrested more than 70 times while working with the SNCC in their efforts to register black voters across the state of Mississippi. Blackwell’s life as an activist in the pre-civil rights South was anything but easy. In a 2004 interview with Encompass Magazine, she recalled many of the fearful days she experienced simply trying to survive. She spoke of taking turns with her husband to stand watch over their home during the late evening and early morning hours just to make sure the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) didn’t burn them out. “I look at my life and say it was terrible – the things that happened – but I find out I can survive in life through most anything,” she said. “Just don’t panic with stuff. Ride it out.” And “ride it out” is exactly what she did. Among her numerous

Although Blackwell’s accomplishments and her invaluable con-

political activities, Blackwell was most notably one of the founding

tributions to the Civil Rights Movement failed to garner the same

members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Throughout

attention as some of her contemporaries, she was still a powerful

the 1960s and ‘70s, she served as a Community Development

force in furthering the civil rights movement and a powerful

Specialist with the National Council of Negro Women. In 1977, she

woman who decided to stay in Mississippi and make it a better

became the first black Mayor in Mississippi when she was elected

place for everyone. Many people today owe a portion of their

Mayor of the Issaquena County Community of Mayersville – where

freedom to the woman who refused to take no for an answer.

once she was unable to vote. She received her masters degree in regional planning from the

Blackwell continues to lecture and speak at colleges and universities around the country. She has published accounts of her

University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She is a prominent speaker on

early days as well as her own memoir titled Barefootin’ (2006).

subjects such as rural housing and development, and she participated

“Everything that was put before us was a way out,” Blackwell

said. The impossible was never said to us.” ■

M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 257


Liza & Rick Looser MISSISSIPPI, BELIEVE IT! When Liza and Rick Looser planned to celebrate 20 years in

overturn the negative perceptions fixed in the minds of people

business at the Cirlot Agency, they invited the whole state of

both inside and outside the state.

Mississippi to share in the occasion. In 2005, their very successful

The Mississippi, Believe It! project was orchestrated after

advertising and public relations agency rolled out a one-of-a-kind

research by the Mississippi Development Authority and the State

campaign designed to bolster the self-confidence of Mississippians.

Chamber of Commerce showed that Mississippi was still perceived as a backward state, whose people were lacking in ability and intelligence. The stereotypes were eclipsing the truth of the real Mississippi – a place that has made enormous contributions to the arts, medicine, sports, and business. After months of research and many meetings with influential citizens all over the state, the agency determined that the first step in changing Mississippi’s perception in the outside world would be to alter the perception of Mississippi in the minds of her own people. The Campaign was structured to include eleven public service announcements created to run in both newspapers and magazines, as well as posters that were distributed to every public and private K-12 school, and every college and university in the state. The Campaign also included a website that housed the announcements in a downloadable format, as well as links to other sites which list little-known facts about the state. Outside the state of Mississippi, the announcements were sent to the nation’s top 100 daily newspapers, top consumer websites, and the top news, travel, business and economic magazines. They were also sent to national talk shows and broadcast news outlets with Mississippi ties, such as FOx News Channel’s Shepard Smith and ABC’s Robin Roberts. Additional posters were made available to national events with Mississippi connections, such as the Mississippi Picnic held annually in New York City. The Cirlot Agency has donated over $100,000 in time and

This gift to the people of Mississippi was an act of largess by the Cirlot Agency in appreci-

resources to produce this enormously popular campaign. Their ultimate

ation for the support of so many in the state

goal is to create “citizen

who had contributed to the growth of their

ambassadors” for the state.

business. The campaign was a tour de force in

As such, it is the Agency’s hope that these “citizen

showcasing the Mississippi that has been

ambassadors” would visit the

kept secret across the country. Recognizing

website, download the posters

that Mississippi had a poor self-image that

and email them from coast to

was reflected in national opinion, the agency

coast. This type of “viral mar-

orchestrated a blitz campaign of print material

keting” is very effective, so The

and public service announcements that would

Cirlot Agency is asking citizens’

258 | P R O U D T O C A L L M I S S I S S I P P I H O M E

MSVisionary  

WHOSE VISION THE SUCCESS OF HELPED SHAPE MISSISSIPPI LEADERS MISSISSIPPI. M I S S I S S I P P I V I S I O N A R Y | 219MISSISSIPPIVISIONARY...

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