The Neshoba County Fair Association elected Mr. Thomas Brown Williams, Sr., as president succeeding Mr. Earl S. Richardson, at its annual shareholders meeting on August 1, 1919.

The shareholders also elected George Washington Mars, vice-president, John H. Huston, secretary and Ira Lewis, treasurer.

Four days later on August 5, 1919, the electorate in Neshoba County gave Brown Williams the largest number of votes in the race for state representative - Williams, 1220; Ivey Peebles, 772 and Martin Van Buren Gipson, 721.

Three weeks later, August 26, 1919, in the Democratic primary runoff, Williams won handily, a victory tantamount to election in the November general elections.

Brown Williams would serve 16 years as president of the Neshoba County Fair Association, retiring in 1935.

Additionally, he served a total of 21 years of service to the State of Mississippi before his sudden death, seventy-six years ago.

Citizens of the Williamsville community, the town of Philadelphia, Neshobians and people all over the State of Mississippi were shocked to hear of the sudden death of their much beloved, former Fair Association president, community leader and civil servant, fifty-six-year-old Thomas Brown Williams, Sr.

The Chairman of the Mississippi Highway Commission suffered a severe heart attack at his home at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 13, 1937.

Within an hour, the Williams' residence began receiving telegrams and telephone calls expressing sympathy and regrets from hundreds of people from all over the state.

Brown Williams and his brother Amzi Jackson Williams arrived in Neshoba County from Leake County in 1905, and established a mercantile business, one that thrived and one that the National Geographic magazine specifically mentioned in its September 1937 issue, just days before his untimely death.

Funeral services were held on Thursday, October 14, 1937, at 3:30 p.m. at the Good Hope Baptist Church with burial in the church cemetery.

The Reverend D. A. McCall conducted the service, assisted by Reverend A. D. Culpepper, Reverend W.W. Kyzar and Lay Evangelist Howard S. Williams.

In addition to his managerial abilities with the country store and the Fair Association, Williams was a devoted public servant - State Representative, Roads, Appropriation and Ways and Means Committees; State Senator, 17th Senatorial District, Leake and Neshoba Counties, Finance Committee; Middle (now Central) District Highway Commissioner, and chairman from 1932 to his death.

His obituary noted that during his tenure of office he "worked diligently and untiringly, and ably served the State in the building of roads."

The same newspaper article added that, "Mr. Williams brought his own roads up to a marked degree of improvement in the next six years he was in office, with Neshoba County receiving a generous share of hard-surfaced roads."

His public service record was one that reflected at all times credit and honor upon Mississippi history.

Four years after his death, the State of Mississippi's legislature honored the Middle District Commissioner by dedicating a span over Pearl River east of Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital, on Highway U. S. 80, as the "Brown Williams Memorial Bridge."

A historical marker at the interchange of State Highways 15 and 16 near Philadelphia, and a second in Canton, Mississippi, names that section of Highway 16, the "Brown Williams Memorial Highway."

On August 6, 1981, The Neshoba Democrat published its Centennial issue containing memories of days past.

One contributor was eighty-six-year-old Kate Webb Williams, Fairgoer since 1895, and widow of Thomas Brown Williams, Sr.

From a rocking chair on the porch of Cabin #14, "Miss Kate" provided food for the hungry or needy, and political advice to all, whether a person wanted it or not.

Kate Williams, a dyed-in-the-wool, life-long Democrat, never minced words in this historic issue when she wrote: "I don't think we are keeping the spirit and respect due to the founders of the Fair who fought in the War Between the States for our Southern way of life... They were all real Democrats, and no Republican had ever been on the program until recent years. I can't understand why people have forgotten all those things. Personally, I don't think any Republican should be on our program, regardless of who he is or what he is running for. It is not in keeping with the people who worked hard to make the Fair a success."

In her final paragraph, the always gracious lady added, "Still I love everything about it - seeing old friends and relatives I haven't seen for years. That's the Fair."


Civil War Veterans

Ham, John Wesley - Private; enlisted March 1, 1862, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-seven; farmer; nick-named "Wes;" Muster Roll, March-April 1862: "Absent, mortally wounded and died at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862."

Death claim settled for $58.00 and paid to John Ham, father; described as six feet tall, dark complexion, dark hair, and blue eyes.

John Ham lost his other three sons, all in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry: Private Bright R. Ham, killed at Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862.

Fourth Corporal Henry Ham, died with a disease of the bowels at Goldsborough, North Carolina, February 9, 1863.

Private Spias Ham, died with congestive fever at Weldon, North Carolina, February 23, 1863.

With the passing of John Ham, of the North Bend community, at age 87, in 1887, and his wife earlier, there were no Hams left in Neshoba County.

World War II Veterans

Watkins, Rush - Private to Sergeant; enlisted on September 24, 1940 at Jackson, Mississippi in the United States Army; age twenty; farmer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations as a medical corpsman at the 1045th Base Unit with the Army Air Corps.

Served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations with the 49th Fighter Group, February 1942 to November 1944.

Stationed in Australia, March 1942 to April 1943; participated in the campaigns in New Guinea and the East Indies.

Awarded the American Defense Service Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge (with two oak leaf clusters), the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with three bronze service stars), and the Good Conduct Medal.

Discharged at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, September 8, 1945, demobilization; described as five feet five inches tall, weighing 131 pound, with brown hair and blue eyes.

Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum

Steven H. Stubbs, Curator

303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;

Monday thru Friday