Well, the turkey is roasting, the pies are cooling and family and friends are coming together to swap stories around the fire and feast, feast, feast. Before we begin the Thanksgiving bacchanalia, I wanted to invite you to share your thoughts about what we Mississippi preservationists should give thanks for as we pass the sticky buns and sip Champagne.
As I reflect and give thanks for the many special churches, school buildings and bridges that create the historic landscape of Mississippi, it is the stories of the individuals and organizations that fought long and hard to save these places that come first and foremost to mind.
Every day, local heroes work to raise funds and garner support to restore the buildings that embody the history and future of their towns. As Bill Gatlin writes, “I am thankful for the local preservationists who speak up for their community’s important places, even when it may not be the most popular position, especially with the political leaders.” Indomitable ladies like Betty Magee in Ocean Springs and Betsy Rowell in Hattiesburg come to mind, Mississippi’s greatest treasures, who bravely face opposition and naysayers to do the right thing for their communities.
Jessica Crawford, who is working to save Prospect Hill, shared her thoughts about what makes Mississippi preservationists so special. “I’m thankful for volunteers and people who help by offering the most valuable things they have, their time and energy. Many people care about historic preservation and offer moral support, encouragement or their name on a petition- everyone makes a difference. I’m thankful that I’m able to work in the field of preservation and spend my time meeting these people and working with them. Life would be so dull without them!” Jessica mentioned the pioneering preservation efforts of groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames, which put me in mind of the vigilant care the Biloxi Council of Garden Clubs has shown for decades in the rescue, restoration and ongoing support of the Old Brick House.
Jennifer Baughn echoed the sentiment that without our stalwart preservationists, life in Mississippi would be a poorer place indeed. “I’m thankful for local preservationists who take time from their busy lives to advocate for the preservation of their special buildings. This fall, we lost Mr. Q.R. Dillon, who spearheaded the preservation of one of the last few Rosenwald schools in the state, Walthall County Training School in Walthall County. Mr. Dillon graduated from WCTS in 1942 and became one of the first African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific in World War II and was wounded at Peleliu. He returned as principal at WCTS after attending Jackson State, Tuskegee and North Carolina Central, and later served on the Walthall County School Board. He was also minister of music at the Antioch M.B. Church, which stands next to the school. In my job, I have been blessed to meet many people working for their communities with great energy and passion. Mr. Dillon was one of these, and I’m thankful for his life and work and for the opportunity to work with him.”
So, before diving into that pecan pie (with whipped cream please!), take a moment to give a shout-out to that special preservationist in your community who is working to save and renew the historic treasures that make Mississippi a place for which we can all be thankful.
Categories: Historic Preservation