Editorial, Friday, Oct. 3, 1997

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Friday, Oct. 3, 1997

Communities sometimes mark weeks full of significant observances and events that set them apart from the routine. Tupelo and Lee County close one of those weeks today and Saturday.

Sixty years ago today the North Mississippi Medical Center opened as the North Mississippi Community Hospital.

Twenty-five years ago this week Alpha House, a groundbreaking home for boys, opened in Tupelo.

This weekend, the Friends of the Lee County Library holds the organization’s annual book sale a celebration of the library’s heritage and its splendid service in behalf of literacy and knowledge in Northeast Mississippi.

The medical center’s opening ceremonies, held in the Tupelo High School (now Milam School) Auditorium, came a little more than a year after Tupelo had been devastated by the tornado of April 1936. Representatives of The Commonwealth Fund, the principal source and inspiration for the community hospital idea, Gov. Hugh White, and now-legendary civic leaders like R.W. Reed Sr. and Mayor J.P. Nanney shared the podium and the program.

The medical staff listing in the 1937 program was a precursor of the hospital’s steadily widening regional role. Physicians from Tupelo, Nettleton, Verona, Ecru, Sherman, Pontotoc, Baldwyn, New Albany, Booneville, Guntown and Mooreville were listed. The dedicatory language included “Loyalty” built upon “the People of the Hospital area (who are ) ever to be relied upon when this institution has demonstrated its worth.”

The hospital on the hill south of town has become a regional medical system the largest non-metropolitan hospital in the nation. Its medical staff includes a residency program with the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. A network of clinics maintains home-town medical care for thousands of people. Its economic impact is the largest of any single employer in the region.

Alpha House exists because former Chancery Clerk Jerry Clayton saw a crying need for residential care for boys in the care of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. More than 1,000 boys have passed trough the home since it opened, and many have gone on to shake off the troubles that surrounded them when they came under the department’s care.

Clayton, now as in the beginning, remains deeply involved with and committed to Alpha House’s mission. It is a pioneer among residential programs for troubled young people, and its success cleared a path for other homes serving similar needs to find their way into public acceptance and support.

The Friends of the Library raises supplemental funds for the Lee County Library one of the most valuable assets in our area and, unfortunately, not fully appreciated by some of those in charge of providing public support.

The library needs the community’s support beyond taxes paid for its funding. It needs income from events like the book sale to make the extra strides that would not be possible with public financing alone.

The two-day book sale also makes available amazing bargains in good reading most of the books donated from private libraries in Tupelo and Lee County.

A community’s institutions play a major part in defining its quality of life. The medical center, the library and Alpha House represent diverse interests and meet very different needs. But the larger picture would not be complete unless all were included and playing their well-established roles.