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Oral History Digital Collection

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Oral history.; Two interviews conducted on June 18, 1992 and March 9, 1993 with Mr. C.B. "Buddie" Newman at his home in Valley Park, Mississippi. Newman was born on May 8, 1921 in Valley Park, Mississippi. In 1942, he left his job with the Southern Natural Gas Company to serve in the army during World War II. After the war, Newman returned to his job and began farming in Issaquena County, Mississippi. In 1948, he was elected to the state Senate. After one term in the Senate, Newman ran and was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. For the next thirty-six years, he remained in the House. During his tenure, Newman was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, chairman of the Southern Council of State Governments, and Speaker Pro Tempore of the House. Newman also served for twelve years as Speaker of the House.

Oral history.; Ms. Juno Gwendolyn Nichols-de Marks was born November 25, 1924, in Biloxi, Mississippi. Ms. Nichols-de Marks graduated from Biloxi Colored High School in 1941 at which time she entered Alcorn University. In 1945 she was elected Miss Alcorn. For her master's degree she attended Tennessee State University. At the age of four, Ms. Nichols-de Marks began studying piano. In her later career she played that instrument for many activities, including church meetings, banquets, and the State Teachers Association, and she instructed, organized, and directed a choir in church. She is a member of the NAACP and the mother of three children.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on March 7, 1993 with James Nix (born 1937). In 1966, Mr. Nix formed a civil rights activist group called the Spirit. This group agitated for civil rights in Hattiesburg and served as bodyguards for local civil rights leaders.

Oral history.;Dr. J. Ralph Noonkester was born on June 10, 1924 in Flatridge, Virginia. In 1944, he received his BA in English and Sociology from the University of Richmond. He went on to compete ThM and PhD degrees at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Noonkester and his wife, Naomi Hopkins Noonkester, moved to Mississippi in the 1950s to begin a teaching position in Hattiesburg as Professor of Religion at Mississippi Woman's College, the predecessor to William Carey University. During his time here, Noonkester served as the Dean, and as the President from 1956 to 1989. In this position, he signed the Civil Rights Compliance Pledge in 1965, making William Carey one of the first private colleges in the South to voluntarily admit African American students. Noonkester recalls the intimidation he experienced following this decision. In addition to receiving hate letters from various institutions throughout the state, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front of his family property. Noonkester also served as president of the Hattiesburg Chamber of Commerce in 1966. During this time, he headed a community effort to rebuild the home of Vernon Dahmer, a civil rights leader who was killed when the Ku Klux Klan firebombed his home.

Oral history.; Norman discusses the creation and work of the Mississippi Humanities Council, the people responsible for its early development, and its programs concerning race relations and public education.

Oral history.; Two interviews conducted on May 21, 1974 and January 26, 1976 with the Honorable Mildred Wells Norris. Norris was born in Ovett, Mississippi. She studied for one year at Mississippi State College for Women. Norris started working for two lawyers in Laurel, Mississippi. In 1947, she passed the Mississippi Bar Examination. Norris was appointed Judge of the Municipal Court of Hattiesburg in 1961 and was the first woman Police Judge in Mississippi. She has worked actively for the advancement of women; she was the first woman to serve on the Forrest County Industrial Development Board and also was appointed first chairman of the Mississippi Governor's Commission on Women. Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr. appointed Norris to serve on the Governor's Commission on the Employment of the Handicapped.

Oral history.; U.Z. Nunnally was born in 1945 and grew up in rural Mississippi. His civil rights activities took him out of rural Mississippi and around the southeast as well as to California and China. He grew up on a plantation, one of seven children in a sharecropping family. In high school he became involved in civil rights advocacy when Freedom Riders lived in his town. He spent time in COFO's Freedom House, in Freedom School, door-to-door canvassing for voter registration, was arrested many times for his activities, filed a lawsuit to avoid serving in the Vietnam War, and at the time of this interview was looking forward to retirement as one of San Francisco's bus drivers.

Oral history.; Charlie Odom was raised by his grandparents in Lyman, Mississippi. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and later in the Unites States Army during World War II. He worked for the United States Postal Service from 1947 until his retirement in 1975. He was also a licensed funeral director with Lockett-Williams Mortuary, Inc.

Oral history.; Jeremiah O'Keefe was born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, on July 12, 1923. He served in World War II as a Marine fighter pilot. Following the war, he earned a degree in Business Administration and went to work with his father in the O'Keefe Funeral Home in Biloxi. He served four years in the Mississippi State Legislature and was mayor of Biloxi for eight years between 1973 and 1981. Mr. O'Keefe has been active in civic affairs and political activities his entire life.

Oral history.; Dr. Leo Orris was born in 1916 in Arlington, Massachussetts. He studied public health and medicine, and after serving in the United States Army during and after World War II, he and his wife Trudy were active in advocating for civil rights. They worked in New York to support civil rights advocacy in Mississippi, and they also spent time in Mississippi, treating patients and educating the black population on infectious diseases.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on 1995 November 21 with Dr. Peter Orris (born 1945). Dr. Orris participated in his first civil rights demonstration when he was only eleven. In 1964, he was recruited to participate in the Summer Project in Mississippi. Orris was also responsible for coordinating communications for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic Convention of 1964 and for installing two-way radios in all of the SNCC cars in the state.

Oral history.; Mr. Lee Owens, Jr. was born on May 7, 1921, in Natchez, Mississippi. As a child, Mr. Owens worked in a cotton field for half a day while attending school for half a day. Because his parents could not afford to send him to school, he stopped attending in the second grade and worked in the cotton fields full-time. In 1939, Mr. Owens went to work at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was drafted into military service based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. He survived major hurricanes in 1947 and in 1969. In the 1960s, Mr. Owens participated in some of the beach wade-ins along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, helping to desegregate those public beaches. Before the legalization of gambling and the development of casinos on the Gulf Coast waterfront, Mr. Owens recalls that there was illegal gambling along Main Street where many nightclubs lined the street.

Oral history.; Lee Owens Jr. was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1921. In 1941, he moved to Biloxi in order to work on the building of Keesler Field (now Keesler Air Force Base). He was present at the Wade-Ins on Biloxi Beach and was encircled by hostile white protesters.

Oral history.; Interview conducted with Jack Pace. Jack Alfred Pace was born in Conehatta, Mississippi, in Newton County in March 1917. After graduating from Philadelphia High School, Pace went to Decatur, East Central Junior College on a football scholarship. He contracted malarial fever before starting school. Pace moved to Hattiesburg in November 1937, took out a loan for $200 to buy a service station. He was drafted into the Army in March 1942. Stationed at Camp Shelby for a short time, Pace was then transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. He was deployed to Liverpool, England, then France, Holland, and eventually Stolberg, Germany. He was stationed in Berlin after Germanys surrender. Pace spent a total of two years overseas. After returning from World War II, Pace, who was working for the Sinclair Refining Company at the time, married Mary Louise Barksdale in March 1946. They met while she was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Pace joined the American Legion soon after returning from Europe. He became state commander of the legion, and ran successfully for the state senate. He was elected in 1959 and inaugurated in January 1960. He served from 1960-64 and then from 1969-72. Mississippis ban on the selling of alcohol was overturned during Pace's first term.

Oral history.; Page discusses his family, his experiences as a black physician, the civil rights movement, his work in state politics, and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Oral history.; Robinson discusses her participation with the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Oral history.; Interview with Bilbo Rodgers conducted on May 26, 2000. Bilbo Rodgers was born in Louisville, Mississippi in 1924. He worked on the farm with his family as a child, and joined the United States Army in 1943 at the age of 18. Rodgers shipped to England with the 490 Battalion and participated in the D-Day landing in France. He returned to Mississippi in 1945 and finished eleventh and twelfth grades. Rodgers moved to the coast in 1949 in search of a job, and in 1950 was hired by the International Paper Company, where he worked for 35 years.

Oral history.; Three interviews conducted on October 23, 29, and 30, 1996 with Hollis Watkins (born 1941), the twelfth child of sharecroppers. Mr. Watkins was jailed for participating in the Woolsworth's lunch counter sit-in in McComb and a walk-out at the McComb high school. He also worked with Vernon Dahmer for voter registration and later started the Holmes County Project. He was president of Southern Echo at the time of the interview.

Oral history.; Robert Hitt Neill is a writer and speaker who farmed in the Mississippi Delta region for 20 years before publication of his first book in 1986. Neill is now widely published and a frequent presenter and storyteller. He conducted a series of interviews for the Children of the Right Oral History Project.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on April 7, 2009 with George Jackson Sr. George Jackson, Sr. is from Jackson, Mississippi. He became a singer at a young age and sang to pay his way through college and a master's degree in education from Jackson College (now Jackson State University). Through his marriage, he became connected to Leake County and the Harmony community. Harmony was a historic black community that had created and supported its own school. In 1961, the county closed down Harmony High School to bus the students to Warner Grove High School across town. The community protested and insisted if their school was going to be closed, then the students would go to the local white school, Carthage High School. The Leake County chapter of the NAACP was organized in the Jackson family residence. The NAACP sued for integration. The integration of Carthage High School is the first court-mandated school integration in the state of Mississippi. The Harmony community also served as a base for members of CORE during the voter registration movement in the summer of 1964. George Jackson spent his later years working in the Jackson Public School system. He served for years running a GED program designed to provide students with trade skills as well as prepare them for higher education. Recently George Jackson Sr. has been working at Lanier High School running the Algebra Project. This project is a new approach to teaching algebra to high school students based on real life applications.

Oral history.; An interview conducted on July 16, 2007 with Angelia Gray, a food and beverage director at a Hattiesburg hotel. She describes her experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina at home and at work in Hattiesburg, MS.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on June 5, 1999 with Victoria Gray Adams at the McCain Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi. Victoria Gray Adams was a prominent civil rights activist from Palmer's Crossing, Mississippi. She became known for her work in Hattiesburg and in constructing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Raised on a farm in the self-contained African American community of Palmer's Crossing, she strove to be self-sufficient. Through her work with the Citizenship Education Program, Gray Adams began to work with the Civil Rights Movement proper and was a pillar of the African American community in and around Hattiesburg.

Oral history.; Duncan Montgomery Gray Jr. attended high school in Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from Central High, Jackson, in 1944. He earned an electrical engineering degree at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1948 and received a commission in the U.S. Navy that same year. He worked for two years for the Westinghouse Corporation before entering seminary at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, where he earned his M.Div. degree in 1953. In 1972, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of the South. After being ordained deacon in April, 1953, and priest in October, 1953, by his father, Bishop Duncan M. Gray of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, he served in numerous leadership positions in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Gray has also been active in many civic and community affairs, both locally and statewide.

Oral history.; Interview conducted May 29, 2002 in James Gray's office. James Gray, Jr. was born on February 24, 1941, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The family moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi when Gray was three years old, and he has lived there ever since. Gray went to school in Claiborne County and he attended the Archer School and the Claiborne County Training School in Port Gibson. Gray left school during his tenth grade year to work to support his mother, his sister and himself. Some of GrayΓÇÖs jobs include gas station attendant, auto mechanic, auto salesman, service manager and work as a carpenter. Gray has also served as assistant fire chief and was then promoted to county fire chief, where he worked for twenty-five years before he retired in 2004. During the civil rights struggle, Gray attempted to register to vote, but was denied. After the legislature changed how districts would elect officials, Gray decided to run for office. In 1966, his first try for an elected office was unsuccessful, however, he was encouraged to try again. Then, in 1967, he ran for the office of Election Commissioner and he won. Gray has served Claiborne County now approaching forty years, the longest-held elected office in Mississippi.

Oral history.; An interview conducted on October 27, 2005 with Lamar Gray. Mr. Gray describes the damage to his business caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Oral history.; Interview conducted March 19, 1999. Gray was born December 27, 1914 in Beat Five, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. Gray discusses his education, joining the Mississippi Highway Patrol, transporting Mississippi's electric chair, race relations and politics in Mississippi, and the changes he had experienced since the civil rights movement.

Oral history.; An interview conducted on October 5, 2005 with Kate Greene. Ms. Greene discusses her experience during and after Hurricane Katrina in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on December 14, 1972 with Mr. Percy Greene at his office in Jackson, Mississippi. Greene was born on September 7, 1897 in Jackson, Mississippi and died on April 16, 1977. He was very active in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. After serving in World War I, he returned to Jackson, Mississippi. In 1927, he organized the National Association of Negro War Veterans and by 1932 there were chapters in 8 states with 12,000 members. In 1939, he became founder, owner, publisher and editor of the Jackson Advocate newspaper in Jackson. Greene was pictured in Life magazine casting his vote after leading African Americans to the polls to vote in a Democratic primary election for the first time in the history of the state of Mississippi in 1964.

Oral history.; An interview conducted on November 12, 1997 with Winifred Green. Winifred Green was born in 1937 and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She formed the group Mississippians for Public Education with four other women in the mid 1960s to explore plans for peaceful desegregation of the state's public schools and to fight against freedom of choice desegregation. She worked in the civil rights movement in Lowndes County, Mississippi.

Oral history.; An interview conducted on June 18, 1980 with Charles Hudson Griffin (born 1926). Griffin served in the office of U. S. Congressman John Bell Williams until 1968 when he campaigned for the position himself. He served three terms before returning to Mississippi in 1973. Mr. Griffin also served a four year term as Secretary of the Senate of Mississippi beginning in 1980.

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