By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CAIRO – Almost 70 years after she watched her big brother go off to fight in World War II, Syble Pinson Mitchell, 82, saw one of her most ardent wishes fulfilled.
On Friday a stretch of Highway 364 in Prentiss County was dedicated as the “Oliver Wendell Pinson Memorial Highway.”
“I don’t have the words, it is so great,” Mitchell said following the dedication ceremony. “I just wish my parents were here.”
About 100 people, including several World War II and other veterans, Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, many family and church members, attended the ceremony held at New Lebanon Free Will Baptist Church in Cairo, Mitchell’s home church.
Sen. J.P. Wilemon introduced Senate Bill 2327, to honor Seaman 1st Class Oliver Wendell Pinson, killed aboard the U.S.S. Little on May 3, 1945, after the ship was attacked by a kamikaze plane and took heavy fire, sinking in the waters about 70 miles west of Okinawa, Japan. The bill was passed in the 2014 legislative session.
Pinson left a family that included his parents, three sisters and a brother, Mitchell said. She was about 9 or 10 years old when he went into the Navy, and 12 years old when he died.
“It changed our family,” she said.
She first thought of getting the highway dedicated in his honor many years ago during a trip to Washington, D.C.
“I visited Senator Trent Lott’s office and the secretary there told me what I needed to do,” Mitchell said.
However, her husband fell ill and her focus turned to caring for him. He died, and she moved back to Cairo from where they lived in Michigan about 17 years ago. Soon after that Mitchell began efforts toward Friday’s culminating event.
One of the first people she approached to begin the process was the Prentiss County Board of Supervisors and Chancery Clerk David “Bubba” Pounds.
Pounds said during the dedication ceremony that he wished the casualties of war were not a reality, but that paying tribute to individuals who gave their lives and memorializing their tremendous sacrifice through highway dedications, renaming buildings and constructing monuments was appropriate.
State Representative Tracy Arnold of Prentiss County also championed the legislation, and along with Wilemon spoke of the gratitude for Pinson’s service and sacrifice. He presented Mitchell with a U.S. flag that had flown over the state capitol, and a copy of the bill.