NWCC endowment established to honor Miles

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Staff Report

The Edna Mae Wright Miles Endowment was established at Northwest Mississippi Community College to honor this lady of distinction who served her Lord with gladness, who demonstrated all that is good and noble to her family, and who displayed compassion, knowledge and professionalism in her career as a nurse.

The scholarship was established by her daughter, Jacqueline Wright Reed and son-in-law, John Wesley Reed, and by her granddaughter, Kristi Lynnette Reed Pigott and her grandson-in-law, Pastor David Bryan Pigott.  She was affectionately known as “Ms. Edna.”

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A lifelong resident of Panola County, her parents were Army Veteran Andrew Barnes and Ethel Mae Payne Barnes.  Her mother died when she was an infant and her maternal grandmother cared for her until the age of eight, when her maternal grandfather, Tom Payne and his wife, Eugenia Payne, became her parents. Ms. Edna was reunited with her father when she was 15 and maintained a close relationship with him until his death.

Her grandfather made sure she was in church and enjoyed a family dinner every Sunday after church, a tradition that has continued in the Barnes family members to this day. She became a Christian at the age of 12 at Walton Chapel Methodist Church.

Ms. Edna met an Army veteran named William Hudson Wright when she was 15 and he was 20.  Knowing that her grandfather would not give permission for the marriage because she had not finished school, they eloped and married on Christmas Day.

After working in the cotton fields, selling Avon, and taking care of children without a gas or electric stove and no washer and dryer, she was hired to clean the office of Dr. and Mrs. Lunceford.  This kind couple offered to pay for Ms. Edna to attend a one-year LPN program at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena.  This act of Christian love made Ms. Edna’s nursing career possible.

Ms. Edna was the first school nurse in the North Panola School District, and she ministered to children by teaching them good health practices and even showing up at basketball games in case someone was hurt.

Because of a divorce, she became a single parent with five children, so she took a second job at North Panola Regional Hospital, working at the school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then at the hospital from 3 to 11 p.m.

At the age of 50, Ms. Edna took classes at Northwest and then transferred to Itawamba where she graduated from their Associate Degree Nursing program and became a Registered Nurse.  She was hired as the healthcare manager with the Batesville Job Corps and promoted health awareness at companies such as Fruit of the Loom

While Ms. Edna’s daughters were focused and quite determined, the only son was a different story.  Her daughter, Jackie remembers that her brother, David, did not want to go to college but that her mother was determined that he would.

She recalls, “David didn’t take her seriously until one day, she asked him to ride to Memphis with her and the next thing he knew, she pulled into the Air Force recruitment office. David was shocked, but Ms. Edna was adamant and said, ‘I want you to go to college, but if you don’t, you can join the military like my father, like your father, and like your uncle, but you will not walk the streets.’”

David is now retired Senior Master Sgt. William David Wright, having retired after 25 years of service to his country, and he credits his mother with making sure that his life was on the right path.

Ms. Edna’s second daughter, Ethel, left her factory job to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “If my mama can study hard and earn her GED and study harder and pass her nursing board exams, then so can I,” she said. And she did. She graduated from the Northwest Practical Nursing program in Oxford and has been in the nursing profession for 39 years.

Another daughter, Jackie, graduated in 1974 from the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing, and she also received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing and became an OB-GYN Nurse Practitioner, all while serving in the US Air Force.  Jackie retired in 1994.

Although Ms. Edna never knew the love of her own mother, she instilled God’s love in each of her five children and they have been able to pass that love on to 55 branches of descendants.

The last inpatient nursing job for Ms. Edna was at a nursing home in Batesville where she quickly learned the use of the computer and even taught others.  Her co-workers were absolutely adamant that they could not have learned those computer skills without Ms. Edna, and she was much older that they were.

In 1993, Ms Edna married Deacon Robert Miles. Mr. Miles was a civil rights advocate who once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and opened his home to house some of the brave marchers during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

Ms. Edna had always been a very talented soloist and she continued to use those talents in the choir and in organizing young adults for ministry outreach opportunities.  They enjoyed traveling and they enjoyed three happy years together before God called Mr. Miles to heaven.

Ms. Edna developed Parkinson’s Disease in her mid-70s. Unfortunately, there were several other debilitating health issues, and Jackie and her husband, John, graciously brought Ms. Edna to their home for the last 18 years of her life as a way to give back to her as she had given to each member of her family.  She died in 2017 at the age of 86, leaving behind her five children, Patricia Ann Wright Lamar, Ethel Mae Wright (Lawrence) McKinney, Lorraine Wright (Terrance) Dykes, Jacqueline Wright (John Wesley) Reed, and William David Wright (Darla), along with 15 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, and 11 great-great grandchildren.

One daughter, Lorraine, remembers, “In Ms. Edna’s house, you had to go to church and then came Sunday dinner and family time where we played family games and listened to Mama and Daddy tell us about the old times. We were poor, but we didn’t really know it,” she said.

“She knew she was meant to do more and she didn’t want her children to think that the cotton field was all we had to look forward to in life.  She just knew God would work it out and send help somehow and through someone. And He did,” said oldest daughter Pat.

Jackie remembers her mother traveling to North Carolina to Seymour Johnston Air Force Base. “Having my mom travel so far to help me adjust to being a mom meant the world to me.  Years later, she would travel to Pensacola to see that granddaughter receive a high school diploma and later bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” Jackie said.

“What a distinct honor to have a scholarship that bears the name of this remarkable lady!  How I wish every young person could hear the story of her extraordinary life of courage, determination, success, and service,” said Canon.

The scholarship will be awarded to any serious-minded student with a financial need and whose goal is to complete the nursing program.

For more information, contact Marla Kennedy, institutional advancement specialist at 560-1105 or email mkennedy@northwestms.edu.