'Mississippians' showcases talented, colorful characters

OXFORD – “Mississippians” provides a 240-page exploration of the state’s colorful characters.
Released Friday by Nautilus Publishing, the book opens with a profile of Elvis Presley, the first of the Mississippi Icons, and closes with Thacker Mountain Radio host Jim Dees, who’s among the Colorful Characters.
“The book weighs 4 pounds, and we have 12,000 of them,” said Neil White, the book’s editor. “I’m hoping a lot of people will spend the afternoon of Christmas flipping through it.”
About 10 years ago, White had the idea for a book that has room for Oprah Winfrey (everybody knows Oprah), as well as Oseola McCarty, a laundry woman who donated $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi.
“This is primarily a photography book,” White said. “We didn’t want to do big biographies. We wrote sketches that try to get to the heart of the matter of why they’re in the book.”
In the Sports section, you’ll find NFL punter Ray Guy, Ole Miss standout Archie Manning, boxer Archie Moore, the WNBA’s Jennifer Gillom and more.
Conway Twitty, Bo Diddley, Tammy Wynette, Jimmie Rodgers and Howlin’ Wolf, as well as other talented folks, are in the Music portion.
BancorpSouth’s Aubrey Patterson is recognized among the Innovators and Visionaries; Jim Henson, pictured with Kermit the Frog, is an Icon; and William Raspberry is featured with the Journalists.
As you’d expect, “Mississippians” overflows with writers, which reads almost like a who’s who of American literature.
“I wanted it to be complete and comprehensive, but I realized I was never going to be able to do that,” White said.
In the front of the book, White asks readers to submit the names of people who are worthy of inclusion. Send your nominations to info@mississippians.com, or visit www.mississippians.com.
“I can see this book getting thicker and thicker in the next editions,” he said. “I’d expect us to add new people, and some of the people who are in it could change categories.”
White will be at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday. He’s not sure who will accompany him, but Northeast Mississippians in the book include former Hollywood mega-agent Sam Haskell, politician and businessman Jack Reed Sr. and former university president Robert Khayat.
“It’s a big book, but it’s a fun book,” White said, “and it was a lot of fun to put it together.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

M. SCOTT MORRIS / NEMS Daily Journal