Rupert Howell editorial 3/17/2015

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mr. Jelly’s legacy: care, commitment for his community

Just days before he died, my 96-year-old friend called his son-in-law to ask about something he read in the Wall Street Journal. How that contrasts with a recent YouTube video that depicted college students unable to name who won the Civil War, who the vice president is or from whom or when America gained independence.

That, my friends, is an indication of the difference between the Greatest Generation and the generations of their  grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Miles C. “Jelly” Mitchell, 96, who passed away last week, stayed informed of the issues, whether local, state, national or international.

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He is one of the now almost extinct generation that took Batesville from Mayberry to a thriving municipality that caters to all citizens and visitors and not just the privileged with money and influence or of a particular skin color.

Don’t get me wrong, Mayberry may be nice, but it’s no longer affordable.

Mitchell held a position with Panola County Federal Savings and Loan since shortly after World War II until his retirement in 1986 and was not only a witness to Batesville’s growth and prosperity, but an active participant.

His life reads like a story book. He went to school at his home in Tennessee, graduated from Lambuth College, went off to war, came home and went to work and found a bride (to whom he was married for 67 years), moved to his wife’s hometown, worked and retired.

But it was the in between events that made him such a valuable citizen. Along the way he worked through various civic clubs, got elected to the Batesville’s board of alderman where he promoted open government long before legislation forced public officials to do so.

When outside influences forced schools to integrate races, Mitchell continued to support public education along with others in the business community which ultimately helped South Panola maintain accredited schools until today.

His credentials are impeccable and a list of his recognitions lengthy, but his ability to diffuse tense situations with a comical comment and his ability to not take himself too seriously made each visit with Mr. Jelly a treasure.

For some reason I think a person should be responsible to know what is going on around them that affects their lives and their community. Growing up around people like Mr. Jelly taught me so.