Dr. Alphonso Willis
Dr. Alphonso Willis was a premier student at Earl Travillion Attendance Center. He entered Tougaloo College after his junior year in high school, where he graduated in three years, summa cum laude, with a degree in chemistry. Four years later, he received his medical degree from Harvard University. He was commissioned an Army captain and spent ten years in the Army Medical Corps. In 1997, he returned to Hattiesburg and practiced medical oncology at the Cancer Center until his retirement.
Percy W. Watson
Percy W. Watson graduated from Rowan High School as valedictorian of his class. Watson earned a full scholarship to the University of Iowa, where he graduated after three years with a B. A. in political science and went on to attend the University of Iowa College of Law, receiving his J. D. in just two years. After practicing law for a few years in Alaska, Watson moved back to Hattiesburg to establish the Watson Law Firm. In addition, he is a longtime member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for the 103rd District.
Judge Johnny Williams
Johnny Lee Williams is a retired attorney and Senior Chancery judge. He was appointed to the 10th Chancery District of Mississippi by Governor Kirk Fordice in 1996 and remained until his retirement in 2018. A respected community leader, Williams has served on numerous boards and community groups, as well as pastor of Truelight Missionary Baptist Church.
Ruby Wilson taught for 12 years in the Hattiesburg Public School District before moving to Spring Valley, New York. She received her bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College and a master’s degree from St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York. Wilson, a talented singer and pianist, taught piano lessons to community members. In 1968, she became one of the charter members of the Theta Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Thelma Williams was an entrepreneur who founded Williams Cleaners on Historic Mobile Street. She was one of the first female owners of a full-service dry cleaner serving Hattiesburg’s African American community.
Catherine Wilson was an employee of Woolworth during the days of segregation. She was one of the first African Americans to be employed in a national retail establishment in Hattiesburg.
Dr. Martin Luther Smith
Martin Luther Smith was born and raised in Hattiesburg, MS. He earned his medical degree from Meharry Medical School in Nashville and went on to practice medicine in Lorman, Mississippi, at what became Alcorn State University. He also practiced in Hattiesburg and Muskegon Heights, Michigan, before he moved permanently to Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Smith would often speak at health functions and promote wellness initiatives during his time in Hattiesburg.
Robert George Porter
Robert George Porter was a well-known businessman who owned Porter’s Café, Liberty Cab Company, and Porter’s Hotel on Historic Mobile Street.
Jesse Parker was a community leader who was the first African American to serve on the Hattiesburg School Board. Throughout his life, he worked with the local Boy Scouts and became employed as one of the first coordinators for Boy/Cub Scouts in the African American community.
Marjorie Chambers was a beloved longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. She was one of the first African American teachers to teach at Hattiesburg High School after desegregation. Her passion for education led her to spend 47 years in the classroom as a social studies teacher.
Wynema Patrick was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. She taught at Mary Bethune Elementary School and at Eureka Elementary during the course of her career.
Lillie McLaurin was a businessowner. She owned and operated a newspaper stand. McLaurin provided opportunities for youth in the community.
Charles and Mamie Phillips
Charles and Mamie Phillips were community and business leaders as well as civil rights activists. They owned and operated the In-and-Out Lunch Bar on Tipton Street for many years. They were also the first and longtime managers of the Francis Street Apartments.
Lillie Bolden Knight
Lillie Bolden Knight was a community nurse who served in Dr. Charles Smith’s office for many years, often making house calls. Her commitment to the African American community made her a neighborhood caretaker. She continued as a nurse at Methodist Hospital after Dr. Smith’s office closed.
Ellie J. Dahmer
Ellie J. Dahmer is a long-term educator and the wife of Vernon Dahmer, Sr. Dahmer contributed to the Civil Rights Movement alongside her husband and advocated for literacy and academic achievement. She and her husband facilitated voter registration drives and accepted poll tax monies at their family-owned grocery store to fight voter suppression and promote civil involvement throughout the area. Dahmer also served as the Election Commissioner for District 2 of Forrest County for 12 years and played a pivotal role in getting her husband’s murder case reopened. Mrs. Dahmer received an honorary doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2019.
Henry Craft served in the United States Air Force for 21 years. For more than five decades, Craft also served the Boy Scouts of America in numerous roles. In 1993, he was named Scout Master of the Nation, also receiving the Silver Beaver Award the same year. In 2003, the Junior Auxiliary of Hattiesburg named him Humanitarian of the Year. Craft was also instrumental in the preservation of the Historic East Sixth Street USO, now home to the African American Military History Museum.
Operated and owned Rebecca’s Grocery, a full-service store with a meat market that served the East Jerusalem community for more than 50 years.
Fannie Lou Knight
Fannie Lou Knight was a well-known lifelong educator and mentor. She taught her entire career in the Hattiesburg Public School District. Upon her retirement, she focused on bringing education to all through her GED classes.
Vermester Jackson Bester
Vermester Jackson Bester was an honors graduate of L.J. Rowan High School, and one of the first African Americans to integrate William Carey College in 1965. She taught math in Texas and Hattiesburg Public Schools for 40 years.
Dr. Kate Aseme
Dr. Kate Aseme is a retired local physician who is revered in the community. She was the first female African American general surgeon in the State of Mississippi and later became the Chief Medical Officer of Forrest General Hospital.
Eddie Pope, Sr.
Eddie Pope Sr. was a civil servant and former athlete. A renowned Hattiesburg Public School District athlete, Pope went on to play professional football with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League while also serving as a member of the Hattiesburg Police Department.
Alfred Blackwell Silsby Todd was an educator and mentor. For more than 30 years, he served as principal, teacher, and coach in the Hattiesburg Public School District. At Eureka High School, he served as a football, basketball and track coach. Later, he would go on to be the first principal of Earl Travillion Attendance Center.
Charlene Bourn Owens
Charlene Bourn Owens, a graduate of Eureka High School, was an entrepreneur and owner of several businesses during her lifetime. Kiddy Haven Kindergarten, Charlene’s Realty, Golden Gate Funeral Home, The Style Shop, were just some of the businesses collectively known as Charlene’s Enterprises. Owens was active in numerous civic organizations and was a lifetime member of the NAACP.
Iola Craft Williams
Iola Craft Williams, a graduate of Eureka High School, was a well-respected civil servant and community leader. She served many years as Vice-Mayor of San Jose, California before retiring back to her childhood home of Hattiesburg. On her return, she was the catalyst who saved the historic Sixth Street USO Club and created the African American Military History Museum. She was active in many community organizations including as a Board Member of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
Alvin Williams, who along with his wife owned Williams Dry Cleaners, was a lifelong community servant. He was instrumental in all of the Freedom Summer activities in 1964.
Callie McLaurin owned and operated Callie’s Café on Historic Mobile Street. Ms. Callie’s reputation for food and fun made it the central eatery in the African American community for many years.
Frankie Benton, Sr.
Frankie Benton Sr. was a WWII veteran, neighborhood organizer, businessman, activist, and civil rights worker. His community involvement included the NAACP, Board Member of the First Community Action Program, President of Concerned Citizens of Palmers Crossing and other organizations. Mr. Benton’s businesses included the 1st Parcel Delivery service, auto sales, a janitorial service, a laundromat and developer of the Benton Estates Subdivision.
Vivian Cole Route Dyess
Vivian Cole Dyess was an elementary teacher at W.H. Jones Elementary School. Dyess had a 35-year teaching career and was known for never missing a day. In addition, she served as a president of the Mobile-Bouie Neighborhood Association, as well as Sunday superintendent at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in addition to playing the piano.
Charles J. Brown
Charles J. Brown is a community and military leader who served in the Vietnam War. Brown’s bravery in Vietnam earned him numerous medals and a feature in the History Channel’s documentary Vietnam in HD. Brown has been actively involved in several organizations including the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, EUROHA, the African American Military History Museum Committee and others.
Clarence Edward Roy was a well-known and long-time leader in the Hattiesburg Public School District, especially at Eureka School. In addition to serving as Principal, he was also simultaneously the coach of several school sports teams and the band leader.
Charlie Hayes, a standout baseball player, graduated from Forrest County Agricultural High School. He was an ace pitcher in the 1977 Little League World Series and was drafted to play for Major League Baseball in 1988. He played for several teams from 1988 – 2001 even helping the Yankees win the 1996 World Series.
Mattie Townsend was an early childhood educator, musician and community leader. She used her talents to serve at Antioch Baptist Church and taught music to local children. Townsend was an advocate of early childhood education and used her passion to open her own preschool program and later worked as a pediatric assistant.
Clara Hunter was a business owner, civil rights activist and community leader. Hunter owned an early childhood development center and was very active in the NAACP and the East Jerusalem community of Hattiesburg.
Winfred Hudson was a graduate of Eureka High School and Grambling University. After a successful collegiate athletic and academic career, Hudson became a teacher and assistant coach at Rowan High School. Coaching alongside Coach Edward Steele, he helped lead the Rowan Tigers to undefeated status numerous consecutive years.
Deborah Denard Delgado
Deborah Denard Delgado is community activist, developer and leader. She became the first African American woman to become a councilwoman for the City of Hattiesburg where she continues to serve. She established the Mobile Street Renaissance Festival in 2006 which highlights the history of Historic Mobile Street. In addition, Delgado spearheaded the Twin Forks Rising initiative in 2009 – a redevelopment projected aimed at revitalizing the Mobile Bouie, East Jerusalem, and Katy-John Dabbs neighborhoods.
Following her retirement as a local laundress in 1995, Miss Oseola McCarty gained national attention when she donated her life savings to set up a scholarship endowment at The University of Southern Mississippi to help worthy but needy students seeking an education. Her generosity was recognized nationally and internationally leading to honors from the White House, United Nations and Harvard University, as well as national publicity from Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, and President Bill Clinton.
Dr. Douglas L. Parris
Dr. Douglas L. Parris was one of the first African American physicians in Hattiesburg. He graduated from Eureka High School in 1948 and went on to graduate from Tougaloo College and Meharry Medical School. Parris was involved in various community initiatives that focused on bettering the overall health of the African American community.
Berry Neal was a community leader and U.S. Army veteran. He received numerous military decorations for his heroic service in the Spanish American War. In 1948, he became the leader of the first VFW Post for African Americans in Hattiesburg. In addition, Neal was one of fifteen African American men who filed suit against the Forrest County Registrar of Voters for blocking the ability of African Americans to register to vote.
Rev. Jesse Charles Killingsworth
Reverend Jesse Charles Killingsworth was pastor of Bentley Chapel UMC. He worked tirelessly to advance civil rights in Hattiesburg. In 2009, a road in Hattiesburg was renamed to J.C. Killingsworth Drive in honor of Rev. Killingsworth.
Dr. Charles E. Smith
Dr. Charles E. Smith graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1957 and began his practice of medicine in Hattiesburg in 1958. He was one of the founders for the Francis Street Apartments. Smith served as president of the Forrest County Chapter of the NAACP from 1967 – 1972 and was an active member until his death in 1986.
Harold Jackson is a former NFL wide receiver and football coach. Jackson graduated from Rowan High School and attended Jackson State University before being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. His football career includes seven NFL teams as a player and 12 teams as a coach, both collegiate and professional.
J.C. Fairley was a businessman, civil rights leader, and community advocate. He was very active in the Freedom Summer events of 1964. He was the owner of Fairley’s Radio and TV Repairs on Historic Mobile Street.
Annie Bell Howze
Annie Bell Howze was an entrepreneur, business owner and real estate investor. She owned and operated a grocery store on the corner of 9ᵗʰ and Whitney in addition to managing fifteen rental homes.
Annie Parris McGee
Annie McGee was the first female African American police officer of the City of Hattiesburg. She rose to the rank of Captain and retired after 28 years of service.
“Charlie Boy” Hales, a local businessman, purchased school buses to provide transportation for African American students that did not have transport to school. In addition, he provided charter transport to other activities such as church events, boy scouts and special events across the state among others.
Betty Wilson Moore
Betty Moore was a longtime school teacher at W.H. Jones Elementary. She was instrumental in the youth division at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. In 1968, she became one of the charter members of the Theta Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Victoria Gray Adams
Victoria Gray Adams was a civil rights activist and community leader from Palmer’s Crossing. She was a leader in the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Gray was the first woman to run for national office in Mississippi.
David Wynn served a Colonel in the United States Army National Guard. Later, he would work at the Mississippi Highway Patrol where he retired with the rank of Major. Wynn was appointed to Police Chief for the City of Hattiesburg in 2001. He was the first African American to be appointed to this position and remained in this role until 2007. After his serving as Police Chief, Wynn accepted a position as Security Director at TSA Homeland Security.
Daisy Harris Wade
Daisy Harris Wade was a graduate of Eureka High School. Wade was a civil rights and community leader. She was known for housing fellow activists in the local civil rights movement and during Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964). She served as secretary for WDAM-TV, WORV Radio, and the Forrest County branch of the NAACP while also committing herself to office work for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), Forrest County Action Committee (FCAC).
Reverend Johnny Cameron
Rev. John Cameron is a native of Hattiesburg and a graduate of Springfield Vocational High School, Class of 1951. He is a pioneer, leader and civil rights worker known for working on voter registration campaigns with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He served as Director of the Hattiesburg Minister’s Project and was the first African American to run for Congress in Mississippi’s 5th Congressional District since Reconstruction. He served as Pastor of Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church in Hattiesburg and currently serves as Pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, MS for 52+ years.
Ervin Earl Carr
Ervin Carr was an educator and mentor. He taught for 18 years before accepting the position as principal at Earl Travillion Attendance Center in 1979. He led that school until his retirement in 1997.
Dr. Eddie Holloway
Dr. Eddie Holloway is a retired educator and former elected official. Holloway served over forty years at the University of Southern Mississippi including as Dean of Students, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Professor of Psychology, and other positions. He was one the first African American members of the Hattiesburg City Council, serving sixteen years of which twelve were as council president or vice president.
Emmanuel “Earl” Williams was a lifelong business owner who earned a living as a licensed barber. He spent more than five decades on Historic Mobile Street serving the community.
George Jackson was a skilled mechanic and business owner. His Eastside Body Shop was a key business in the African American community. In addition, he owned Eastside Coffee Shop, a full-service restaurant.
Verlon Bourn was a successful businessman who owned the Love Building which housed several businesses. This unique business location housed his liquor store and insurance company and an entertainment space as well as other businesses.
Emma Jean McGowan
Emma Jean McGowan was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. She taught second grade at Mary Bethune Elementary.
Iva E. Sandifer
Iva E. Sandifer was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. She required all of her English and Literature students to recite Shakespearean sonnets which made her a favorite among her many students.
James H. Ratliff, Jr.
James H. Ratliff, Jr. was a graduate of Eureka High School who worked in the Hattiesburg Public School District for many years. Ratliff devotedly served as a science teacher, an award winning choir director, assistant principal and principal at several schools within the District. In addition, he was a longtime member of Truelight Missionary Baptist Church as well as a Hattiesburg Tourism Commissioner.
Dorie & Joyce Ladner
Dorie and Joyce Ladner, sisters and community leaders, grew up in the Palmer’s Crossing area, and both became civil rights activists who were integral in Freedom Summer of 1964. The sisters organized for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Dorie was arrested for her efforts in attempting to integrate the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson. Later, Joyce pursued a Ph.D. in sociology and Dorie pursued her Masters in social work. Both women remain active in civic and civil matters. Dorie Ladner is a social worker, civil rights activist and community leader. Dr. Joyce Ladner is an author, civil rights activist, sociologist, and former interim president of Howard University.
Milton Barnes, Sr.
Milton Barnes, Sr. was an active businessman and community leader. He established numerous well-known businesses including: Barnes Cleaners, The Embassy Club, The Hi-Hat Club, Barnes Construction Company and the famous Hattiesburg Black Sox semi-professional baseball team.
Juruthin Woullard was a longtime educator and principal in the Hattiesburg Public School District. In 1968, she became one of the founding members of the Theta Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Ruth Howze Abrams
Ruth Howze Abrams, a Hattiesburg Public School District elementary teacher, was a community piano teacher for over 30 years. In addition, she served as the music director for Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. All who took lessons from her remember…”we always start with the scales.”
Nathaniel R. Burger
Nathaniel R. “N.R.” Burger, a graduate of Eureka High School in 1928, was a well-respected educator and community leader. He served as principal at Eureka, Royal Street and Rowan High Schools for many years. In addition, he established South Mississippi’s first Boy Scouts troop for African Americans.
W. H. Jones
William Harrison Jones was a lifelong proponent of education and opportunities for quality education in the African American community. Jones used his platform at an event in the early 1900s to discuss the state of African American schools which resulted in the funding of Eureka High School – the first high school in Hattiesburg for African American students.
Freddie “Mr. Empire” Trotter is a local entertainer that moved to Las Vegas after attaining success in Mississippi. He has performed all over the world nationally and internationally using his stage name, Freddie Empire.
Ruth Bailey Earl
Ruth Bailey Earl graduated as salutatorian of Eureka High School in 1936. After high school, she attended nursing school in Dothan, AL. Earl joined the United States Army in 1942 as second lieutenant and served as a WWII nurse. An image of her in uniform circulated worldwide for many years symbolizing the unbreakable spirit of the African American female soldier. Her likeness is prominent at the African American Military History Museum. Before joining the Army, Earl was very involved in numerous community health affairs in Hattiesburg.
Clinton “Doug” Smith
Clinton “Doug” Smith was a community leader and civil rights activist. Though a teenager, he was actively involved in Freedom Summer of 1964. He was co-coordinator and District Director, (covering 16 counties) for the Council of Federated Organization (COFO). He also served as the Field Secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served 22 years in the United States Army.
Walter Crosby was one of the first African American Highway Patrolmen in the State of Mississippi and the first from Hattiesburg. He is a 1968 graduate of Rowan High.
Dr. Gloria Bryant
Dr. Gloria Hullum Bryant was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. She later became one of the first African American professors at USM.
Dr. Jimmie James, Jr.
Dr. Jimmie James was an educator and musician. He is best known as “The Voice of The Sonic Boom of the South” at Jackson State University.
Gracie Hawthorn was a civil rights activist and because of her image being featured on the cover of Bobs M. Tusa’s book, The Faces of Freedom Summer, she became known as “the face of Freedom Summer”. She was integral in Freedom Summer of 1964 activities and was actively engaged in getting African Americans registered to vote.
Purvis & Eugene Short
Purvis and Eugene Short were star athletes and brothers. They both went on to play basketball in the National Basketball Association. Purvis played for 13 seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets, while Eugene played two seasons with the New York Knicks and Seattle Supersonics.
Henry McFarlin, Jr.
Henry McFarlin, Jr. was a civic leader, community advocate and long-time employee of the City of Hattiesburg. He was a member of the Executive Board of the Forrest County NAACP for many years.
Ernest Vaughn, Sr.
Ernest Vaughn, Sr. was a local businessman and founder of Vaughn Cleaners. He was known for precision work and a commitment to his customers.
James L. Boykins, Jr.
James L. Boykins, Jr. was an extraordinary educator and principal in the Hattiesburg Public School District, owner and president of Century Funeral Home and the first African American elected as Forrest County District 4 Supervisor. In the 2000’s, the legal name of Old Hwy 42 was changed to James Boykins Memorial Drive, in memory of the first African American elected official in Forrest County.
Grace and Mary Love
Grace and Mary Love, a mother and daughter pair, were both longtime educators in Hattiesburg Public Schools for several years. Grace Love taught elementary students for more than five decades. Mary Love followed in her mother’s footsteps and taught elementary school at Eureka School for most of her 40-year teaching career. Both educators were celebrated, and a Hattiesburg school was named in honor of Grace Love.
James Cohen was a well-respected businessman, pharmacist, and community leader. Upon receiving his degree from Xavier University, he began working at Smith Drug Company as a pharmacist alongside E. Hammond Smith, whom he eventually purchased the business. In addition to operating Cohen Drug Company, he was involved in numerous organizations such as the NAACP, the Hattiesburg Association for Civic Improvement, and the South Mississippi Business Association.
Dr. Alfred Simpson, Sr.
Alfred Simpson was a star athlete at Rowan High School, who as senior quarterback led the undefeated team to capture the “Black Big Eight State Championship.” Dedicating his life to higher education, he received his doctorate in engineering and technology from Ohio State University and served as a professor at West Virginia State College for several years and then for 25 years at California University of Pennsylvania (now Penn West).
Jessie Patrick, a prominent local educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District, taught math and served as Principal of Eureka Elementary School in the 1960’s.
Eddie Williams was a local businessman and entrepreneur. He founded Eddie Williams Dry Cleaners on Historic Mobile Street and flourished serving soldiers training at Camp Shelby during WWII.
Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown
Jesse Leroy Brown graduated as salutatorian of Eureka High School in 1944. From there, he attended Ohio State University where he joined the Navy’s flight training program. In 1948, Brown made history becoming the Navy’s first African American aviator. He was killed in action on December 4, 1950, while serving his country in the Korean conflict. His legacy is honored in his hometown and worldwide. Devotion, a movie about Ensign Brown’s military service, was released in November 2022.
Levator Jackson was a staple of the community, known for her domestic work and provided assistance wherever needed. Jackson also played an integral role in Freedom Summer of 1964.
King Montgomery Patton
King Montgomery Patton was a local business owner and welcome sight to many a customer. As a licensed barber, Patton who served the African American community on Historic Mobile Street for many years.
Richard Pepper Jones
Richard “Pepper” Jones was a community and civic leader. He was very active in the Pine Belt Head Start program, NAACP, Area Development Partnership and other organizations. His passion was to strengthen the relationship between local universities and business community.
Larry “Pooh Bear” Whigham is a graduate of the Hattiesburg Public School District and a former National Football League player. He played collegiate football at Pearl River Junior College and the University of Louisiana-Monroe. In the NFL, he played for the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears.
E.W. Hall was a respected business and community leader. He co-founded Hall and Collins Funeral Home.
Mattie Newsome was a restaurant owner and lifelong resident of Hattiesburg. With her well-known Mobile Street café operating smoothly, Newsome then opened the area’s first African American-owned cosmetology school on the second floor above the restaurant.
Douglass T. Baker
Douglass T. Baker was a community leader and attorney. He integrated the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1965 and became one of the first African Americans to earn a Juris Doctor at Ole Miss. As a classical pianist, Baker wrote plays and music for programs at Baker’s Preschool and often performed at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.
Myrtle Smith, wife of Dr. Charles Smith, was active in the African American community serving as president of the Eureka High School PTA, the Women’s Auxiliary of Mississippi Medical Association, and was a member of the Green Thumb Original Home and Garden Club, American Legion Auxiliary, Business and Professional Women’s Club and Federated Club. During World War II, she was served as a volunteer at the East Sixth Street USO Club.
Valerie and Roscoe Fountain
Valeria and Roscoe Fountain were entrepreneurs and community leaders. They owned and operated Fountain Grocery on Historic Mobile Street. Valeria also was an elementary school teacher and pianist for Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.
Robert and Carolyn Abrams
Robert and Carolyn Abrams are both community leaders, educators and theologians. Carolyn was the Director Librarian at William Carey University for 14 years. She then joined her husband Robert in attending the Emory University Candler School of Theology. As United Methodist minister parents, the Abrams taught their children to strive “to make things better for others.”
Garretta Burkett was a local businesswoman and restaurateur. She owned and operated the Early Bird Restaurant located on Historic Mobile Street which was known for its delicious yeast rolls.
Terry Leggett was a Eureka High School graduate and renowned saxophonist. His lifelong passion for music led him to create and lead, Terry Leggett and the Jewels of Swings, a popular local band. More importantly, Leggett brought music to most African American schools throughout Mississippi during the days of segregation during his more than 40 years at Mississippi Music, one of the state’s largest musical instrument and audio services company.
Dr. Yvonne Bryant
Dr. Yvonne Bryant was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School System. She served for a total of 37 years beginning as a teacher at Hawkins Elementary and retired as principal at Hattiesburg High School (HHS). Bryant was named the State of Mississippi Administrator of the Year in 2000. Beloved by all, the ninth-grade academy at HHS was named Bryant Hall in her honor.
Willie Simpson and Family
Willie Simpson was one of the early registrants of African American voters in Mississippi. He worked at Hercules Corporation and was a staple in the community and an active member of St. Paul Methodist Church.
Ora Lee Shaheed
Ora Lee Shaheed is a Rowan High School graduate. She began working at Forrest General Hospital as a nurse in 1975. During her 44 years at Forrest General, she became Vice President, System Chief Nursing Officer, Vice President of Patient Care Services, and managed the E.R., Laboratory, Pharmacy, Education, Patient Care, Orthopedic Institute, the Cardiac Unit and several other areas. In 1985, she opened and managed Forrest General’s Open Heart Surgery Unit and Shaheed was promoted to Director of Nursing in 1989. She served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard, she is a board member of the Forrest General Foundation and a member of the University of Southern Mississippi Nursing Advisory Council. She served as flight nurse during her military career and at FGH.
Willie "Pig" Stokes, Jr.
Willie “Pig” Stokes, Jr. Stokes was a premiere athlete at all sports at Earl Travillion High, but after high school, concentrated on his true passion, baseball. He was an employee of Milton Barnes Enterprises and was a standout baseball player and later coach and manager for the Hattiesburg Black Sox – a semi-professional baseball team.
Vernon Dahmer, Sr.
Vernon Dahmer, Sr. was a businessman, community and civil rights leader. He served as president of the Hattiesburg NAACP chapter and was a prominent and well-respected leader in the Freedom Summer 64’ project. Dahmer was a driving force for educating and getting African American in Hattiesburg registered to vote. He was murdered January 10, 1966 for his civil rights activities.
Charles Marshall is a community and civic leader and former long-time elected Supervisor for Forrest County. He is an active duty veteran of the Vietnam War serving in the US Navy, Naval Reserve and Mississippi National Guard. He is also an industry leader working with the Hercules Corporation for over 26 years.
Judge Deborah Gambrell-Chambers
Judge Deborah Gambrell-Chambers is a well-known jurist and community leader. In 1980, she became the first African American elected to serve as Forrest County Justice Court Judge. In 2011, she was the first African American female appointed by the Mississippi Governor to the 10ᵗʰ District Chancery Court bench, where she serves today.
Peggy Jean Gould Connor
Peggy Jean Gould Connor was a lifelong resident of Hattiesburg and owner of Jean’s Beauty Parlor on Historic Mobile Street. Connor was active in the Civil Rights Movement and an integral force in Freedom Summer of 1964. Connor served as a citizenship teacher for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In 1965, Connor filed a lawsuit against then Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson contesting legislative reapportionment that contradicted the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The case ultimately went before the US Supreme Court which decided in Connor’s favor.
Dr. Johnny DuPree
Johnny DuPree is a civic and community leader. He was Hattiesburg’s first African American mayor and was the longest tenure of Mayor in Hattiesburg’s history. Prior to becoming Mayor, Dr. DuPree served as a member of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors and on the Board of the Hattiesburg Public School District.
Ed Howell was the owner of Peoples Bank, which was a Black-owned bank on Historic Mobile Street. He was a successful entrepreneur who also owned a brickyard, clothing store, and real estate agency.
Daisy Brown Thorne
Daisy Brown Thorne was a 1946 graduate of Eureka High School and a devoted educator. She taught home economics for over three decades in the Hattiesburg Public School District. Daisy was the widow of Jesse Leroy Brown, America’s first African American Naval Aviator and war hero.
Andrew Wilson was a local businessman, community leader and civil rights activist. A former employee of Hercules Corporation and a member of the Board of Directors of Trustmark Bank, he was well known for improving the financial well-being of the Black community.
Louise Davis Revere
Louise Davis Revere was the long-time manager at Smith Drug Company. She was renowned for her friendliness, customer service and overall management of the sales operations of the drug store.
Dr. Anthony Harris
Dr. Anthony Harris is an educator, author, speaker and mentor. In his more than 14 books, he draws upon life lessons learned through love, social justice, leadership, and power. As a speaker and mentor, he has led many discussions about his books and civil rights work.
Bobby Bryant was an American jazz musician, arranger, composer, soloist and music educator. He was known for playing with Vic Damone, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Della Reese, Quincy Jones, Stan Kenton, the Tonight Show Band, Earth Wind & Fire, and B. B. King.
Bert F. Fells, Sr.
Bert F. Fells, Sr. was a community activist, entrepreneur, farmer and community leader. While running his farm, he owned a baseball team and took time to serve as a member of the NAACP and on the Board of the Community Action Agency.
Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran, civil rights pioneer and martyr. Kennard made several attempts to enroll at the all-white Southern College in the 1950s. He was incarcerated on trumped-up charges which ultimately led to his death. His actions paved the way for integration at The University of Southern Mississippi in 1965.
Arvarh E. Strickland was the first African American faculty member of the University of Missouri. His common sense, civility, skills as a teacher and his wit resulted in his being named Professor Emeritus of History at the institution. The UM-Columbia campus now features the Strickland Room in the Memorial Union, the Strickland Building, and the Arvarh E. Strickland Professor Emerita position for distinguished scholars. He is a Eureka graduate and childhood member of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church.
Cozy Corley is a multi-instrumentalist, band leader, manager and producer. He is a well-known fixture along the Gulf Coast region from Florida to Texas and with his band, the Blue Gardenias, is a much-requested performer.
Billy and Miriam McBride
Billy and Miriam McBride were entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and business leaders. Together, they owned Williams Cab Stand and Williams Café on Historic Mobile Street during the first half of the 20ᵗʰ century.
Dr. David W. White, Jr.
Dr. David W. White, Jr. was born in Hattiesburg on April 21, 1914. He was a graduate of Talladega College and also attended Tougaloo College. White took a break from his academic studies to serve in the United States Army as a Chaplain Assistant during WWII. After his service, he went on to graduate from the Chicago School of Optometry, now known as Illinois College of Optometry. White became the first African American Optometrist to practice in the State of Mississippi. He practiced in the Historic Farish Street District in Jackson for more than 50 years.
Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong
Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong Chamberlin is one of the first two African Americans to enroll at The University of Southern Mississippi upon desegregation. She went on to become a recognized real estate agent in the Washington DC area.
Edward Steele was an educator, coach and mentor. As football coach of Rowan High School, he achieved the unmatched record in the State of Mississippi of ten seasons undefeated.
Douglas Gray, Sr.
Douglas Gray Sr. was a civil rights and community leader. He was an active participant in the Freedom Summer events of 1964, and went on to form a Mobile-Bouie neighborhood baseball mini-league for young men in the area. Numerous athletes he coached went on to fame in high school and collegiate athletics.
Vernon C. Floyd
Vernon Floyd was the first African American to receive a FCC license to own and operate radio stations in the State of Mississippi. He was founder of the Circuit Broadcasting Company and was known all over southern Mississippi as the owner and voice of WORV Radio.
Dr. Grover W. Smith
Dr. Grover W. Smith was a community leader and local dentist on Historic Mobile Street. He was instrumental in the development of Mobile Street as the center of commerce for Hattiesburg’s African American community during the first half of the 20ᵗʰ century.
T. J. Hall
T.J. Hall was a well-known entrepreneur and business owner. He was an operator of Hall and Collins Funeral Home.
E. Hammond Smith
Edwin Hammond Smith was a pharmacist, business leader, community leader and activist. As a licensed pharmacist, he opened, owned and operated the Smith Drug Company on Historic Mobile Street. Smith was actively engaged in civil and civic matters including participation in voter registration drives of the 1960s and was one of the first registered African American voters in the city. Smith was also one of 15 African American men who filed suit against the Forrest County Registrar of Voters for blocking the ability of African Americans to register to vote. Smith was a member of many civic organizations and was known for his support of youth sports teams.
Earlie Hudnall is a graduate of Rowan High School. Hudnall is a renowned photographer who studied art at Texas Southern University after a stint in the United States Marine Corps. While at TSU, he took on an assignment to document the lives of African Americans which led to his being named photographer for the University. His work has been featured throughout the United States including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Emmanuel T. Hall
E.T. Hall was a beloved local business and civic leader. He founded Hall Mortuary and E.T. Hall Burial Association.
Idell Parris owned and operated Rebecca’s Grocery, a full-service store with a meat market that served the East Jerusalem community for more than 50 years.
Rhoda Tademy was an educator and civic leader. She taught English in the Hattiesburg Public School District for 46 years and was known for expecting excellence from all of her students.
Willie Townes was a graduate of Rowan High School and went on to play collegiate football at the University of Tulsa, where he became one of the best defensive linemen in the school’s history. After college he joined the National Football League where he played for the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and New York Giants.
Charles Lawrence is an attorney and civic leader with a three-decade career in public service. He was one of the first African Americans elected as councilman for the City of Hattiesburg, and later went on to become Municipal Court judge and then City Attorney. He is known for his fairness and easy-going personality.
Vassie Patton was a medical professional and civil rights activist. Her role as a midwife made her special to the community. In addition to midwifery, she provided at-home healthcare prior to African Americans having access to hospitals and clinics.
Helen Curtis was a vibrant neighborhood advocate, an excellent teacher, and worked extensively in civil rights matters. She served as a key member of the NAACP in Forrest County.
Robert Earl James
Robert Earl James, a 1964 Rowan High School graduate, was one of the first African Americans to be accepted into Harvard School of Business. After earning his M.B.A. in 1970, James became president of Carver State Bank in Savannah, Georgia where he is the longest tenured African American bank president in the nation with over five decades of service. Ebony magazine named James as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans. He is also the owner of two publications – The Savannah Tribune and The Fort Valley Herald.
Alvin Eaton served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. He had a history of service for the benefit of the Hattiesburg community, including a career at WDAM-TV and involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, Forrest County NAACP, and the Hattiesburg Chamber of Commerce. Eaton was a leader in the restoration of the East Sixth Street USO, now home to the African American Military History Museum.
Dr. Walter Massey
At the age of 16, Dr. Walter Massey, a Rowan High School student, received a Ford Foundation fellowship to attend Morehouse College where he received his B.S. in physics and mathematics. He went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Massey served as President at Morehouse College from 1995 – 2007. He is a prominent educator and national leader known for his work in the fields of science and technology serving as Director the National Science Foundation and President of Bank of America.
Raylawni Adams Branch is a local community leader, Red Cross volunteer, and a United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Retired). She is one of the first two African Americans to enroll at The University of Southern Mississippi upon desegregation in 1965.
Willie Don Denard, Sr.
W.D. Denard, Sr. was a notable local photographer and business owner who offered a range of services to members of the African-American community. Denard Photography opened in 1949 and was a well-known Historic Mobile Street business especially for senior class and graduation photographs. He provided professional photography services for more than five decades. This image of him was taken in his studio prior to today’s popular “selfies.”
Charles Davis was an Air Force veteran, community organizer, and civil rights activist. Davis was an active historical researcher on African American life in Hattiesburg and State of Mississippi for many years. He remained involved in numerous organizations, including the NAACP, throughout his life.
Rev. Ralph W. Woullard, Sr.
Ralph W. Woullard, Sr. was an influential leader in Hattiesburg’s African American community. As Pastor of Antioch and Shady Grove Baptist Churches, he became an officer in the National Baptist Association and a leader in the National Baptist Convention.
Moses Bourne was a licensed barber and a successful businessman. His barbershop was located in in the Crosby Hotel in the historic Mobile-Bouie neighborhood.
Dr. Charles W. Smith
Dr. Charles Smith was a community leader and medical doctor. His medical office was on the top floor of Smith Drug Company on historic Mobile Street. Dr. Smith was very involved in community health initiatives, and he was frequently found at community events promoting health and wellness. During World War II, he provided occasional medical services to African American soldiers at the East Sixth Street USO Club.
Mitch Williams is local television personality and the former sports director at WDAM television station for more than 27 years. He now serves as the Multi-Area Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is the University of Southern Mississippi Football Team Pastor.
Melvin Cooper Sr.
Melvin Cooper Sr. was a longtime educator, entrepreneur and real estate investor. He taught math and science in the Hattiesburg Public School District while also serving as an athletic coach.
Reverend Milton Barnes Jr.
Milton Barnes, Jr. was a minister and civil rights activist. His gospel show on WORV radio station was a local favorite, but his broadcasting of Eureka High School football games was innovative and unheard of at the time.
Jobie Martin was born in Hattiesburg and attended Eureka High School before moving to Gulfport. He became the first African American Mississippian to host a commercial TV Show in the 70’s, the Jobie Martin Show. He is known for interviewing personalities such as Joe Louis, Mahalia Jackson, and James Brown.
Marie Blalock was a dedicated civil rights worker and advocate. She was instrumental in the success of the Freedom Summer events of 1964, as well as contributions to the NAACP.
Jeanette Smith was a civil rights activist and served two terms as President of the Forrest County NAACP (1977-79 and 1992-94). She was also a local business woman and was known for her tenacious commitment to civil equality and rights.
Linda Williams Cross
Linda Williams Cross is one of the first African Americans to enroll at William Carey College after desegregation in 1965. She was also one of the first African Americans employed with Mississippi Power Company.
Henry Murphy was the owner of several buildings on Historic Mobile Street, including a three story building that housed Liberty Cab Company, a public laundry, and other businesses. These businesses were on the bottom floor with the remaining floors serving as a hotel.
Lawrence Floyd Jr.
Lawrence “Junior” Floyd, Jr., an Air Force veteran, was one of the first African Americans to become a police officer for the City of Hattiesburg in 1965. He was also well-known as a semi-professional baseball player with the Hattiesburg Black Sox.
Leliar A. Williams-Bethley
Leliar A. Williams-Bethley was a local business and community leader. She was the founder and owner of Little Angels Preschool. She was known for her love for children and education.
Dr. Lawrence Naylor
Lawrence Naylor was a graduate of Rowan High School before going off to college to become a dentist. He practiced dentistry for a number of years in California before returning home to Hattiesburg. He continued his practice on Martin Luther King Drive, Katie Avenue, and in Palmer’s Crossing at the Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative. Naylor was a community leader and served as president of the Hattiesburg Chapter of the NAACP.
Constance Baker was a local community leader who helped found the Forrest-Stone Area Opportunity, Inc. from which the local Head Start program in Hattiesburg emerged. Her passion for education led her to open Baker’s Preschool.
Katherine Tatum Egland
Katherine Egland is a long-term NAACP worker. She was elected to the National Board of Directors of the NAACP in 1998 and has served as chair of the Board’s Environmental and Climate Justice Committee since the ECJ was established in 2010. She has represented the NAACP at global climate conferences in over 28 countries on 5 continents. She is co-founder and Policy/Program Director of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO).
Della Ruth Jones
Della Ruth Jones was a longtime educator in the Hattiesburg Public School District. Her career in education as a school teacher spanned several decades including years of teaching at Walthall, Eureka and Grace Christian Schools. In 1979, Mrs. Jones became principal at Eureka and was also principal at W.H. Jones and Mary Bethune Elementary Schools until her retirement in 1990.
Beatrice Holloway used her talent as a beautician to keep ladies in the community looking their best. Holloway owned and operated Bea’s Beauty Parlor on Mobile Street. She was also involved in many community initiatives with organizations such as the American Red Cross and was one of the founding members of the Variety Garden Club.
Henrietta Stevenson was a passionate, long-term educator in the Forrest County School system. She also served as the Snack Bar Manager at the Historic East Sixth Street USO during WWII.
Ruth Carter was a community leader, educator, entrepreneur and leader of the local beauticians’ association. As a Head Start instructor, she was known for her commitment to early childhood education.
Eloise T. Hopson
Eloise T. Hopson was a well-known educator at Rowan High School, where she taught English, Drama, and Theater. She created an endowed annual scholarship for graduating Hattiesburg High School students who are pursuing a degree in Education.
Birl Carr was community leader and advocate. Through his work with the Greyhound Bus Company and as a deacon at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, he was a conductor/porter of information for the African American community in the early 20ᵗʰ century.
Rev. Elijah Jones
Reverend Elijah Jones was a religious and community leader. He devoted his life to ministerial work, pastoring sixteen churches, including the building of five of them. His life focused on civic and faith-based work throughout the city.
Lucille Trotter Smith
Lucille Trotter Smith was a community leader and advocate. She was a lifelong member of the St. Paul United Methodist Church and was active in a number of community organizations.
Charlie H. Watts
Charlie H. “C.H.” Watts was a community advocate and civil servant. He worked 40 years in the public works division of the City of Hattiesburg while also founding and leading the Bethlehem Travelers, a Christian singing group. He also organized the first girls youth softball program in Hattiesburg.