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Finch-Henry Job Corps Center

Gathering around legendary Civil Rights leader Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Monday are (from left) Melissa Gleaton, Margaret Pope, Ann Finch Walker and Ruth Ball. Hooks and other dignitaries were on hand to see the Batesville Job Corps Center renamed for former governor Cliff Finch and Civil Rights leader Aaron Henry. The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell

Accolades heaped on men whose names adorn center

By Rupert Howell

Officials Monday heaped praise and accolades on the honorees, while remembering Cliff Finch as truly the working man’s governor and Aaron Henry the least recognized but most important person in Mississippi Civil Rights history.

The occasion was the renaming and dedication ceremony that officially welcomed the “Finch-Henry Job Corps Center” name to replace the “Batesville Job Corps Center.”  

The event drew officials that included U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, local elected officials as well as directors from Minact, Inc., the company contracted with the U.S. Department of Labor to manage area Job Corps facilities.

But it was Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks of Memphis who tied it all in a bow and challenged Job Corps students to pull themselves together, telling them, “Now’s your time.”

Hooks is the former executive director of the NAACP, retired minister and member of Minact’s board of directors.

He rallied the crowd stating, “It’s your turn to say to a young man who looks like he has no hope to ‘pull them britches up on yo’ behind and get some sense in yo’ head and love in yo’ heart and be a real father — not just having babies, but raising babies.”

Sen. Wicker remembered Finch’s reputation for hard work in the court room and on the campaign trail, and said opponents might beat him but they couldn’t out-work him. The Senator said Finch shared the hard work ethic with Henry who operated a drug store in Clarksdale.

Finch and Henry joined forces to push for Job Corps centers for Batesville during Finch’s administration, when political power was scarce for blacks and a Job Corps Center was not politically expedient for the governor.

Others speaking tributes for Finch included former law partner Charlie Baglan; former state representative Robert G. Clark; and campaign co-chairman and state development board director Mike Amis.

Those paying tribute to Henry included: Derrick Johnson who serves as Mississippi’s NAACP president; Dr. Edwin King, who is retired faculty of the Mississippi Medical Center; and Mayo Wilson, who is director of Coahoma Opportunities, Inc.