March 22, 2013 § 4 Comments

Here are the answers …

1.  McKinley Morganfield and Chester Burnett are two world-renowned Mississippians. What were they famous for, and by what names did we know them?

Answer:  Blues musicians Muddy Waters (Morganfield) and Howlin’ Wolf (Burnett).

2.  What was the name of US President James K. Polk’s plantation in what is now Grenada County?

Answer:  Yalobusha.

3.  What and where was the second oldest military academy (after West Point) in the US, and the first educational institution in the Mississippi Territory?

Answer:  Jefferson College, near Washington, Mississippi, in Adams County. Jefferson Davis studied there, and John James Audubon was a professor there from 1822-23. Aaron Burr was arraigned there for treason. It ceased operation in 1964, and is now a state park site.

4.  What now-nationwide organization was first established in 1909 in Crystal Springs?

Answer:  The PTA.

5.  The first franchised Holiday Inn was located in which Mississippi city?

Answer:  Clarksdale.

6.  Where does the “Southern cross the ‘Dog?” and what does that phrase mean?

Answer:  In Moorhead, where the Southern RR was intersected at a 90-degree angle by the old Yazoo & Mississippi Valley RR (aka Yazoo & Delta, or YD = “Yellow Dog” or, simply ‘Dog), said to be the only 90-degree RR intersection in N. America. It’s mentioned in W.C. Handy’s “Yellow Dog Blues” and several other blues songs. Although the line is abandoned now, there is a monument at the site, and the crossed rails are preserved.

7.  Casey Jones, a resident of Jackson, Tennessee, met his famous death in Vaughn, Mississippi. In what Mississippi town did he reside from 1893-1896?

Answer:  Water Valley.

8.  The adjoining towns of Pittsburgh and Tullahoma were consolidated on July 4, 1836, to form which Mississippi city?

Answer:  Grenada.

9.  Jesse James robbed a bank in which Mississippi city?

Answer:  Corinth. On December 7, 1874, the Tishomingo Savings Bank was robbed, and witnesses attributed it to the James-Younger gang. Some witnesses claimed he was not with his gang when the robbery took place, and, indeed, he was seen in a train robbery in Kansas the following day.

10.  A traditional belief of the Choctaw people is that they first appeared on earth when they emerged from a cave near the “Mother Mound” in Mississippi. What is the mound called, and where is it?

Answer:  Nanih Waiya, about 15 mi. NE of Philadelphia.

11.  Avalon, a defunct village in Carroll County, is the home town of which famous Mississipian?

Answer:  Blues artist Mississippi John Hurt.

12.  When he raided CSA President Jefferson Davis’s Brierfield plantation near Vicksburg, Ulysses Grant stole – or “confiscated” – one of Davis’s horses that the Union commander used through the rest of the Civil War. What did the General name his stolen horse?

Answer:  “Jeff Davis.” Grant’s primary mount was “Cincinnatus,” but Jeff Davis the horse served as a replacement.

13.  Name the community founded in the Mississippi Delta in 1887 by descendants of Davis Bend, a utopian slave community established by Joseph Davis, older brother of Jefferson Davis.

Answer:  Mound Bayou.

14.  What was the original name of the site that became Jackson before it was known as LeFleur’s Bluff?

Answer:  Parkerville.

15.  Which Laurel native became an internationally acclaimed soprano with the New York Metropolitan Opera?

Answer:  Leontyne Price.

16.  Which of Mississippi’s yacht clubs has the distinction of being only the second to be established in the U.S.?

Answer:  Pass Christian Yacht Club, founded in 1849. The New York Yacht Club, founded in 1844, was the first.

17.  Who is “The Sage of Tippo?”

Answer:  Noted jazz musician Mose Allison, of Tippo, in Tallahatchie County.

18.  Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 campaign for President as the Republican party nominee at what Mississippi event?

Answer:  The Neshoba County Fair. He delivered a speech that drew criticism because he used the phrase “I believe in states’ rights” in the county where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years before. States’ rights had been considered by many to be a code phrase used in the 1950’s and 60’s for segregation.

19.  On May 26, 1736, a combined force of 1,200 French and Choctaws, under command of Bienville, was defeated by Chickasaw defenders in the Battle of Akia, in what present-day Mississippi county?

Answer:  Lee, about 3 mi. S of Tupelo. The name of the village is actually “Hikia” in Chickasaw, which means erected, or set up.

20.  The fictional Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek series, had a Mississippi connection. What was it?

Answer:  He attended Ole Miss.

21.  Just before the Civil War, 92.5% of this Mississippi county’s total population were slaves–the highest concentration of slaves in the United States.

Answer:  Issaquena. The 1860 U.S. Census reported a total of 7,244 slaves held in Issaquena County, and of 115 slave owners, 39 held 77 or more slaves

22.  What is the oldest newspaper published in Mississippi?

Answer:  The Woodville Republican, since 1823.

23.  At 86.5%, this Mississippi county has the highest percentage of African American population of any county in the United States. Which is it?

Answer:  Jefferson.

24.  What was the historic, now defunct, road that entered Mississippi from Alabama in what is now Lowndes County, crossed Noxubee, Kemper, Newton, Jasper, Jones, Marion, and Pearl River Counties before crossing into Louisiana at the Pearl River twenty miles west of Poplarville, Mississippi?

Answer:  The Jackson Military Road, established at the insistence of General Andrew Jackson to facilitate the movement of forces south for defense of New Orleans. It was authorized by Congress in 1816, and was completed in 1820, under supervision of Jackson himself. Roads and streets with names such as “military road” and “Jackson Military Road” can still be found along the route.

25.  Name the four official sites of the state capital through its history.

Answer:  Natchez, Washington, Columbia and Jackson. After Jackson was occupied and burned in the Civil War, other provisional seats of government were Columbus, Macon, Enterprise and Meridian.

Bonus Question: What was the unusual object that fell from the sky in an 1887 hailstorm in Bovina?

Answer:  A 6″ x 8″ gopher turtle encased entirely in ice.


December 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

Note:  Since neither of the law schools in Mississippi require their students to study chancery courts and equity jurisdiction as a discrete subject, I thought it would be useful and informative to set out a brief history of how we came to have separate chancery courts in our state, as a starting point for understanding how our courts have developed separate practices and procedure.

When the Mississippi Territory was created in 1798, there was influx of settlers into the region around Natchez, where significant wealth began to be accumulated. As land was developed and plantations were established, there was a growing need for legal professionals to research and litigate land claims, and to advise the growing business community.

Lawyers came to the new territory from Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. They brought with them the knowledge of their own legal systems based on English jurisprudence and judicial organization. The first chancery courts in the colonies had been established in Maryland, and that state’s equity system was regarded as being one of the most advanced. The courts in the Atlantic states administered equity as had the chancery courts of England.

The immigrant attorneys influenced the territorial legislature, and the first territorial courts established were the Superior Courts, which had both legal and equitable jurisdiction. Interestingly, the legislation establishing those courts provided that they “may ordain and establish all necessary rules for the orderly conducting of business in equity,” meaning that the courts and not the lawmakers made the rules of procedure.

Mississippi achieved statehood in 1817, and the first state constitution authorized the legislature to establish a separate court of chancery. From the inception of the State of Mississippi, then, chancery court has been a constitutional court. Nonetheless, it was several years before the legislature acted on its authority. In 1821, at the urging of Virginia native George Poindexter, the legislature did establish the separate superior court of chancery.

Supreme Court Justice Joshua G. Clarke (for whom Clarke County is named) was selected as the state’s first chancellor. At the time, the position of chancellor was appointed, and was regarded as preferable to a seat on the Supreme Court.

Practice in chancery then was vastly different from what it is now. There was one chancellor, who sat at the seat of government and one or two additional places, and to whom the cases were brought. Trials were the exception. Instead, testimony was presented by deposition. The “Learned Chancellor” examined the facts presented in the light of any applicable precedent (the case law of New York and England were the primary authorities until Mississippi developed its own substantial body of law), and rendered a scholarly and, hopefully, wise decision, which could then be appealed to the supreme court.

The constitution adopted in 1832 made the position of chancellor an elected one, and it is believed that Mississippi’s were the first elected chancery judges. That constitution provided for separate courts of equity, but also authorized the legislature to give circuit courts concurrent equity jurisdiction “in all cases where the amount or thing in controversy does not exceed $500; also all cases of divorce and for foreclosure of mortgages.” The provision for concurrent jurisdiction was made because it was burdensome for poorer litigants to have to travel to the locale of the chancery court.

To help alleviate the caseload, the position of Vice-Chancellor was created in 1842, and another was created in 1846. At that point, the three chancellors began riding what amounted to a circuit, holding court in different sections of the state, similar to our federal courts now.

By 1856, the business in chancery court had grown to such an extent that the constitution was amended in that year so that the circuit judges held chancery court in each county.

Up to 1868, probate matters had been entrusted to local “probate courts,” inferior to the chancery courts, which were staffed by lay persons who had no legal training or experience, and no judicial background. As a result, business was frequently mishandled, and the chancery courts were swamped with suits stemming from the inferior court actions. It was often said that the only issue when reviewing the action of a probate court was whether its actions were void or merely voidable.

As for practice and procedure, the principle established in territorial days that the chancellors would establish their own procedures continued in effect, but there was no central authority for the rules, and there was a confusing proliferation of  procedural rules and practices that varied greatly from one chancellor to another. The resulting confusion gave rise to a call for uniformity among the courts.

Another source of dissatisfaction with the chancery system was that as the population grew there was an increasing demand for court time, but too few judges to meet the demand. Some called for more chancery judges, and others wanted to abolish the chancery courts and vest equity jurisdiction in the circuit courts, which were already in place serving every county.

In 1868, there was another constitutional convention formed due to Reconstruction. Its constitution once and for all established chancery court as a separate court, with chancellors sitting in districts across the state, comparable to already-established circuit court system. The concurrent jurisdiction arrangement with circuit court was terminated, as were the probate courts; the chancery courts with jurisdiction over the matters they fomerly handled.

In the wake of the 1868 constitution, the legislature began to address dissatisfaction with the patchwork of court procedures and rules by passing laws dictating procedures to the courts.

The provisions of the 1868 constitution for chancery carried over into the 1890 constitution, for the most part.

Over the years there were few changes in court legislation. In 1916, the legislature passed a bill requiring that the former method of taking testimony by deposition in chancery be abolished in favor of oral testimony.

In 1924, the legislature adopted the Chancery Practice Act, which settled once and for all, until 1981, that the legislature, and not the courts, would control the procedural and evidentiary rules of the courts.


This information is distilled from Judge Griffith’s Mississippi Chancery Practice, 2nd Ed., 1950.


October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last week marked the fiftieth anniversary of James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss. The tumult and combat that surrounded the diminutive Meredith’s entrance to the university has often been characterized as “the last battle of the Civil War.” It’s an event we have talked about here before.

But as much as Meredith did to bring down the oppressive reign of white supremacy, there was much struggle to come after. The bloody summer of 1964 — “Freedom Summer” — was especially noteworthy, because its murders sent a shiver of revulsion through the collective conscience of the nation that directly gave rise to the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act. Gradually, with the weight of the federal government behind it, the civil rights movement demolished barrier after barrier.

And so, as the weeks click by, we will be clicking off fiftieth anniversary after fiftieth anniversary of milestones in the Civil Rights Era.

I saw that one of the events to commemorate Meredith’s feat was the unveiling of a marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail at Ole Miss. To date, the Freedom Trail has markers at Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Medgar Evers’ home in Jackson, The Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson, Jackson State University, and Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

A list of the sites planned for the first 30 markers is here.

It’s a bit of a surprise to me that there is no marker slated for Meridian, which: had the biggest COFO operation and Freedom School in the state in 1964; was the base of operations for Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, who were murdered in nearby Philadelphia; and was the site of the state’s Freedom School Convention in 1964.

There is a group in Meridian that has secured ownership of the old Fielder & Brooks drug store, which housed the COFO headquarters. They plan to restore it and create an educational center there. As always, funding is the main obstacle.  

Knowing and understanding our history is vitally important. We have to comprehend the forces that have shaped us, our ethos and the place where we live in order to be able to see clearly where we can and should go from here. The history of racial conflict and gradual reconciliation is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we must know and understand it so that we can know and understand ourselves.

No place on earth is better equipped by experience to show and tell the way out of racial oppression than Mississippi. Others can talk about it, but we are living it, day by day, increment by increment. To bear that witness, however, we must be able to tell our history. 

James Meredith bravely blazed a trail to freedom in 1962. Many others, in ways large and small, blazed similar courageous paths. Mississippi’s Freedom Trail will help us remember.


September 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

It was 225 years ago this week, on September 17, 1787, that the Constitution of the United States was adopted and sent to the various states for ratification. It would take three years after that to achieve ratification by the requisite nine states.

The convention, which met in secret in the Pennsylvania State House, took 100 days to produce what is the organic law of our nation. That three and a half months was filled with drama, rancor, conflict, backroom negotiations and masterful compromise.

Of the fifty-five delegates who were elected to the convention 34 were lawyers, 8 had signed the Declaration of Independence, and almost half were Revolutionary War veterans. The remaining members were planters, educators, ministers, physicians, financiers, judges and merchants. About a quarter of them were large land owners and all of them held some type of public office (39 were former Congressmen and 8 were present or past governors).

Of the 55 elected delegates, only forty-two attended most of the meetings, and of those thirty-nine actually signed the Constitution. Nineteen of the members who were chosen to represent their state never attended a meeting, some because their state would not or could not pay their expenses, some due to health, and some for political reasons. Patrick Henry, although elected, refused to attend because he “smelt a rat.”  Three members, Edmond Randolph and George Mason of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign, primarily due to the lack of a bill of rights.

The durability of the Constitution is itself a marvel. It has been effect for more than 220 years, longer than any other instrument of its kind. And its original form has proven durable as well. Although more than 11,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress, only thirty three have gone to the states to be ratified and only twenty seven have received the necessary approval from the states to actually become amendments to the Constitution.

The genius of the Constitution’s balance of powers and protection of individual rights has long been recognized. Many states and foreign governments emulate the Constitution in their own organic law.

To me, though, the genius of the Constitution lies in how it came about. It was the product of intensive negotiation and clever compromise. No one who came into the convention left with all he wanted to achieve, and everyone had to give some ground. The crafting of this greatest article of law is a model for the way that all law coming in its wake should be crafted.

If you’re looking for an entertaining read on the subject, I recommend David O. Stewart’s The Summer of 1787, a brilliant account of the proceedings and the personalities of the participants.


November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

To his everlasting credit, Governor Hayley Barbour exercised his executive prerogative and installed signs at the entranceways into Mississippi with the legend, “Birthplace of America’s Music.” Indeed.

It’s no secret that Mississippi — and the Mississippi Delta in particular — is where America’s quintessential music was born, took hold, and grew into an irrepressible force. It was the blues, the music of heartfelt pain, that was born out of the oppression and destitution of a people. It was the blues that made its way down the river to New Orleans, cross-bred with barrelhouse and ragtime and grew into Jazz. Jimmie Rodgers melded the blues with the music of hill whites and gave birth to country music. The blues directly spawned rock-a-billy, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and soul, and almost every form of popular music in the past 100-plus years has a blue tinge.

The Land Where the Blues Began is Alan Lomax’s engrossing portrait of the Mississippi Delta, its culture and history, its blues artists, its oppression and exploitation of black people, and how this region of contradictions, savage racism, plantations, and juke joints gave rise to such formidable music.

Lomax ranged across the south from the 40’s through the 70’s, recording not only the music of original blues artists, but also their stories and recollections in their own words. The author continued the work of his father, who had begun the project in the late 20’s and 30’s.

What emerges from the stories he captured is a picture of the struggles and suffering of poor blacks in the Delta, and how they found release in music. Here are the stories of the cruel levee camps, the muleskinners, plantation life, the escape to Memphis and the factories of the north, Parchman farm. It becomes plain to the reader that the civil war did not end slavery, but merely transformed it into other forms of enforced servitude and destitution for blacks in Mississippi.

The main focus of this book, though, is the music. Lomax expertly analyzes the music’s African genes and the religious and early American musical strains that influenced and deepened it.

Lomax was a Texan who died in 2002. He is renowned as one of the great field collectors of indigenous music, particularly American music, although he did field work in Europe, the Caribbean and Africa as well. He had Mississippi roots that helped his understanding of the tortured Delta folkways. At page 186 of the book is this passage: “My father’s people were ‘peckerwoods’ from Meridian, Mississippi, ‘from the upper crust of the poor white trash,’ he used to say.”

If you want to understand Mississippi, you have to understand the blues and the music’s astonishing breadth of influence. The blues is merely one manifestation of Mississippi’s disproportionate impact on American literature, music and entertainment, dramatically belying the state’s stereotypical backwardness and reactionism. Lomax’s book is an excellent starting point.

If you want to understand the blues, you have to experience the Delta. Steve Cheseborough’s Blues Travelling is a travel guide that will open doors and by-ways to the region. Here you will find the towns and villages, grave sites, joints, monuments and historic locations, restaurants, museums and venues of the blues culture. There are maps and suggestions, along with articles telling the story.

If you are a Mississippian, you can explore the Delta in several easy day trips. This book will enrich the experience for you, telling you the stories of the places and people you encounter. You will probably find yourself stopping to explore places you would have bypassed.

As a bonus, the book includes forays into Memphis, Jackson, north Mississippi, and even Meridian.

Lisa and I have found this book particularly helpful in our blues explorations. I recommend it to you.


October 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

There were lawyers ‘way back in 1960. You youngsters will have to take my word for that. Heck, I will even have to take my word for that, because I was a mere 11 years old at the time.

Those 1960’s lawyers had the ingenious idea that bar-mandated fee schedules would accomplish some good things, such as providing some protection for clients against unconscionable fees, giving lawyers a framework for determining what would be reasonable, and would give the courts a measuring device.

I remember when I was admitted to the Mississippi bar, all of us received a navy binder with ethical rules, useful telephone numbers and mailing addresses, and fee schedules.  Later, as a young lawyer in Memphis in 1974, I received my copy of the Memphis and Shelby County bar’s fee schedule.

We lawyers all regarded fee schedules as a benign thing.

Then the US Supreme Court saw a bugbear lurking among that legal finery, and declared fee schedules unacceptable. Legal fees were free to float through the ceiling, and, indeed, the roof; clients be danged. Freed of gravity, legal fees have done what all things do when unfettered by an earthward pull.

Meridian lawyer Dan Self brought me a fascinating document published May 2, 1960, by the Mississippi State Bar. It’s entitled Fee Computation and Law Office Management. It offers a look at how law practice has changed, as well as how it hasn’t changed, in the intervening 51 years. I won’t bore you with the rusty nuts and bolts of law office management, but I am sure you will find some of the fee schedule entertaining.  Consider:

  • Advice and consultation by telephone or in office … $5.00
  • Advice and consultation out of lawyer’s office … $10.00
  • Preparation of Articles of Partnership with capital less than $5,000 … $150.00
  • Incorporation (obtaining charter, drafting by-laws, conducting first meeting of stockholders and directors and preparing minutes thereof, and reporting organization to the Secretary of State) … $250.00
  • Will or codicil for estate with value less than $2,500 … $15.00
  • Will or codicil for estate with value greater than $2,500 … $25.00
  • Certficate of title for 32-year chain of title … $50
  • Complaint for divorce, custody or separate maintenance, uncontested … $100.00
  • Complaint for divorce, custody or separate maintenance, contested … $150.00, plus time for trial
  • Chancery court trials: Preparation of pleadings … $100; Court appearances per day … $150

I can testify that these fees were aspirational by the time I spent any time in Mississippi court rooms. Around 1981, I tried a three-day trial before then-Chancellor Howard Pigford. Since I prevailed, he awarded my client a “reasonable attorney’s fee” in the princely sum of $150. That was $50 a day for some heavy lifting.


October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

I posted here about the evolution of the Lauderdale County Court House, which included various historical photos of the building.

Below is a photo of Meridian looking east-southeast, obviously from a vantage point in the Threefoot Building, Meridian’s 16-story Art Deco icon, which had been built in 1929. The Lauderdale County Court House is the domed, Beaux-Arts-style building in the right center. The photo had to have been taken before 1939, because that is the year when the WPA work removed the dome, replaced it with a squarish jail, and transformed the façade from Beaux Arts to Art Deco. The photo, then, had to have been taken between 1929 and 1939.

If you compare this photo to some in the prior post, you will notice that the statues that originally adorned the court house roof above the west-facing columned entrance are removed. The Confederate memorial has been installed on the northwest corner of the lawn.

In other details of the photo, look to the right of the court house, east of and about a block from the Lamar Hotel building, and you will see the old jail that predated the one installed atop the court house during the WPA renovation.

You will also notice the residential neighborhoods to the east that extend in this photo within a block of the court building. I imagine some of the more everyday lawyers strolled to work from home in those neighborhoods back when this photo was taken. The more prosperous barristers lived in the mansions along Eighth Street, or around Highland Park, or in the ample residences on Twenth-Third and Twenty-Fourth Avenues.

Here is a post-card photo of the jail building. Notice the Soulé foundry building to the left (east) of the jail. Its location will give you a clue as to the site of the old jail.

And below is a photo of the Lamar Hotel looking southeast, with the jail to the left, or east. Notice the caption, “Lamar Hotel with old County Jail in background with gallows in tower.” Before the state employed a travelling electric chair, executions for capital offenses were carried out in the various counties by hanging. Meridian, in forward-looking fashion, had a permanent gallows for the purpose, rather than having to go to the expense of constructing an ad-hoc apparatus as the need arose. Even back in those days, Lauderdale County had innovative leadership.


July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Mississippi Bar Association annual meeting commences today in faraway, sunny Florida.  I thought this would be a propitious time to look back more than a hundred years at the proceedings of the association in its earliest days.

On May 5-7, 1908, the Mississipi State Bar Association held its third annual meeting in Meridian.

Various papers were presented, among them “Railroads and the People,” Suggestions of Error, Legal and Otherwise,” “Reminiscences of a Few Mississippi Lawyers,” and “The Power of the Courts.”

The convention even adopted a resolution that, because their presence would “lend grace and dignity to its annual meeting and wisdom of its deliberations,” members in future were “invited to attend sessions accompanied by their wives, daughters, sisters and sweethearts as the condition may then exist.”  That language of that resolution sounds patronizing to us more than a century later, but we need to keep in mind that lawyers in those days were, if not exclusively male, almost exclusively male, and their language reflected not only that reality but also the more patriarchal usages of the day, which used the masculine gender to denote the general, as the text below shows.

Another of the papers delivered at that meeting was by Meridian’s own S. A. Witherspoon, who spoke on “The Lawyer’s Mission in Life.”  The language is perhaps too flowery for todays tastes, but the message is no less relevant and thoughtful now than it was 102 years ago.  It is too long to reproduce in its entirety, but here are some excerpts:

  • ” … if the exigencies of [the lawyer’s] professional duties do not lead him into the investigation of the truth and require the exercises of his powers in maintaining the cause of justice, and demand the aid of his influence in establishing the great law of love between man and man, then the lawyer’s life work is at war with his better nature, and deterioration instead of development must be his certain doom.”
  • “… in the solution of all political, social and religious problems that affect the happiness of humanity [lawyers] have been found in the front ranks, and the cause of freedom, justice and morality has found in them its most devoted and ablest advocates.”
  • “The strife, contention and never ending warfare of the lawyer’s life may conceal from the casual observer its logical relation and productive tendency toward the peace, goodwill and love among men, but it should be remembered that the legal battle which he constantly wages merely takes the place of violence and bloodshed of the barbarian, and that the lawyer in civilized life simply confines the fighting, which seems to be a necessity of humanity, within the ranks of his own profession, and this relieves his fellow men of the evils of human warfare.”
  • “But the prominent feature of the lawyer’s work is the problem of truth, and his greatest difficulty is measured by its laborious discovery.”
  • “And the light of his truth, streaming through all the walks of human life, as distinctly marks the lawyer’s mission as does the warmth and light that gives life and beauty to the flowers and defines the mission of the sunbeam.”
  • “The mission of the lawyer is not confined to the court room and does not end when the decree or judgment of the court is placed on the minutes, but it extends into all the affairs of men, and finds its last boundary at that point where his service is not needed for the betterment of humanity.”
  • “The professional duties of the lawyer develop in him a capacity for the ascertainment of truth, a power to explain and expound it to others, and the art and ability to advocate the cause of justice, and to win the triumph of right; and the possession of any power involves the duty of exercising it for the good of others.  He has no right to bury his talent, or to hide his candle under a bushel.  Whatever advantage and superiority he may enjoy over his fellow men is the result of his relation to society and the special privileges which it has granted him.  And, therefore, I say that in all the religious, moral, social, and industrial controversies that divide the people, the lawyer is obliged to take part, and to give them the benefit of whatever wisdom and virtue he may possess.”

Excerpted from “The Mississippi Bar’s Centennial: A Legacy of Service,” 2006 by the Mississippi Bar.


June 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

I posted here, here and here about Elvis Presley’s appearance in Meridian in 1955.

Here’s a photo provided by Jim Myrick of WMOX radio showing Elvis, Ann Ray and Mae Boren Axton at Meridian Junior College Stadium on Thursday, May 26, 1955.

And a bonus … Here’s a pic of Hank Snow, Anita Rodgers Court (daughter of Jimmie Rodgers), Ernest Tubbs, Carrie Rodgers (Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers), and Johnny Cash at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial in Highland Park during the Jimmie Rodgers Festival in 1957.


June 8, 2011 § 13 Comments

I posted here about the events of 1964 Freedom Summer in Meridian.  Mark Levy of New York, director of Meridian’s Freedom School that summer, sent a reply that I posted here.

Mississippi’s history, and by extension that of Meridian, is intertwined inextricably with issues arising out of relations between the races.  The major historical forces that shaped much of the modern south, including the culture of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Populism and the Revolt of the Rednecks, Vardaman and Bilbo, sharecropping and peonage, the great emigration north, Jim Crow, the Klan and lynching, the Civil Rights Movement, the southern strategy, all had race at their root.  It is essential that Mississippians of all races know and understand how these forces evolved and continue to influence us if we hope to know and understand how we can grow beyond them and explore how best to make room for each other in our common life.  The only way to do this is to do it purposefully, with reflection and care, preserving the history so that we will not be doomed to relive its mistakes.

As Mark pointed out in his response, and Richelle Putnam in her comment, the voices of the civil rights era are aging.  Already many of the most significant figures of the Civil Rights Movement have passed.  Who will carry their story and its understanding forward to the leaders of the future?

The year 2014 will be the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer.  Meridian was at the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in those blastfurnace-hot months.  What better opportunity than the fiftieth anniversary will we have to focus reflection and thoughtful attention on the epochal events of the summer of 1964 as a catalyst for further discourse?

Taking some of Mark Levy’s thoughts as a springboard, I came up with the following modest proposal for an observance of that silver anniversary.  It’s merely a starting point for discussion, and I am sure that there’s much more that can be done.  I propose that between now and the summer of 2014, we do the following:

  • Acquire the Fielder & Brooks building on Fifth Street as the site of a Civil Rights in Meridian interpretive center and museum.  Part of the building could be devoted to the history of black entrepreneurship in Meridian, and specifically in the Fifth Street area.  It could include a re-creation of the old Fielder & Brooks pharmacy.  Upstairs, the COFO Headquarters and Community Center would be re-created, with displays of materials and memorabilia devoted to Freedom Summer and the COFO workers.  Other displays would tell the story of Meridian’s civil rights leaders and accomplishments.  If that building proves to be unavailable, the project could go forward at another site, but a location in the Fifth St. area would serve beneficially as an anchor in an area where so many buildings have been lost.
  • Establish a trail of sites with importance to civil rights in Meridian and make a map available in the interpretive center.
  • Plan an observance of Freedom Summer in 2014, and invite all of the surviving Meridian COFO and other workers who devoted that summer to change.  The event would include reminiscences, lectures, social events, and even worship and singing.  If enough money were available, a noted speaker could keynote and draw attention to the event.  Use the event to promote racial reconciliation and promote discussions about how to establish common ground.  Enlist the schools and colleges to focus course work on these issues in the months leading up to that summer.
  • Establish an organization to gather, preserve, display and promote the materials, artifacts, oral histories and other memorabilia of the Civil Rights Movement in Meridian.  Perhaps one day Meridian could become the site of a Civil Rights Archive.

These are ideas that have been percolating in my head since I read Mark’s response.  I am sure there are many other worthwhile approaches to this, but we have the advantage of time to work toward the goal.  If you have other ideas to share, please feel free to comment.  I will definitely be in touch with those of you who have expressed an interest, as well as others.

This is definitely something I am willing to work to attain.  Will you work with me?

Fielder & Brooks Bldg. looking west across 25th Ave. with 5th St. on the right

View across 25th Ave. from in front of the E.F. Young Hotel

From across 5th St. looking southeast. The door on the far right is 2505 1/2

Holbrook Benevolent Association monument on 5th St., typical of sites for an historical trail

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