By Carolyn Bahm

Daily Journal

School desegregation began in the 60s, but the long climb to racial integration is still happening today in Mississippi on different levels. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is coming alive right here at home, not just on the state or national tier.

People of innate courage, intelligence, endurance and charisma are continuing to break ground in Northeast Mississippi and the surrounding areas. As these pioneers can tell you, leadership qualities go more than skin deep.

During February, Black History Month, we’re honoring our African-American leaders with a quiz about our region’s trailblazers. These are certainly not the only area black leaders who have set precedents, but the list is long enough for a lively memory exercise. (We’re also reserving many submissions from our readers for future stories.)

Test your knowledge. Try these questions on for size.

City & COUNTY folks

1. Who were the first two black aldermen in Aberdeen? (Hint: They were elected the same year.)

2. Who was Ecru’s first black alderman?

3. Who is the first and only (to date) black alderman in Pontotoc?

4. Who was the first black alderman for Booneville?

5. Who is New Albany’s first black city alderman?

6. Who was the first black city alderman to serve in Tupelo?

7. Who was the first black alderman in Holly Springs? (Hint: He currently holds another city office.)

8. Who was the first black mayor for the city of Corinth?

9. Who was the first black personnel director for the city of Tupelo?

10. Who was the first black person on the New Albany Park Commission?

11. Who was Benton County’s first black supervisor?


12. Who was the first black man to serve as fire chief in Chickasaw County? (Hint: He is also one of the first black men to be elected as a Chickasaw County supervisor since Reconstruction.)

13. Who was the first black firefighter for the city of Tupelo?

14. Who was the first full-time black fireman employed in the Pontotoc City Fire Department?


15. Who is Calhoun County’s second black deputy sheriff? (Hint: He has served under three different administrations.)

16. Who was the first black policeman for the city of Tupelo?

17. Who was Marshall County’s first black sheriff? (Hints: He was the eldest of nine children, co-founder and lead singer of the Friendly Travelers Gospel Quartet, Marshall County Coroner for four terms, Member of the American Legion and of Waterford Masonic Lodge No. 450 and host of WKRA’s “The Gospel Hour” broadcast.)

18. What “first” did Bobby Jones achieve with the Booneville Police Department?

It’s in your court

19. What was James Griffin’s distinction in black history in Benton County?

20. Who was the first black person on the county payroll in the Benton County chancery clerk’s office?

21. Who is Clay County’s first black circuit clerk?

22. Who was the first black youth court counselor in the 18th Chancery Court District of Mississippi (Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Lafayette and Calhoun counties)?


23. A law firm in Clay County holds a statewide distinction in black history. What is the firm, and what is the distinction?

24. Who was the first black attorney to practice in Lee County?

25. Who was the first black graduate of the University of Mississippi’s School of Law? (Hint: He also served as the state’s first black supreme court justice.)


26. Who was the first black board member with the Pontotoc Electric Power Association?


27. Who were the first black students to attend Tupelo Christian Preparatory School, a private school? (Hint: The year was 1987.)

28. When is the first recorded attendance of a black student at Blue Mountain College (a women’s private liberal arts college, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention)?

29. Who was the first black student to attend Itawamba Community College in Fulton?

30. Who was the first black student to enroll at Mississippi State University?


31. Name a black school principal who has set several “firsts” in Calhoun City and other area schools.

32. Who was the first black person appointed to the New Albany school board?

33. Who was the first black school board member for the Booneville district?

34. Who is Clay County’s first black school superintendent?

35. Who was the first black instructor at ICC?

36. Who was the first black administrator at NeMCC?

37. Who was the first black instructor at NeMCC?

38. When did Ole Miss choose its first black dean, and who is he?

39. Who was the first black administrator at Ole Miss? (Hint: The year was 1975.)

40. Where is the National Black Graduate Student Association Inc. currently headquartered?


41. Who was Ole Miss’ first black football player?

42. Who was the first black football player at MSU and the only black Mr. MSU (to date)?

43. Who has been the first black football coach at Thrasher School?


44. Mississippi State University made a historic state-wide “first” seven years ago by electing a black student to a particular student body office. What was the office, and who was the student?

45. Who was the first black member of the Northeast Hall of Fame at NEMCC?

46. What three history “firsts” did Ophebia High of Baldwyn, a student, set at NEMCC?

47. Who was chosen as the University of Mississippi’s first black Miss Ole Miss, and when was she elected?

48. When did Ole Miss elect its first black student as Most Beautiful?


49. What Northeast Mississippi city will soon be home to a new museum packed with information on black history?


50. Black genealogy research got a high-tech boost recently at MSU. What new tool is available?


Thank you, everyone who submitted names and data on African-American trailblazers! We did not have enough room to include every submission, but we are retaining all the remaining names for future stories. You also submitted the names of many individually inspiring Northeast Mississippi heroes, heroines and movers-and-shakers for civil rights, and we’re reserving their names for more extensive feature stories in the future.

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