An Oral History


Julia Holmes

Interviewer: Stephanie Scull Millet

Tougaloo College Archives

This interview was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation Project.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Mississippi

Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and

the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.



Mrs. Julia Rodgers Holmes was born May 12, 1950, in Meridian, Mississippi. Her parents are Bilbo and Claudia Rodgers of Pascagoula, Mississippi. She is the eldest of seven children.

Holmes has been a full-time employee with the Jackson-George Regional Library System for twenty-eight years. She has also worked as a library page from 1966 to 1969. She was the first black to be employed by the Jackson-George Regional Library System and served as the first black branch manager for the city of Moss Point.

She grew up in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where she was graduated from Carver High School in 1968 as valedictorian of her class. Holmes received her bachelor's degree and her master's degree in Library Science from The University of Southern Mississippi.

Holmes has been involved in school, community, and library activities for many years and has received various honors including SRS's Female Outstanding Citizen of the Year, Mississippi Library Association's Outstanding Achievement, and NAACP's Dedicated Service and Professionialism awards. She has served as President of East Park Elementary's PTA for four terms and has been very active in promoting reading among elementary and Head Start children.

Holmes has served as chairperson of the Mississippi Library Association's Library Instruction Roundtable, Black Caucus Roundtable, and Beta Phi Mu, library honor society. Locally, Holmes has served as chair of the Policy Council for the Jackson County Civic Action Committee and a trustee for the Moss Point City Library.

Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Hair Design, Jackson County Red Cross, and the Jackson County Arts Council. She is also on the planning committee for the city of Moss Point's bicentennial.

Holmes is listed in editions of Who's Who Among American Women, Who's Who in the World, and Who's Who in the South and Southwest. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Moss Point-Jackson County Branch of the NAACP and SCLC.

Holmes is a member of the union Baptist Church in Pascagoula where she is the church librarian, a member of the choir, and a teacher of the Junior Class number three. She resides in Moss Point with her husband William. They have three children: Tanya who lives in Phoenix City, Alabama, with her husband Shawn and son Shawn Jr.; Tiffani who is a sophomore at Tougaloo College; and, Tristan who is a sixth grader at East Park Elementary in Moss Point.

Table of Contents

Childhood 2

Public schooling in segregated schools 4

Early experiences of racism 5

Pascagoula freedom school 6

Carver High School 8

Higher education 10

Emmett Till 14

Brown v. the Board of Education 16

Registering to vote 16

Segregation 18

Boy Scouts 19

Freedom Summer, 1964 20

Public schooling in integrated schools 24





This is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with Ms. Julia Holmes and is taking place on May 26, 2000, in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer is Stephanie Scull Millet.

Millet: This is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project of Tougaloo College and The University of Southern Mississippi. The interview is with Ms. Julia Holmes, and it is taking place on May 26, 2000, in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer is Stephanie Scull Millet. And, first, I'd like to thank you, Ms. Holmes, for taking time to talk with me today. And I'd like to get some background information, which is what we usually do, and ask you: could you tell me your name and where and when you were born, please?

Holmes: My name is Julia Rodgers Holmes, and I was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on May 12, 1950 [at] Mattie Hersee Hospital there, in that small town.

Millet: You just had a birthday.

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Happy birthday.

Holmes: I turned fifty.

Millet: Oh, my goodness!

Holmes: A milestone. (Laughter.)

Millet: It is a milestone. And do you have brothers or sisters?

Holmes: Oh, yes. I have many. And we really enjoy each other.

Millet: Do you want to tell me who they are?

Holmes: I have Robert Rodgers who lives in Pascagoula. He was born December 22, 1951. Larry Rodgers, who lives in Pascagoula, also. He was born April 24, 1953. Billy Rodgers, who lives in Pascagoula, [was] born October 12, 1956. Pamela Rodgers Hull was born October 27, 1957, and she lives in Moss Point. And I have Gloria Rodgers Watkins, who lives in McDonough, Georgia, and she is the only person that lives off. She was born December 1, 1961. And my youngest brother Michael Rodgers, who was born April 30, 1964.

Millet: And where do you fall in order?

Holmes: I am the oldest.

Millet: Oldest!

Holmes: I'm the queen bee. (Laughter.)

Millet: Did that make a difference when you were growing up? Did you find that you had to kind of mother those younger siblings?

Holmes: I mothered them, and I feel like I'm a very strong individual. I took care of them a lot, but they always tended to want to protect me a lot.

Millet: Oh. So, even though they were younger, they wanted to protect their older sister?

Holmes: They wanted to protect me. Well, I have three brothers under me, which may make a difference. But everybody kind of caters to me, still. (Laughter.)

Millet: That's a great position to be in. Well, tell me something about your parents. Your mother's name and when and where she was born.

Holmes: My mother's name is Claudia Morris Rodgers, and she was born in Hickory, Mississippi. And she was born January 14, 1932.

Millet: And is she still living?

Holmes: She is still living.

Millet: And your father's name and when and where he was born?

Holmes: His name is Bilbo Rodgers, and he was born in Louisville, Mississippi, and he was born November 13, 1924. He was born in Louisville, Mississippi, but he lived in Inverness, Mississippi; Indianola, Mississippi; and Decatur, Mississippi.

Millet: And how did your parents make a living? What was it like to grow up in their household?

Holmes: We had a wonderful childhood, filled with love. And my mother was a homemaker, so, she did everything for us as far as taking care of us. And that was a big undertaking for a family of seven, but we did have our chores. But I just think that she had to do a lot, because she ironed our clothes in the crudest way. She even starched our clothes and put them in the crisper [in the refrigerator, sprinkling water over the starched items.] I don't know just how she did it, but she starched everything. And I just thought that was very good. And I can appreciate it as an adult, that she did that much for us. But, my mother was a very good mother. And my father worked at International Paper Company for thirty-five years as a porter. And he also had worked as a truck driver. And Daddy also worked part-time as a longshoreman. And he did odd jobs such as yard work to make extra money.

Millet: Wow. Mm-hm. So, he had more than one job at one time.

Holmes: Yes. He had several jobs at one time.

Millet: Do you have children, now?

Holmes: I do have children. My youngest is Tristan, and he's eleven years old. And he goes to school at East Park Elementary School. My youngest daughter is Tiffani, and she is nineteen years old. She is a sophomore at Tougaloo College, and she is majoring in chemistry, which is an odd route. Usually people major in biology or pre-med, but she aspires to be a doctor. And my daughter Tanya who is thirty--she turned thirty on the twenty-fifth, just a few days ago; yesterday, in fact--lives in Phoenix City, Alabama, and her husband is stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Millet: Tanya is a Gemini. I was born May 24. No. She may be a Taurus. It changes right around in there.

Holmes: She's a Gemini.

Millet: She's a Gemini.

Holmes: She's a Gemini. Anthony who was raised as my son, is actually my stepson. He died May 6, 1991, at the age of twenty-six of leukemia. And he had been in the hospital at Johns Hopkins, so he received very good care. He just didn't make it.

Millet: That's a tough disease. A very tough disease.

Holmes: He had just gotten married and was doing real good. His wife was a nurse, and they just had a perfect marriage for the short time.

Millet: Well, I'm really sorry to hear that he was called away so early, but happy to know that he did have that happiness with his wife for a little while.

And, where did you actually grow up, Julia?

Holmes: Although I was born in Meridian, that's about all I know about Meridian, because actually, I say that I grew up in Pascagoula because my father moved my mother and me to Pascagoula when I was three months old.

Millet: Mm-hm. Where did your father and mother meet?

Holmes: They met after he got out of the service. He lived in Decatur, and she lived in Hickory, which are just a few miles apart. And I'm glad that they met because if he had stayed in the Delta, they probably never would have met. But they're good parents, and they're sweet people.

Millet: How old were they when they got married?

Holmes: My mother was eighteen, and my daddy was twenty-four.

Millet: How old were you and your husband?

Holmes: I was nineteen, and my husband was twenty-four.

Millet: That's real close to how your parents were. But that's young, I think, for a young woman to be married. But you seem to have done it real well.

Holmes: We've lasted thirty years, my husband and I. (Laughter.)

Millet: And what was it like for you to grow up in Mississippi?

Holmes: Well, I grew up in a household full of love, and my parents were always helping people. They're known for their real--I shouldn't say philanthropic--acts, but they are just real helpful. They couldn't always help with money, but they could always help them by doing chores for them and giving them food and so forth, because we always, even though we were real poor, we always had plenty of food. I can never remember going hungry. And I had teachers who loved me, and they treated me real special. And while we had separate but unequal facilities, our principal Mrs. Earnestine Fountain took a special interest in us, and she would just do things with her own money like taking us to different events such as spelling bees, Four-H Club camps, and talent shows and so forth. She always wanted her little school, which was Skip Street Elementary, to be represented, and most of these events were held in parts of the state that were far away, such as the northern part, [and] the central part of the state. And I just really felt nurtured by my teachers, and the teachers that stand out are all of my elementary teachers, which were Ms. Hicks, Ms. Sowell, Ms. Burney, Ms. Nettles, Ms. Wilson, and Ms. Wyatt. And my librarian is one who I adored. She was Ms. Jennings, and she always let me check out books, when she wouldn't let others check out. (Laughter.) I just loved to read, and my principal, who is still living, always brags that she could never keep me supplied with enough books. I would get books off the bookmobile. And I would get books from the library even because they even allowed us to come to the library because the bookmobile books just didn't suffice. We had reading contests, my friends and I. It would be Janice Sowell, Marilyn Sowell, and I, and it was nothing for us to read in excess of a hundred books every summer.

Millet: Wow. That's a lot.

Holmes: And my church was a fun place, too. I dare not let my church go unnoticed because it was a very fun place during that time.

Millet: What church is it?

Holmes: I went to Union Baptist Church, and that's where I've always gone, I've never changed. We would have plays, recite poems, learn the Bible. And we could go to [the house of our preacher,] Reverend G.J. Martin, and he would play the piano, and we'd sit around the piano and sing. These were the nice times. But sometimes, if we ventured outside of our home, our church, or our school, we would not have such a good time. In fact, you might say that it was like living in Northern Ireland at certain points in my life because rocks would be thrown at us, foul matter would be thrown from school buses. We would never know what we would encounter, and we learned how to walk far enough off the road to avoid certain situations. And the girls thought that they had it bad, but the boys really had it bad. They couldn't come across town to study with us in peace. You know. Sometimes they'd escape being harmed, but a lot of times they'd have rocks thrown at them. They'd be beaten up trying to come and date us. Sometimes they'd come--just be walking home from football practice, and they'd be harmed. And they'd come to school the next day kind of beaten up. But this was life in segregated Pascagoula.

Millet: And so, these were Caucasians who were perpetrating the harassment and criminal acts?

Holmes: Yes. And one of my white friends, they would encounter that, also, but I think that that was just very rare for them. It was rare for us, but it was more frequent for us than it was for them. But David Miller and I sit down all the time, and we talk race. And he says that when they'd venture into the black communities, that they would be subjected to the same thing. But I just don't think it was as frequent as what we encountered.

Millet: Uh-huh. You mentioned that your mother did a lot of work. Did you all have any chores at all when you were growing up?

Holmes: Oh, yes. We had chores, but it was just that my mother had so many more chores than we did. In fact, I always helped her out with the children. That was just my responsibility. And the year that they had the freedom school was the only time that I felt like I neglected her because I tried to help her with the younger kids. My brother, Michael, had just been born that year, and I just would go to the freedom school a whole lot because I just loved listening to their stories and just meeting somebody different. They were just really interesting, because I had never been out of Mississippi, and they just had such interesting stories to tell. And they were just so intelligent and so smart and everything. And they taught us freedom songs and showed us films, and we knew that there was--. They showed us that there were better places than Mississippi.

Millet: A different way of doing things that was integrated and not separate, isolated, and segregated.

Holmes: Right. Mm-hm. And we learned about Boston and New York and just a lot of places. And Howard University. And we wanted to be like them.

Millet: Mm-hm. So, they were role models for you.

Holmes: Mm-hm. Definitely. And they were so courageous.

Millet: Did you think so at the time, that they were courageous? Do you remember anything specific that made you think that?

Holmes: Oh, after the civil rights workers were killed, my respect for them went up 300 percent.

Millet: After Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner [were murdered]?

Holmes: Yes. But I always thought that they were courageous, because later I learned that some of the parents insisted that their children come home.

Millet: After the murders? After the [murders] of those three workers?

Holmes: Mm-hm. And some of them didn't, still.

Millet: But parents were so frightened for their children at that point, that they had to withdraw support in that way.

Holmes: Yes. Mm-hm. Right. And there was a cross burned at our freedom school that we had. It was only open for about two months, but they did a lot of good.

Millet: Do you remember the address of the freedom school?

Holmes: It was Dupont Avenue. It was directly behind--not directly behind our [home], but kind of cattycornered behind our--not behind our school, behind our home. We lived on Skip. It was--.

Millet: And that's Pascagoula?

Holmes: Not directly, but almost directly behind our [home]. Yes, in Pascagoula.

Millet: I know you and I had talked about that photograph on the cover of Local People.

Holmes: It looked exactly [like the freedom school located on Dupont in Pascagoula.]

Millet: I'd love to know. I'm going to try to find out where that was taken. You mentioned the library. Was that your school library, or were you talking about a public library?

Holmes: Well, I used my school library, and I was a library assistant there. And Ms. Mattie Jennings was the librarian, and she was just very nice to me. But I can never remember being treated unfairly at the public library. We would walk about a mile or so to the library.

Millet: Was it integrated? Or was it all black?

Holmes: They never denied us service, so that was good enough. So, I never noticed that I was treated shabbily or anything, because we'd check out our books with no problem.

Millet: Were you limited in the times you could go in? Were there white patrons in there when you were going in?

Holmes: Yes. I just don't remember being treated wrong.

Millet: That's interesting. You know, probably, from Sandra Adickes, in Hattiesburg--.

Holmes: Yes, I know. I've spoken with most of my colleagues, and they said that they encountered problems, but I just don't remember that.

Millet: That's unusual.

Holmes: I really don't. Because we checked out many, many books from that library.

Millet: And again, you know, I have to wonder if it has something to do with the coastal area just being a little more liberal, maybe. Where and when did you attend school?

Holmes: I attended Skip Street Elementary, and I entered Skip Street Elementary in 1956. And I graduated from Carver High School as covaledictorian in 1968.

Millet: When did your schools integrate?

Holmes: Around 1971.

Millet: Where were you in school at that time?

Holmes: I was out of school.

Millet: You were already out of school. So, you were in an all-black high school?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Your whole career in school?

Holmes: Around 1967 and 1968, there was a push to integrate, and two of my friends--here's one of them [showing photograph] Janice Sowell Washington. Janice Sowell, her sister Marilyn, and James Nettles attended school. I think it was Janice's senior year and Marilyn's junior year.

Millet: And they were the first ones to go over to the white school?

Holmes: Uh-huh. And Marilyn was my classmate. And I know that I didn't want to go to Pascagoula High because I wanted to be valedictorian. I was really striving for that, and I knew that there would be no chance for me to do that at Pascagoula High.

Millet: What do you recall from your friends? Did they talk to you about their experience?

Holmes: Oh, definitely. I don't remember all of them, but they would just tell me horror stories.

Millet: Can you remember any of them?

Holmes: Just being treated real badly. Just called a lot [of terrible names.] Of course, they made [some] wonderful friends.

Millet: That's great.

Holmes: Wonderful, lasting friends. But then the bad times, I'm sure, overshadowed the good things.

Millet: Right. There were probably more people who were unfriendly than friendly.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: I wonder if they feel that their educations suffered because they had so much stress, you know, so much emotional fallout. Do you have any idea about that?

Holmes: I think that they did say that their grades plummeted, and they were very intelligent girls. [And] we had all just kind of been [friendly competitors.] They were the ones who I had the reading contest with, and they were extremely intelligent. And later on in life, they went to college at a predominantly white school, and they excelled. But it was during that time that their grades just really dropped.

Millet: Right. Yeah. Well, what did you study? What were your favorite subjects in high school?

Holmes: Well, I took college preparatory classes. I think that my teachers always knew that I wanted to go to college. And I took biology which was my favorite. Algebra was a favorite of mine. Chemistry. I loved English, geometry, history, and I took physics in my senior year. I was the only girl in my senior class to take physics.

Millet: Wow.

Holmes: And home economics was required at my school, but I escaped home economics. (Laughter.) My husband took home economics, but I never took it. He can sew really well. Yes.

Millet: How did you escape it?

Holmes: Well, they let me take the college prep and home ec just didn't fit in. And I was the only girl in the history of that school that didn't take home economics. So, needless to say, I'm a lousy housekeeper, (laughter) and I'm a lousy seamstress, and everything else.

Millet: Oh, my goodness. Well, I did take home economics, but my house looks like a tornado went through it! (Laughter.)

So, did your school stay in session, or did it close during certain seasons?

Holmes: No. September through May.

Millet: You're fortunate. There are so many people who--.

Holmes: Yes. Because my mother didn't graduate because of that. Well, they didn't have a twelfth grade. And she was extremely intelligent and never got the chance to graduate.

Millet: Didn't get to finish. Yeah. Just because school didn't go that far. I know you went on to get some university degrees, so, could you tell us about your higher education?

Holmes: Do I have to? (Laughter.)

Millet: No, you don't have to. (Laughter.)

Holmes: Well, I will. My first year was a nightmare, a complete nightmare. I had been valedictorian of my class, but my grades were just horrible that year.

Millet: Where did you go?

Holmes: I went to Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, Jackson County Campus. I got [offered] lots of scholarships, but I just didn't feel like I was ready to leave home.

Millet: How old were you?

Holmes: I was eighteen.

Millet: Eighteen. Mm-hm.

Holmes: And because I'd received a pretty decent ACT score, and I had been covaledictorian of my class, and I didn't have to take any remedial classes, so, my advisor just piled on the courses. I didn't know at the time that I had a say-so in what I could take, so, I was even taking trig, something I had never had. And I didn't know that I could wait on this, so, I couldn't wait to get out of college. Because I knew that I was never going to go back again. So, after about four years of coercing and preaching to me, my old teachers and all, I finally [entered] J.C. again, and I made straight A's that time.

Millet: What do you think was the critical difference?

Holmes: Not understanding and no tolerance. I think it was just a time when the teachers didn't understand the black students, and we didn't understand them. So, it was just--. I think, in four years there had just been a turnaround, and people on both sides were just being more tolerant of each other.

Millet: What year was it? Do you remember?

Holmes: Nineteen sixty-eight, and sixty-nine. That school term. It was a nightmare! Just a very [depressing time.]

Millet: And when did you go back?

Holmes: I went back in 1972 and got my A.A. degree.

Millet: Can you specialize at that point? Or, is it just--? That's the Associate in Arts?

Holmes: I think I did it in science because I--. Well, I think it was science. I may have changed by then. I can't remember. It seems like I took a lot of education by that time. But I had wanted to be a doctor. I did not want to be a librarian. (Laughter.) I thought it took--. I had always admired my librarian, but I did not want to be a librarian. But God had other plans, and I'm glad I did.

Millet: Well, about your advisor around sixty-eight and sixty-nine, was that African-American or white?

Holmes: He was white.

Millet: And it was a male?

Holmes: Uh-huh. He was a minister, [but] I just didn't find the compassion there. Of course, I did have some really good teachers during that time who made an impact on me, and that was Dr. Turney,[?] who taught speech; Dr. Ello, who taught me music. Well, no, I was in his choir. And Mr. Ruddiman,[?] who taught me sociology. And I really liked them.

Millet: So, what happened in between 1969 and seventy-two? You got married?

Holmes: I got married.

Millet: Where did you meet your husband?

Holmes: I had always known him.

Millet: Oh. Wow. So, all your lives you knew each other?

Holmes: Uh-huh. And he had come back from the service, and he was divorced. So, we met one summer, and we married. We married within months. Just months.

Millet: And you've been married thirty years?

Holmes: Thirty years.

Millet: Well, congratulations.

Holmes: Thank you.

Millet: That's really wonderful. So, did you have any children in between sixty-nine and seventy-two?

Holmes: Uh-huh. I had Tanya, and Tanya was born in 1970.

Millet: Was there another?

Holmes: OK. Well, Anthony, my stepson, already--. He came with the marriage.

Millet: Oh, that's right. He just came along with the territory. So, you went back to school as a mother of two?

Holmes: As a mother of two. And I applied to go to Southern after graduation, and I could not get a loan. I was not working, and my husband was making $64.00 a week, and I had two children. And I could not get a grant. And that was during the time that everybody was getting grants to go back to college. And I wanted to go to USM, but I could not get one.

Millet: Did you feel that was racial discrimination?

Holmes: I just didn't know what it was. No, because, I don't think that was the case.

Millet: You don't think so?

Holmes: No, I don't think that was the case. I just didn't get one.

Millet: Yeah. Was there a Gulf Coast satellite, then?

Holmes: No.

Millet: You would have had to commute to Hattiesburg.

Holmes: Dr. Turney took a liking to me, and we would go up to Jackson and try to fight for a degree-granting institution. In his education class--. He taught me education, and he taught me speech. And for that many years, we had been trying to fight for the degree-granting institution on the Coast, because I said I would never go to Southern, or drive back and forth to Southern, rather. Well, never say, "Never." Because that's what I ended up doing. (Laughter.) But, we've been fighting that long. You see, [even] now, we're still having trouble getting it.

Millet: Right.

Holmes: It's in the news.

Millet: That's an old battle.

Holmes: So, I would have been waiting until now, if I hadn't got off my duff and tried to do something.

Millet: So, after you were turned down for a grant, what happened after that?

Holmes: Well, I just made it up in my mind that I would work, and when I got ready, I would pay for every bit of my education. And with the exception of getting the first--. I was the first person to ever get the Friend[?] Scholarship, which was $175.00. I paid for every bit of education, every bit of my undergrad degree. Now, I had this guardian angel who had other plans for me, and her name was Dr. [Lora] Long. And she paid for two courses for me to start my master's program.

Millet: That's fabulous. Dr. Long lived where?

Holmes: She lived in Hattiesburg. And she was a professor at USM.

Millet: In?

Holmes: Library science. And she pushed me all the way through my undergrad degree, all the way through my master's degree, sometimes short of cursing me out when I wanted to give up. (Laughter.) But I did earn my bachelor's and my master's degree, and I'm proud to say that I'm a member of the International Honor Society, International Library Honor Society, Beta Phi Mu, for which you have to have a 3.7 or above.

Millet: That is really remarkable.

Holmes: Three point seven five, or above.

Millet: And you had another child.

Holmes: Yes. Each time I ever tried to get an ounce of education, I would get pregnant. So, every time I'd start school, I'd get pregnant. So, I have a bachelor's baby, and a master's baby. (Laughter.)

Millet: I don't know how you did it. My hat's off to you. I don't think I could have done it. That's really remarkable.

Holmes: And I had a bad wreck that I got not a scratch, the last day of my master's program.

Millet: Wow. And you walked away from it without--?

Holmes: Without a scratch, and I could have been just injured really bad, because I totaled my car.

Millet: Wow. Well, that's got us up to your master's degree. I think we'll just backtrack a little bit, and I'm going to make a note to come back to, what path did you take after the master's. I'll note, "Master's. Then what?"

But, just to backtrack a little bit, is there an incident that stands out in your memory that started your awareness of racism? Racial differences?

Holmes: OK. I've always been a nosy child, or maybe I should say an inquisitive child. I would hear my parents whispering about the news of the day, and I noticed that one day when I was about five or six years old, they were mentioning Emmett Till being killed because he had whistled at this white woman. Well, I vowed then, that I wouldn't whistle around any white person--I had just got it all mixed up in my mind--because I was afraid that I might be killed. You know. And that was just really terrible, but a few years later, my friend Marilyn Page[?] said that girls don't get murdered for whistling at white ladies. Only black boys. And then I started fearing for my brothers, so, I stayed [frightened] until my mother explained it to me. And I should have gone to her in the beginning. I thought that we could be killed just for whistling, you know. And that was just [horrible.] And that was traumatic.

Millet: And that was a very real fear for a child. I mean, it's something that we might think now is, "Oh, isn't that amusing?" But it's not amusing to the child.

Holmes: No.

Millet: It's extremely real.

Holmes: And if I hadn't had my ear to the door, I probably wouldn't have known, but I was always bad about listening.

Millet: Well, and, of course, it was real for Emmett Till. You know. Which just stands out in my mind as one of the ultimate, horrible, most horrible things I have ever heard of.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: And I just can't imagine--

Holmes: I know.

Millet: --the kind of human being who could do that. I just can't imagine it.

But, in a way, it was a real danger for you. Not only just that you believed it with all your heart and soul as a five-year-old, but then it really did happen to a fourteen-year-old, Emmett Till.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: So, you must have started thinking at that time, "What's the difference here?" You know. "White boys whistle. Why can't black boys?"

Holmes: Oh, and I still have a hard time whistling, now, because it was just so traumatic to me. Because after she explained to me--and she was the same age I was--and I should have just gone to my parents right then, instead of just being really scared. But I just started worrying about my brothers after that, because I had three brothers at the time.

Millet: Did you eventually ask your mother?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: How did she explain it to you?

Holmes: Well, she explained it just like it was. You know. How he had come down from Chicago and had allegedly whistled at a white woman and was dragged off and mangled. And, of course, we'd get the Jet and all.

Millet: With the photographs?

Holmes: Oh. The photographs were just horrible. And I think, maybe, I had seen the photographs before it had been explained to me. Or I'd seen something that just really, just hit me really.

Millet: So, there was planted there a seed of fear.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: That would be a tough thing to be rid of. Do you think that still affects you in any way?

Holmes: Well, that whistling part, because, I just really don't know. Because my brothers and sisters know how to whistle all sorts of ways, but I don't even try to whistle. I can just barely whistle.

Millet: Yeah. Do you think that the court case of Brown v. the Board of Education had any affect on you?

Holmes: No. Not up until I started college did it have an effect on me. It should have had an effect on me, and integration should have been started much sooner.

Millet: In fifty-four! (Laughter.)

Holmes: In fifty-four. Uh-huh. But Pascagoula wasn't having it. So, our schools remained segregated until around sixty-seven or sixty-eight.

Millet: And that was forced by lawsuits and the federal government. Well, you have been telling me about integrating the schools just in terms of that misunderstanding with your advisor when you first went to the junior college.

Did you register to vote?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Were you successful on your first try?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Was there a literacy test or poll tax?

Holmes: [No.]

Millet: Very different from your father's experience.

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Tell me about registering to vote. What was that like?

Holmes: Well, it was a joyful experience to me.

Millet: Yeah? Went without a hitch?

Holmes: Without a hitch. I first voted at the Knights of Columbus building in Pascagoula.

Millet: Were there any reprisals against you for exercising that right?

Holmes: No, by that time, there were none. None that I can remember. Nobody else during that time that I can remember.

Millet: I know that I've already talked to your father and his experience in registering to vote, but that's a different interview, so, I'm going to go ahead and ask you: were your parents able to register to vote?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: And do you know about when that happened?

Holmes: No, they don't remember. I've talked with them about that, and they don't remember.

Millet: And what was that like for your parents?

Holmes: They did have to pay the poll tax, and they did have to take the literacy test.

Millet: And were they successful on their first attempts?

Holmes: Daddy wasn't. And I'm not sure that my mother was, but they vote in everything, now. (Laughter.)

Millet: They vote in everything.

Holmes: And so do I.

Millet: Uh-huh. That's great. I'm really glad.

Well, in terms of Pascagoula, just describing the climate in Pascagoula, was it segregated around jobs and public accommodations?

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: Do you remember that? What was that like?

Holmes: I can remember that there were "blacks only" jobs. The only jobs that I can remember that blacks have held for a long time have been in the health field. And I know one person who used to work at City Lumber, and she worked there before integration, before mass integration. But life in segregated Pascagoula was very tough. We had to use the restrooms before we went anywhere. We had to just kind of plan our strategies because otherwise we might have to stop on the side of the road, and really we feared being arrested for indecent exposure because we had to go in the bushes. And, you know, surely they'd know what we were doing. But we used to have to really plan on how we were going to use the bathroom.

And kids these days take everything for granted: they can eat anywhere they want to; they can go to the bathroom anywhere they want to. But we just really had to do some tall planning, and we would have to take lunch meat and cheese and crackers and stuff on our trip because we usually, on our way to our grandmother's in central Mississippi, we couldn't stop and eat anywhere we wanted.

We had a bookmobile at our library, that came around for our school, but we could go to the library that was located on Krebs Avenue. And there were separate waiting rooms at the doctor's office, one of them that we went to, which was within walking distance from our home. But we could go to the black doctor's office and not have to do that. But that's when we could catch a ride. But if my dad was working or something, we'd have to walk to the doctor.

Millet: Even when you were sick?

Holmes: Uh-huh, because my mother didn't drive.

Millet: Excuse me, just one second. (There is a brief interruption in the interview.)

So, there are several questions that arise for me, I guess, when I hear you talking about segregation at that time. First of all, it was extremely inconvenient to have to plan something as basic as where you're going to eliminate, [and] something as basic as, "Where am I going to get food?" Very inconvenient, but there must have been some fear that accompanied, you know, all that planning. [For example,] "Well, you know, what would happen if the car broke down, and we had to stop?" Or just, "What would happen if the food spoiled, and we were hungry? What would we do?" Do you remember some sort of feeling like that that went with all those plans?

Holmes: One time I can remember going through Beaumont, Mississippi, and just out of nowhere, this man just--I guess, he was directing traffic or something, I can't remember. But he just said, "Stop, boy! Didn't you see me?" He just said something that was really humiliating to my dad. And he came to screeching halt. But we didn't even see him before that. But he said, "Stop, boy!" And I can just remember things like that. And having to stop. And I was real young then, so I really don't remember exactly, but that occurred a lot. "Boy, didn't you hear me?" Or such and such.

Millet: And did that change over your lifetime at some point?

Holmes: Oh, yes. It didn't happen here because my dad was really respected here. And it didn't happen to us unless there was somebody that didn't know us. Because my girlfriend's dad worked at Calvary Baptist Church, and she was well known. We were good, law-abiding kids, and we never got in any trouble, so, people liked us, and we had a lot of white friends.

Millet: I'm also thinking about what you said about going to the physician's office, and having to walk, even when you were sick. Being in separate waiting rooms. Did you feel like the physician saw you last? That if white patients came in, you were going to have to wait?

Holmes: No, I think Dr. Hicks, while he had separate waiting rooms, I think he [treated] us fairly. And I think he was just doing what the status quo was. I don't think that he was really racist, but he did talk real loud, so everybody knew your business.

Millet: Oh, my goodness.

Holmes: But he was a pretty good man, because I can remember following him to Alabama, whenever he moved over there.

Millet: Were you aware of the policies at hospitals? Did you ever have to enter the hospital as a child?

Holmes: No. Whenever I'd almost have to go to the hospital, Dr. Morris would come and make a house visit, because I can remember having pneumonia really bad and feeling that he saved my life a couple of times.

Millet: Now, was Dr. Morris a white doctor?

Holmes: The black doctor.

Millet: The black doctor in town. Mm-hm.

Holmes: But my husband had an incident where he was coming from a scouting event in Wiggins, Mississippi, and the bus driver--my husband thought since he was an Eagle Scout and he and his brother were in their uniforms, that they could possibly sit up front. But [the bus driver] said in a gruff voice, "Move to the back." And this affected my husband really bad because he thought that since they were the only ones on the bus that, you know, they should have been allowed to sit closer to the front.

Millet: So, they were on a public transportation bus. The only ones. In their Boy Scout uniforms.

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: And he still told them to move to the back.

Holmes: Move to the back.

Millet: There was a time when bus drivers carried guns. I don't know exactly when they stopped doing that, but, yeah, they had that kind of, the teeth to enforce that kind of discrimination. Do you happen to know, was your husband's Boy Scout troop segregated or integrated?

Holmes: It was segregated. Definitely segregated.

Millet: Were any of your sons in Scouts?

Holmes: Oh, my son is.

Millet: And is it integrated now?

Holmes: Yes. Well, his troop isn't, but it's very much integrated.

Millet: Yeah. There have been some changes.

Holmes: And they have their choices, too. There are several troops that are integrated, but his just happens not to be.

Millet: But that's by the choice of the membership?

Holmes: Yes. He could go to Harry McDonald[?], who is a good friend of mine, and he's a white guy who loves my son. He could go to his troop any time he felt like it.

Millet: Yeah. Well, what can you tell me about Freedom Summer of 1964 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?

Holmes: I loved Freedom Summer. I loved the people. And it's the only time I can remember just not really helping my mother to the fullest capacity because I just lived every minute; I jumped the fence and just lived over to the freedom school. And I was very disappointed that it only lasted for two months. I can remember them canvassing black neighborhoods, trying to get people to vote. I can remember them at night, they would have mass meetings trying to plan the next day and that they'd sing. And I can remember that their meetings would consist mainly of high school to people about twenty-five years old. There were very few people who were older than that.

Millet: Mm-hm. That's interesting.

Holmes: And my brothers and I loved to talk to them because they were so interesting, and we'd just be like their little slaves because we just loved them so much, and we would always ask them how we could help them.

Millet: Uh-huh. You were anxious to help.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: How old were you that year?

Holmes: Fourteen.

Millet: Fourteen. Do you remember where the mass meetings were?

Holmes: They were held--. I don't know the difference between the mass meetings, but they would have meetings at the place on Dupont.

Millet: Mm-hm. It must have been a COFO office.

Holmes: I think so. The one that's on the cover of that [book Local People].

Millet: Yeah. Must have been. And that was a summer when there was a lot of cooperation between SNCC, SCLC, the NAACP, and CORE, and it was all kind of under that big umbrella of COFO.

Holmes: And I had said that I was going to research every one of those acronyms. (Laughter.) Because I know one is Congress of Racial Equality.

Millet: Yeah. SCLC is the something. See, I can't remember it.

Holmes: Southern Christian Leadership?

Millet: Mm-hm. And then--.

Holmes: Oh. I belong to that.

Millet: You do?

Holmes: I do.

Millet: When did you join?

Holmes: I've been a member for about five years, now.

Millet: That's great. And how about the NAACP?

Holmes: Oh, since the early eighties or late seventies.

Millet: Those are important organizations.

And what about the struggle to integrate the Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches?

Holmes: OK. I don't know much about it. But I know that Dr. [Gilbert] Mason's car was burned as a result of that, because my husband told me about that. I didn't take part in the integration of the beaches. And I don't ever remember going to Biloxi beaches until the late sixties, and I didn't dare go to ours until about that time.

Millet: Wow.

Holmes: And I think in The Smell of Burning Crosses, Ira Harkey alludes to the maids who would take the white kids down to the beaches, and I think he said that they could wade with the kids, but they couldn't look like they enjoyed it.

Millet: Isn't that amazing?

Holmes: But he was a wonderful writer, and I have his book in there.

Millet: And how do you spell his name? I'm not familiar with him.

Holmes: Ira Harkey.

Millet: A?

Holmes: I-R-A.

Millet: Ira.

Holmes: Harkey. H-A-R-K-E-Y. And he's a Pulitzer prizewinner.

Millet: The Smell of Burning Crosses?

Holmes: You don't know that book?

Millet: No.

Holmes: It's this area.

Millet: I can hardly wait to read it.

Holmes: It's civil rights of this area.

Millet: Now, I remember that you told me you went to the freedom school in secret. Your parents didn't want you to go over there?

Holmes: Well, now that my dad has [talked to you.] He probably realized it, and Mama probably realized it.

(End of tape one, side one. The interview continues on tape one, side two.)

Millet: So, even though your mother needed you at home, she didn't, like, [take] you aside and insist that you [stay home.] She probably knew you were at the freedom school, but it was just an unspoken agreement that it was OK for you to be there.

Holmes: Right. I just felt so guilty having abandoned her because I'm just not that way, generally.

Millet: That was a tough choice to have to make. Well, tell me about your children and their experiences in Mississippi public schools. What is it like for them? What are the things that were different about when you went to school, and maybe there are some things that are the same?

Holmes: The things that are the same is that they did go to, well, elementary school, they went to segregated elementary schools. Every now and then there might be a white child, but basically it was segregated, but the teachers were different.

Millet: Mm-hm. Why were they going to a segregated school?

Holmes: Just by virtue of living in this area. The district.

Millet: Uh-huh. I see. And so, what about the faculty at the school?

Holmes: The faculty. They have a white principal, and Tiffani had white teachers from first to third or fourth grade, and I think her last two, fifth and sixth grades, were black. But she had a good mix of teachers.

Millet: Mm-hm. That's interesting. Do you feel like they got a good education?

Holmes: I feel that they [did], because she is able to compete a lot, and she was always tutoring. Tiffani is my tutoring child. She can do just about anything. She is--. Well, all my kids are real good helpers, and they help people all the time. She does hair. She does everything. She does it free. And I love that in her.

Millet: She's beautiful. They both are.

Holmes: But both of my, all of my kids are helpers. They love to help people. And it's a legacy, I think, that my parents have passed on. And my husband's a helper. So, we just like to take care of people, and this house has been called an orphanage because we'll type kids' term papers, look up their research, or do anything, because we have the Internet, and we just really like helping children.

Millet: That's fabulous. It really is. There was something I wanted to ask you. Let me see if I can remember what it was. Hm. What about the facilities that your children have compared to the facilities that were in place when you were in school?

Holmes: Well, theirs are much better. They were able to know how to do computers and know all the good technology at about five years old. In fact, when I went to graduate school, my daughter diagnosed my software program as being defective. (Laughter.)

Millet: And how old was she?

Holmes: She was about six then.

Millet: Oh, my goodness!

Holmes: She said, "There is something wrong with your disc." I had just bought the computer, and I was just having a fit. And she knew more about getting it started than I did.

Millet: Well, that's ironic, but that's modern life, I guess. Tell me a little bit about your husband. I can't remember if it was on your father's interview that somebody said he was a judge?

Holmes: No, not my husband. My sister's husband.

Millet: OK. Alright. Well, but, tell me about your husband.

Holmes: My husband is William Holmes, and he was under the tutelage of Dr. Mason a whole lot. He traveled to Philmont [Scout Ranch in] New Mexico, one summer with Dr. Mason. And my husband just grew to really stand up for himself after going to New Mexico with Dr. Mason because during that time it was not in vogue to just be vocal, and anytime somebody wouldn't serve them, and they were in their uniforms, he just stood up to them and told them that they weren't right.

Millet: Yeah. Even if he didn't get served, he still got to [have a voice].

Holmes: And he was very courageous, and my husband thought that that was a summer that changed his life because he had just never seen a black man stand up to authority like Dr. Mason. So, I just really--. I've never met Dr. Mason, but I just really want to do that.

Millet: He's getting pretty old. Yeah. I wasn't really sure if he was still living. But do you know for sure he is?

Holmes: I know he's been sick. His wife died not too long ago.

Millet: Oh. That's really tough when you've been married as long as they have. I encourage you to contact him because he is--.

Holmes: I do want to meet him.

Millet: We have an interview of his, but it's restricted in some way--I can't remember exactly what--but it was an education in itself to do the editing on that interview. I will let you know when it hits the shelf.

Holmes: Oh, yes. I'd love to.

Millet: I'll let you know. Well, we talked a little bit about your experiences in the civil rights movement, but I just wonder if there's anything we didn't mention. I know you had told me that you sensed that people protected you from risks some during that time.

Holmes: And when I thought about it, I know now who my greatest protector was, and it was James Carl Miller. That was Mr. J.P. Miller's son, because I protected him when he was in elementary, and he turned the tables and wanted to protect me for the rest of the time. He--.

Millet: Well, tell me about protecting him, first.

Holmes: Well, he was my buddy. I was born May 12, 1950; he was born May 13, 1950. Our parents were the greatest of friends. Need I say more? But anyway, we were close like brother and sister, and he ended up marrying my best friend. They got divorced later on. But, Clarice and I--. And he was protecting me, but he was probably doing an added measure because he had a mad crush on her, too. But we did march. We sneaked and marched behind his back, but he would always, now that I look back, try to sabotage and say, "Well, I need you to do this." And he knew I'd never refuse anything that he asked because we were just like that. And he would always try to make up excuses, but we wanted to be arrested. (Laughter.)

Millet: That was one of your objectives, to get arrested.

Holmes: We wanted to be arrested. (Laughter.) We did. And we probably would never have been because they always arrested other people. But I think Carl, J.C. Richmond, and Brenda, his aunt who just received her law degree, were arrested. And they were all classmates of mine. But it was my goal to be arrested.

Millet: Now, you were how old then?

Holmes: Well, I was between fourteen and sixteen then, [when] they were having all the trouble.

Millet: So, your classmates who were being arrested were under age?

Holmes: They were fourteen. Mm-hm. They were fourteen that year.

Millet: How long did they stay in jail?

Holmes: I really don't know, but I do know that I was just mad at him for not letting me be arrested because he had asked me to do something that day. Probably it was lessons, because he would always say that I kept him grounded. He was super intelligent, because he helped me with my physics because I had a hard time with physics, and he helped me with that. But we would always keep each other grounded, I thought. But he probably had me doing some sort of research or something for him that day.

Millet: Well, how did you protect him in elementary school?

Holmes: Oh, he just didn't know how to fight, and I did. (Laughter.) I'm not violent by nature, but when it comes to somebody that I really, really love, I will just go to battle for them. And I had those brothers that were really strong, and we practiced a lot.

Millet: That's great. That's a great story. Did you feel like you faced any reprisals for your work in the civil rights movement?

Holmes: No. And I have a lot of programs that deal with race, and I have a lot of whites that help me put it on.

Millet: Is that at the library here?

Holmes: Mm-hm. They help me out a lot, but I do notice that people tend to shy away from me when I mention that I'm a member of the NAACP and SCLC. I think that they think that it's a racist, not realizing that it's just that I'm trying to advance my race.

Millet: Everyone. Yeah.

Holmes: Advance my race, and then advance everyone, as you say. You know. Because everybody benefits in the end. Handicapped people, homosexuals, everybody.

Millet: And, well, women, of course. A lot of people who were in the civil rights movement talk about how, for them, the women's movement grew directly out of their experience in the civil rights movement.

Holmes: Absolutely.

Millet: And you know, today, still, women can be working the same job as a man, and not get paid [as much as the man.] But, let me think, now.

Holmes: People just don't understand.

Millet: I was going to ask you something. I think what I wanted to get back to was, what did you do after your master's degree?

Holmes: After my master's degree, I just continued to do what I was doing. It was just validated. I was head of the reference department at one time.

Millet: And so, when did you start working at the Pascagoula Library? Was it after you got your bachelor's degree?

Holmes: Oh, no.

Millet: Before you got your bachelor's degree.

Holmes: Yeah. I have done just about everything in that library. No, I came to the library one night, and the boss's daughter asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I had been doing domestic work. And she did not like that. She said, "Apply for this job." And I applied and got the job. I had been doing domestic work, but I had gotten this job at Sears, and I really, really didn't like the job at Sears, so, I quit work in ladies fashions at Sears on a Friday and started work for the library on a Saturday, October 3, 1972.

Millet: Wow. And have you been there ever since?

Holmes: Ever since.

Millet: Yeah. So, after the summer of sixty-four, what was your kind of focus? Were you just focused in getting through high school? Going to college? You wanted to be a doctor.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: And you got married. Had that bad experience that first year with the junior college. And then--.

Holmes: But I made a lot of lasting friends, too, during that time.

Millet: Were you involved in civil rights during that time when you were going to school? When you were having your children?

Holmes: Just a little bit. A little bit during that time.

Millet: And what form did it take?

Holmes: Just voter registration. That type thing. It was kind of minimal during that time. Now, I'm involved in an array of things.

Millet: Was the NAACP an important part of your civil rights work for you?

Holmes: Yes.

Millet: Tell me about that.

Holmes: Well, I've been involved through my sorority which is Delta Sigma Theta. I've been involved through National Council of Negro Women, and also the library, because my boss that I had prior to--well, one of my bosses took a strong interest in the NAACP, and she was honored by the NAACP. And I've received several awards from the NAACP for my projects.

Millet: What are they?

Holmes: Gosh. They're in there. [Gesturing.] I received the Unsung Heroine Award for this year, 2000. I received a professionalism award [for] community service and another one for something. They're in there on the wall.

Millet: Do you want to go look?

Holmes: Well, (inaudible). It says, "Professionalism Award." And one for Dedicated Service.

Millet: Dedicated Service. I think that's the one that we didn't have.

Holmes: But this is the one I'm most proud of. It's so dusty.

Millet: This is the one you're most proud of. Oh, "Unsung Heroine Award presented to Julia Holmes for over twenty years of unselfish, devoted, and faithful service in the promotion of black history projects. Moss Point, Jackson County Branch, NAACP, February 5, 2000."

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: That's great. Congratulations.

Holmes: Thank you.

Millet: Well, do you remember some specific things that you did with Delta Sigma Theta or the National Council of Negro Women or the library that you consider to be important projects?

Holmes: Well, with the library, it's mostly black history programs, and we have had an Unsung Sheroes Program, honoring black women. We've had a "Having Our Say" program which--.

Millet: How does that work, "Having Our Say?"

Holmes: That was intergenerational, and we had the students [ask questions.] And that was done with Kathy Murray, the gifted teacher, and I had the students to interview. Well, it was whites and blacks.

Millet: Who did they interview?

Holmes: The first Miss America [contestant] from this area, and that was Dot Jane. Franzetta Sanders.

Millet: Was the first--? Was that an African-American who was first?

Holmes: No, the first Miss America [contestant] from this area. And that was Dot Jane. And Mr. Welch. And there was a Mr. Planer[?] who is a school board member. Franzetta [Sanders]. You know I mentioned her before. Miss Fountain[?] who was my elementary principal. Gosh, who else? Ms. Nobella Griffin[?]. Just a lot of people.

Millet: Uh-huh. And you mentioned that your husband or somebody videotaped it?

Holmes: The school has it.

Millet: Now, what will they do with that film?

Holmes: Probably just have it archived. Mm-hm. She was supposed to get me one, but I never got mine.

Millet: Well, that's a great program.

Holmes: But we've had numerous programs. I can't remember them all.

Millet: Well, how would you describe the role of the clergy in the movement?

Holmes: Oh, the clergy has always been a driving force in the civil rights movement and especially my church. My church has always been fortunate to have a minister who was not usually tied to a job so therefore he could be free in his thinking. Our church early on housed the Head Start program. When Kennedy died, we had a big ceremony right after that because, you know, just pouring [out] our grief and how we felt about Kennedy because it was just really traumatic. That was one of the worst days of my life.

Millet: Right.

Holmes: And our present pastor is real active in various causes. If he feels like somebody has been wronged, he will go to their aid. And he is very vocal about it, but I like him because he is very well-rounded. He's involved in the Chamber of Commerce, and he serves on lots of boards. He coaches basketball. He has just done a lot of things. One thing that I'm really proud of him for is that he operates and founded the Operation X[?] Lunch Program. And we have tutors to come in. And they have dramatic results. Kids who were making D's go up to A's.

Millet: Is that done in the church?

Holmes: In the church. And it's for any child; I mean, any child.

Millet: Wow. That's fabulous.

Holmes: Mm-hm. But he graduated from Leadership Jackson County, and he just is very versatile and young, of course.

Millet: Well, comparing the lives and opportunities available to African-Americans before the civil rights movement [and] after, what words would you use to describe the Mississippi Gulf Coast before the movement?

Holmes: Well, before, I think that while it was not as bad as other parts of Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast strictly enforced its Jim Crow laws, and, you know, that has to be said. But that's about it.

Millet: Mm-hm. And what about after the movement?

Holmes: After the movement, I think that blacks just began to feel like they were worthy, that their self-esteem just went up sky high. And they felt that they didn't have to bow down to anybody, and that they felt that they were as good. And I think that after the murder of the civil rights workers, that they really felt that they should just be beneficial to society, and they started owning their businesses a lot in this area. They started running for office. They just had a new sense of importance. And I thought that was a good thing. And I just think that the workers that came down here just really did wonders for this town. Well, this area.

Millet: They were amazing people. And how would you describe race relations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, now?

Holmes: Pretty good. A lot remains to be done, but I think very good in comparison.

Millet: And do you think African-Americans have representation among elected officials in the coastal counties.

Holmes: Mm-hm. And I think that our little town has the most because we have a black mayor, and as my dad forestated, we have a black judge, and we have four black aldermen.

Millet: Mm-hm. More political power.

Holmes: Mm-hm.

Millet: If the movement had not come, where would we be now?

Holmes: Well, we also wouldn't have a black supervisor that represents this district. We wouldn't have a state representative, Billy Broomfield, who is black. We wouldn't be as tolerant of each other as we are now because the movement forced the races to come together and work together. Before the movement, we had all these preconceived notions about how one race was, and usually these preconceived notions were wrong. And I feel like I have made lasting friendships through being involved on boards, because I serve on a lot of boards. And I feel like my input is important. And I'm glad now that we can respect each other's views in order to come to a workable solution. And I think that we should all know that our children are watching us, and we should, you know, just live lives that are good and respect each other and be real tolerant. And I also want to say that conventional wisdom would say that Vernon Dahmer, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Viola Liuzzo, and all, and the three civil rights workers that were murdered would probably be amazed and dismayed if they came to our town, because our town is wracked with drug problems. We have debilitating poverty. We have a number of problems. We have violence, but I think that they also would find communities becoming strong. They would find communities that were--. They would be pleased by the number of black, elected officials, and they would be pleased with the number of people who are trying to persevere in the face of adversity. And I think that they would find hope in this. So, the movement was not in vain, and they didn't die in vain.

Millet: And do you think the movement is still alive and active and a process?

Holmes: Oh, yes.

Millet: Maybe something was started that is still in motion and hopefully will always be in motion.

Holmes: Yeah.

Millet: Yeah. Until we reach a point where we can't tell there are any differences between us. (Laughter.)

Holmes: Yeah. And I just hope that one day it is like that.

And, you know, there is a resurgence of undercover racism, and I just really don't like that. I just wish that people would just be more genuine. But overall I think race relations have improved immensely.

Millet: Well, is there anything that I have failed to ask you that you would like to comment on for the record for future generations?

Holmes: Yes. I will forever be indebted to Billy Knight[?] and J.C. Carter for kind of insisting that Ms. McIlwain[?] take me to work at the library. And I will be indebted to her for keeping me beyond that time and rehiring me several years later. Because she did give me a chance, and she was very fair. And we remain friends to this day.

Millet: Mm-hm. Well, great. I can't think of anything else except to say, thank you very much.

Holmes: You're very welcome. And I just love you.

Millet: Oh, likewise. (Laughter.)

(End of the interview.)


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The University of Southern Mississippi | Last updated
25 October 2003 3:37 PM AA/EOE/ADAI