By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
TUPELO – Tupelo lost a highly respected and well-liked community leader Monday with the death of Palmer Foster, 89.
Foster died at North Mississippi Medical Center. Countless visitors and patients at NMMC will remember him as a volunteer who served there for more than a quarter century, most recently performing his Thursday duty on the information desk last week.
The Ripley native and World War II veteran graduated from Rust College in Holly Springs and worked for several years as a biology and chemistry teacher and football coach in Columbus.
In 1951, Foster was hired by the Yocona Area Boy Scout Council as its executive and became the first African-American Boy Scout professional in Mississippi.
“I was very proud to be one of those who hired Palmer Foster when he first came to the Yocona Area Council,” said Jack Reed Sr. “At the time he was the only black scout executive in the South. He did a wonderful job, improving black scouting enormously. He was a valuable member of the team, a man I admired greatly and a dear friend.”
He served in the role for more than 30 years, recruiting countless numbers of African-American Boy Scouts through several generations in Alcorn, Prentiss, Tishomingo, Benton, Tippah, Itawamba, Lee, Marshall, Lafayette, Pontotoc, Union and Yalobusha counties. He also recruited and mentored many dedicated volunteer troop leaders.
“Every single day I went to work I enjoyed what I was doing,” Foster said in a 2011 Daily Journal interview.
Staff and patients at NMMC-Tupelo will miss him greatly, said Carla Enis, director of volunteer services.
“Mr. Foster was a wonderful volunteer and was very dedicated,” Enis said. “He volunteered every Thursday at the information desk. He knew everybody and everybody thought the world of him. He was extremely good with the public and very well thought of.”
Foster also was a founding board member of the community service agency LIFT, Inc., served from 1988- 2006 on the board of the Northeast Mississippi Regional Water Supply District, was named Tupelo Citizen of the Year in 1995, and was a dedicated member and deacon of Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
“I loved Palmer and I think that he loved me,” Reed said. “I really will miss him a very great deal. He was citizen of the year one year and I was so proud of it. He richly deserved it. He was one of those responsible for Tupelo getting our first All America City award with the enormous contribution he made to race relations.”
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday and will be announced by Agnew and Sons Funeral Home.