Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1:00 AM
On October 5, 1964, President James B. "Mr. Jim" Hillman*, 86 of the Neshoba County Fair Association died in his sleep at his home at 520 Poplar Avenue in Philadelphia.
In 1883, at the age of five, James B. Hillman, originally of Marion County, Georgia, moved with his family to the Beech Springs community in southwest Neshoba County, Mississippi, a temporary stop on their way to a permanent home in Texas, a place in which they never settled.
Even though educational opportunities were scare in that rural part of Neshoba County, Mr. Jim attended school in a one- room log cabin whenever it met, and whenever he had a way to get there.
The lack of a formal elementary and high school education did not deter Hillman, who graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1903, moving to Philadelphia a year later.
In December of 1904, Hillman, at the age of 26, married Kate L. Spivey, known affectionately in her later as "Aunt Kate." Over the next 58 years, Mr. Jim practiced law in Neshoba County, before retiring in 1962.
In late 1905, during his legal career, Hillman drafted the incorporating documents for the town of Philadelphia.
Beginning in 1911, he served as county attorney for several terms, judge of the 8th judicial district, and president of the Neshoba County Bar Association for 35 years.
His obituary noted that, "One of his greatest interests was the Neshoba County Fair Association," a corporation in which he served as vice president for three years, 1936 to 1939, and as president for 25 years, 1939 to his death in 1964.
For the October 5, 1964, edition of The Neshoba Democrat, Editor Jack L. Tannehill wrote a front page eulogy entitled, " 'Mr. Jim' A Friend." "Rich in money he was not, but in friends and memories he was wealthy indeed. His well-mannered, ethical and easy-going ways made him a respected lawyer, gentleman and husband at all times," wrote Tannehill, among other words of praise.
Stockholders of the Neshoba County Fair Association, on November 5, 1964, elected Vice President Thomas Brown Williams, Jr., as president to succeed J. B. Hillman.
Williams, who had served as vice president for 19 years, 1945 to 1964, acted in this new position for four years until 1968, following in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Brown Williams, Sr., who had led the Association for 17 years, 1919 to 1936. (Note: These three men together presided over this famed institution for nearly one-half of a century).
Other officers elected at this meeting were: Norman Johnson, Jr., vice president; Morris Therrell, vice president; Willard Hays, vice president and secretary and Juarene Killingsworth Ruffin, treasurer.
Board members in addition to the officers were: Marshall Cannon, Jr., Henry A. Kennedy, B. J. Milling, Herman Alford, Homer Lofton Hooper, Sr., Olen Nicholson, S. W. "Bill" Richardson, W.H. Holland, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Spendrup, Joseph K. "Joe" Turner, Jr. and Hugh H. "Boots" Harpole.
Four weeks and four days before the official beginning of the 1965 session of the Neshoba Fair, the first under the direction of the newly elected officers and directors, a staff reporter for The Neshoba Democrat wrote: "The historic old fairground, eight miles south of Philadelphia, is being readied for another 'Giant Houseparty.' This is the annual family reunion for hundreds of native countians and Mississippians as well as for patrons from all over the nation. The spacious and shady grounds of this famous old campground provide the natural setting for leisure, fun and frolic. Fellowship and friendship are the reigning spirit for the traditional gathering. The programs for the fair are always planned to provide some form of good entertainment for people of all ages. There is to be the finest in talent presented on stages; the outstanding state leaders will appear; politicians and future office seekers are being scheduled to speak; Miss Neshoba County will be selected; outstanding commerce and agricultural will be on display, as swell well as the popular livestock shows, harness and running races." "Mr. Jim" Hillman would have been PROUD!
Civil War Veterans
Harrison, Hiram Perry *- Private; enlisted September 8, 1861, at Camp Jones near Bristoe Station, Virginia, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age thirty-four; farmer; wounded in the flesh of right leg and captured at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; forwarded to the provost marshal, July 14, 1863; transferred to the U.S.A. General Hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania, July 17, 1863; transferred to the U.S.A. Hammond General Hospital at Point Lookout, Maryland, October 4, 1863; forwarded for exchange, March 17, 1864; admitted to Chimborazo Hospital #5 at Richmond, Virginia, March 20, 1864; furloughed for sixty days, March 25, 1864; hospitalized at the Forrest Hospital at Lauderdale, Mississippi, July-August 1864; Muster Roll, November-December 1864: "Permanently disabled from wound."
World War II Veterans
Hillman, Sarah A. - Private to Technician Sergeant; enlisted on February 27, 1943, at Jackson, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-five; stenographer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Daytona Beach, Florida, with the Women's Army Corps, March 1943; stationed at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, July 1943; served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a stenographer (secretary to the commanding officer of the 15th Army Air Corps) with the 6720th Headquarters Platoon, January 1944 to September 1945; stationed also in Italy, September, 1944; participated in the campaigns in Naples-Foggia and Rome-Arno, Italy; awarded the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with two bronze service stars); Meritorious Unit Badge, Good Conduct Medal and the Woman's Army Corps Service Medal; discharged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, October 8, 1945, demobilization; described as five feet four and one-half inches tall, weighing 105 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Note: *Hiram Perry Harrison was a brother to Robert Bell Harrison, Jr., one of the founders of the Neshoba County Fair Association in 1891, the organization that James B. "Mr. Jim" Hillman served as president from 1939 to 1964.
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