| Events planned for King holiday
| Willie and Sadie Harrison of Courtland were among those present when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Batesville during the spring of 1968.
|By Billy Davis
The following Panola County events are scheduled to commemorate civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
||Friday, Jan. 14.
Boys and Girls club director Dennis Hoskins will host basketball games at the Batesville Intermediate School gym.
||Saturday, Jan. 15.
Batesville alderman Rufus Manley will host a reception for minority businesses at the Patton Lane Community Center.
The reception will begin at 6 p.m.
||Sunday, Jan. 16.
The annual commemoration musical will be held at the Sardis District Association building at 6:30 p.m.
||Monday, Jan. 17.
Martin Luther King Day will begin with a 7 a.m. commemoration breakfast at Mt. Zion Church followed by a prayer service hosted by the Sardis District Ministerial Alliance.
At 9 a.m., parade participants will begin organizing at Mt. Zion Church. The annual commemoration march will begin at 10 a.m. and proceed to the Batesville Intermediate School auditorium.
The annual commemorative service will begin at 11 a.m.
| Memories of King linger in community
|By Billy Davis
When Martin Luther King Jr. visited Batesville in 1968, Sadie Harrison elbowed her way through the crowd inside Mt. Zion Baptist Church and shook his hand.
So did her husband, Willie, but Sadie, 78, recalls things differently than her husband, now 89.
"When I shook his hand I got a bad feelin’. Somethin’ was just wrong," Sadie recalled. "I think the devil was on ‘im. I was scared for ‘im."
What Sadie means is that evil was lurking that day, following King everywhere he went on this fateful trip through North Mississippi to a hotel balcony in Memphis.
Annie Jones Ray, 55,
saw King give an "eloquent" speech that day.
The church was crammed with important people – deacons, ministers, dignitaries – as well as common folks.
Ray was there with other seniors from Patton Lane High. The students had asked school principal Robert Hyde to allow them to see King, and when he agreed, they all cheered at the news.
The crowd at Mt. Zion was excited about King’s visit but also was fearful, Ray recalled.
"We knew history was being made that day in Batesville, but people were frightened because it was a terrible time," said Ray, now employed with the Miss. Hwy. Patrol in Jackson. "Every time the church doors opened, everybody would turn and look at who was walking in."
King noticed the frightened faces and nervous looks. Ray remembers that he turned to friend Rev. Ralph Abernathy and said, "Everybody’s looking around, Ralph. I don’t guess anybody will come in here today and shoot."
King would soon drive north to Memphis, where he was speaking on behalf of striking black garbage workers.
A few days later, he would be dead.
Just as Memphis is forever shadowed by King’s death, Panola County has its own dark history with the civil rights moment.
Federal records from the 1960s record cross burnings, harassment by law enforcement and citizens, and vandals destroying the doors, windows and furnishings of a black church.
A trio of black leaders, the late Robert Miles Sr., the late Rev. W. G. Middleton and Cleveland J. Williams, braved harassment and injury by whites to help register blacks to vote.
Miles’ home was blasted by a shotgun.
Rev. Middleton, a co-founder of the county NAACP chapter, roamed the county in a battered old Jeep, preaching civil rights and quoting scripture.
In 1964, the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality and other civil rights groups formed the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). With their resources pooled, the groups introduced the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.
That summer, 37 COFO workers came to Panola County to help blacks register to vote. Over 1,800 would register by summer’s end.
Ray saw her first "freedom riders" on a Sunday afternoon at Pope Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church.
The meeting was held after the regular Sunday service, she said, and an "old black minister" introduced them.
"It was the first time I met whites who saw us as equals," said Ray.
On Martin Luther King Day each year, Ray wears a lapel pin to remember King.
"It’s my own little way to remember a great fallen leader," Ray said.
| Hospital board gets new members
| By Billy Davis
With the winning bidder of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center expected to be named in weeks, a new hospital board is in place as that sale grows closer.
Two new hospital board members were selected after an hour-and-15-minute executive session yesterday between the Batesville Board of Aldermen and the Panola County Board of Supervisors.
The two boards met together at noon at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.
After the session, County Administrator David Chandler announced the appointments of Patricia Tramel of Batesville and Batesville city clerk Judy Savage.
Savage was appointed by the Board of Aldermen. Tramel was appointed by the county supervisors.
By appointing Tramel and Savage, the city and county effectively dissolved the current hospital board, which included trustees Ken Bloodworth, Joe Thomas, Mark Larson and George Randolph.
Supervisors appointed Chandler to the hospital board last month. He along with Tramel and Savage will make up the new board, with two new appointments – one from the city and one from the county – to be named later.
In selecting Chandler last month, the supervisors sought to help hospital bidders attain needed information, such as financial records, for the bidding process.
In a subsequent supervisors meeting, Chandler told supervisors the winning bidder could be named as early as January 31.
Coming on the heels of Chandler’s appointment, the shake-up of the current hospital board was necessary to create a fair and unbiased bidding climate, said Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.
Perkins said the city and county were concerned because the now-replaced hospital board was "so closely associated" with one of the bidders, Dr. Bob Corkern, who is also the hospital administrator.
"It was discussed in the (executive session) that, after 82 percent of the people said, ‘Sell,’ the hospital board was still working closely with Dr. Corkern, who is also a bidder," Perkins said. "This was nothing personal, and we said that in the meeting. We just didn’t want to lose those bids."
Bloodworth and Randolph were present at the beginning of the noon meeting but, as allowed by law, were excluded from the discussions between the city and the county.
| Guard troops headed for Iraq
in time for January 29 elections
| By John Howell Sr.
Soldiers from Panola County and across Mississippi are being flown out of the country this week with a goal of being in Iraq by the time of the January 29 elections scheduled there.
The are members of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Special Armored Brigade who were activated last year for Iraq deployment.
"Most of them have already left," said Sergeant John Ard
of Batesville, beginning Wednesday, January 5 and continuing through January 19. Those soldiers arriving first will establish a forward observation base. Those departing last will "close out at Camp Shelby," Ard said. They fly from Hattiesburg to Gulfport, from Gulfport to Germany, to Kuwait and ultimately to Iraq, he said.
Training for deployment has taken the soldiers from Camp Shelby to Camp Irwin, California, where they trained in the Mojave Desert, an experience described extensively on the Website by Captain Scott M. Caldwell, company commander of the Oxford unit which includes several Panolians.
The company was greeted with freezing temperatures and a sandstorm before commencing a 6.5-mile march to relocate their forward operation base, and to assume responsibility for a new area of operation, Captain Caldwell stated.
"Within several hours of entering the FOB, Alpha Company began Support and Stability Operations, which included combat patrols,
raids, checkpoints and personnel/vehicle searches," he wrote.
Viper Company’s first mission was to conduct a raid on a cave complex. "Our objective was to secure the cave and detain suspected insurgents. The assault proved invaluable as it exposed many strengths and weaknesses. Once the cave complex was secured," Captain Caldwell continued, "we began to assume responsibility for our city of interest.
"The name of our city was ‘Mezra-Mazik Ahmar’ and it simulated a typical Iraqi city preparing for the upcoming local elections. We started by contacting the city’s key individuals which included the Mayor, Sheriff, Sheik, Imam (religious leader) and others. We then began to evaluate the needs of the city’s residents.
"As the unit and the city prepared to support the upcoming elections, local insurgents began to disrupt the peaceful process by staging attacks. The insurgents, played by active-duty soldiers stationed at Fort Irwin, began to plant improvised explosive devices (IED) in efforts to scare us away and intimidate the local populous.
"The insurgents also used ‘suicide bomber’ and ‘sniper’ attacks in their efforts to disrupt the security of the voter-registration and election process. However, Alpha Company did not flinch, but took the attacks head on.
"Using IED identification skills, soldiers began to spot possible IEDs which were neutralized and eliminated with the help of the Explosive Ordinance Demolition (EOD) Teams.
"Soldiers from Alpha Company also maintained a constant military presence within the city by conducting presence patrols during both the day and night. This made it very difficult for the insurgents to place their IED devices or mount a terrorist offensive. After providing for a safe and secure voting environment, the company then turned control of the city over to its newly-elected officials," the company commander’s account stated.
Captain Caldwell singled out Courtland soldier John Lauderdale as December "Soldier of the Month."
"Throughout our rotation at NTC, Specialist Lauderdale met and surpassed all standards. His willingness and desire to serve is apparent and an example for all soldiers to mimic. His knowledge and proficiency in radio operations proved vital in his platoon’s communications," Captain Caldwell stated. "Under fire and in the fog of war, he was able to block out the distractions and concentrate on his job. His platoon leader, Lt. Rodney Edwards, said ‘Specialist Lauderdale was key to mission accomplishment by ensuring information flowed smoothly on the platoon’s net.’"
Lauderdale was also one of five men in the 2/198 singled out to receive the Army Achievement Medal for his performance since the mobilization began.
"Our next correspondence will be from somewhere inside the country of Iraq," Captain Caldwell’s letter concludes, asking readers to keep the soldiers and their families in their prayers.
| Donation to VFW
| Wal-Mart of Batesville donated $1,500 to the Panola County VFW chapter, Post 4968, represented by James Webb (left) and Calvin Land. The VFW members donated $500 to a needy veteran and, with the remaining money, plan to purchase phone cards for soldiers who are overseas.
| Agency ponders site of scrapyard location
| By Billy Davis
A hearing about a Sardis scrap yard relocating its operation to property near Como played out in front of the Panola County Land Development Commission earlier this week.
At issue is a planned Martin Bros. Scrap Yard and industrial park south of Como, located along Holston Rd., which would adjoin a $1 million home and 105 acres owned by Dr. Mike Cockrell.
Cockrell operates a family practice clinic in Senatobia.
A high-end housing development, planned by Dr. Larry Black, is competing for the undeveloped area as well.
Black, too, is a Senatobia family practice physician.
Martin Bros. purchased 124 acres three months ago and hopes to use about 30 acres for its scrap operation and develop the remaining acreage for industrial development.
The commission members agreed to next hear from a third party, Panola Partnership on February 14, saying the county’s plans for industrial development will factor into the commission’s decision.
Henry Martin and Benny Martin have operated their Sardis scrap yard since 1977. The yard occupies about five acres on the outskirts of town.
The Martin family wants the commission to reclassify the 124 acres from agriculture to industrial, which would allow it to move the Sardis scrap yard there on 30 acres and develop the industrial park.
The area in dispute is located south of Como and bordered by I-55 to the east and railroad tracks to the west.
Right across the tracks, Cockrell’s home is nearing completion, surrounded by hay bales and rolling hills.
Hwy. 51 borders the doctor’s property to the west. Black’s land is located directly across from Cockrell’s land and home.
Speaking in opposition to Martin’s plans, Cockrell told commission members he and his family have owned the Holston Rd. property for about three and a half years. The home will be ready by May, he said.
"I plan on the whole 105 acres being a homestead," Cockrell said.
Residential architect Dave Zammit also spoke on Cockrell’s behalf. The doctor is his client, he explained to the commission members, unrolling a plan similar to the home now under construction.
"It’s an antebellum plantation home. It’s over 10,000 square feet," Zammit said, showing the plans to the commissioners. "This is not just like a regular house."
If the scrap yard is allowed, Zammit said, the doctor and his family will see a "rat-infested garbage dump" from the second floor of their home.
Responding to Zammit, commission chairman Danny Walker noted that Cockrell purchased his property with the Hanson pipe plant in plain view across the railroad tracks.
"It puzzles me why he would build his home with the pipe plant there. To me, that would be an ‘eyesore’ to him," Walker said.
"It’s not like what (the Martins) are going to do," Zammit said.
Regarding any view of the scrap yard, Martin told the commission the new scrap yard will be set off the road behind offices buildings – a distance of at least 250 yards – and will be screened from view by pine trees.
"Once those trees get up it’ll be hard to see," Martin told the commission.
Dr. Black told commission members his family has owned 273 acres north of Holston Rd. for about a year. His family is preparing a home site on the property.