By Bobby Pepper/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Regardless of his audience, whether it was Civitans from around the world or a banquet in Northeast Mississippi, Charlie Mullinnix always left them laughing with his down-home humor.
“Charlie’s the only person I know who could tell the same jokes over and over and get a big laugh every time,” said Clifton Hodges, a close friend of the late Tupelo resident. “I reckon it was his unique way of telling stories.”
Mullinnix, who died Wednesday night at age 91, was a longtime local and regional civic leader who earned the nickname “Mr. Civitan” for his involvement in the civic organization. His recruitment of new members helped make the Tupelo Luncheon Civitan Club “the world’s largest Civitan Club.”
The Luncheon Civitans held the “world’s largest” title for almost two decades. Civitan International retired the award in 2006 and gave the club permanent possession of the award banner. The club now has 145 members and is the largest Civitan group in the United States, according to current president Russ Wilson.
Mullinnix, who joined Civitan in 1953, was the club’s president in 1957-58 and was its secretary for many years. He recruited 278 people to join Civitan and became a master club builder, helping start clubs throughout the Southeast.
“There are people all over the world that know about Tupelo, Mississippi, because of Charlie,” Wilson said. “They may not remember his name, but they say, There was this guy who visited our club from Tupelo, Mississippi, who was just hilarious and he talked about the world’s largest Civitan club.”
As club secretary, Mullinnix would share his joyful wisdom with new members while presenting their Civitan pins.
Wilson said, “Charlie would tell them, ‘Wear this pin, wear it proudly, and it will help you everywhere you go except on the …’and then everyone shouts ‘the Natchez Trace Parkway.’ Charlie always followed up by saying, ‘Where it ain’t worth a dime’. That’s because he got a ticket once on the Natchez Trace Parkway, and he told them he was in Civitan going to a meeting. It didn’t make any difference. He still got the ticket.”
Mullinnix also served as a lay speaker and leader in the United Methodist Church. He was a frequent speaker at local events like banquets and fundraisers, sharing his storytelling with a variety of people.
In 1982, the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo selected Mullinnix its Outstanding Citizen Award winner for his community service.
“He spoke at everything you can imagine – school groups, church groups. He went near and far,” said Hodges, a Luncheon Civitan who shared the same table with Mullinnix at Thursday meetings. “Charlie was a part of the Civitan fish cooking team, and we’d cook fish for different groups. A lot of times Charlie would be the program, so we would hear him.”
Hodges said Mullinnix’s presence in Civitan and the community will be missed.
“We lost a good man,” Hodges said. “There will never be another one like him.”