Wednesday, July 31, 2013 1:00 AM
After several years of having week-end sponsored events, and officially proclaiming a five-day Fair, Neshoba County Fair Association President Thomas Brown Williams, Jr. announced a new seven day format, July 29 to August 4, 1967.
One claim to fame of the Neshoba Fair was a reputation as the "political battleground of Mississippi." For years, all office seekers deemed necessary a speech at the Neshoba Fair Pavilion, nestled in a grove of oaks and surrounded by rows of wooden cabins.
One pundit noted that the Federal Government "has probably been lambasted more from the pavilion than any place in the western world."
During this Fair, the editor of The Neshoba Democrat, Arthur Stanley Dearman wrote to several prominent individuals, who had a history of attending many past sessions, and requested remembrances of their favorite Fairs.
Woody Assaf, noted weatherman of Jackson Mississippi's television station WLBT, recalled: " Each year I do roughly 75 or more shows, pageants, banquets and army shows, just about everything. I have my own group and we travel far and wide, BUT THE ONE BIG ONE WE ALL LOOK FORWARD TOO... THE ONE THAT EXCITES US THE MOST... THE ONE WE HAVE MORE FUN DOING IS THE NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR... I remember my first show, pouring rain, muddy, car got stuck. [I] went to the pavilion, set up, and I was ready to go, not a soul around. I remarked, 'Well looks like we're going to do our show with NO Audience.'
One ole timer was standing there, and said, 'Soon as you start the music they'll be here.' And sure enough the band started and whamo, they poured out of those cabins like chickens, and in a few minutes, the place was full and many standing outside in the rain..."
Another person responding to the same question was Clayton T. Rand, former editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat (1919-1925) and former board member of the Neshoba County Fair Association. Rand replied: "When I was serving... [on] the board of directors many years ago, the secretaryship of the Fair was no small responsibility. He [Secretary John Huston] invited the guests and frequently [I] became a platform introducer. They often gave me the hard ones like [former governor Theodore G.] Bilbo, one of my former teachers.
On one occasion, the directors were very serious to have United States Senator John Sharp Williams on the program and he agreed to come, provided he wouldn't have to make a speech, could just visit with some of his friends like the late Sam Stribling, and have a little Leake County 'corn' warm from the still. But there was one problem, most of the Association directors opposed alcoholic beverages, anywhere and at any time."
Rand knew something had to be done, so he purchased a bottle of the illicit beverage, and in his own words, stated, "I done it! The Senator came to the Fair."
Executive and Managing Editor Turner Catledge of the New York Times, also responded. The world's top newsman wrote; "Speaking of music, one year, along about 1919, I was working for Ben Howell who had the concession that year for the hotel dining room. I thought it would be a good idea, and good business, to stage a dance after the supper meal. So I drove into town and borrowed a phonograph and some records from my Uncle Jim Turner, who had the Columbia Gramaphone agency at his drug store.
I took the machine back to the fairgrounds, passed the word around that we were going to have a hoedown that night... When the evening meal was over we closed the front-door and opened the back door and people came streaming in at 50 cents a head.
We had just swung into the first number when the front door flew open and about six black-hatted community elders burst in, one of them shouting, 'You can't do this before our womenfolks. Stop this disgraceful thing.' There was no argument, except later over refunds." Catledge recalled, "I was the first out of the back door and was totally unavailable for the rest of the night."
Civil War Veterans
Williams, John C. - Private; Fifth Sergeant; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles, which became Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-one; clerk; Muster Roll, June 30, 1861: "Sick in Winchester, Va. on leave;" Muster Roll, March-April 1862: "Sick at Ashland;" hospitalized at General Hospital #10 at Richmond, Virginia, October 5, 1862.
Served as fifth sergeant from at least May 1864 to the close of the war; wounded at Jones' Farm, October 2, 1864; captured at Hatcher's Run, April 2, 1865; imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland.
Released at Point Lookout, June 22, 1865; described as five feet six and three-quarters inches tall, fair complexion, dark brown hair and blue eyes.
World War II Veterans
Williams, Thomas Brown, Jr. - Private to Master Sergeant to First Lieutenant; enlisted on November 27, 1941 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-two; merchant; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations as a supply non-commissioned officer with the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at Camp Lee, Virginia.
Stationed at Southwark Station, Pennsylvania, August 1942 to November 1943; graduated from Officer's Candidate School Course #41 at Camp Lee; discharged as a master sergeant at Camp Lee, October 12, 1944, to accept commission as a second lieutenant; re-enlisted, October 13, 1944 at Fort Lee.
Served again in the American Theatre of Operations as a supply officer with Headquarters at Fort Francis E. Warren; awarded the American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Discharged at Fort Logan, California, January 30, 1946, demobilization; described as five feet eight and one-half inches tall, weighing 215 pounds, with brown hair and brown 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