[Mississippi History Newsletter Online.]

A MDAH Publication  |  Volume 46 No. 11 |  November 2004

MDAH Director Hilliard To Retire at End of Year

Elbert R. Hilliard, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History since 1973, has announced his plans to retire December 31, 2004. Hilliard had planned to retire January 1, 2004, but postponed his retirement at the request of the board of trustees.

"Elbert Hilliard leaves a legacy of service as director of the Department of Archives and History that is almost unprecedented in state government," said MDAH Board of Trustees president Willial Winter, "not only for the length of that service but for the professional leadership that made him such a universally respected figure."

H. T. Holmes, director of the MDAH Archives and Library Division since 1988, will assume the position of MDAH director January 1, 2005. Elbert R. Hilliard, a native of Nitta Yuma in Sharkey County, received his bachelor's degree from Delta State College and his master's degree from Mississippi State University. After teaching history for six years, he began working at the Department of Archives and History in 1965 as curator of history at the State Historical Museum. He became director of Historic Sites and Archaeology in 1970 and Department director in 1973.

When Hilliard became MDAH director in 1973, the MDAH staff comprised fifty-one people and the annual budget was less than one million dollars. Today the Department employs more than one hundred fifty people and operates on an annual budget of more than eleven million dollars. When Hilliard became director of the Historic Sites Division, the Department administered only one historic property: the Old Capitol. MDAH now has seventeen historic properties, six of them National Historic Landmarks. Six of these properties are fully interpreted historic sites, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Under his leadership important new collections were added to the MDAH archives including the papers of Jefferson Davis, Judith Sargent Murray, and Medgar and Myrlie Evers. The state records management and local government records programs were established.

During Hilliard's tenure, the fledgling state historical museum developed into one of the finest museums and most popular tourist attractions in the state; the Old Capitol Museum was designated a Smithsonian Affiliate, the first in the state, in 2001.

Hilliard worked with the members of the Mississippi Legislature to strengthen and clarify Mississippi's laws governing historic preservation, with the result that the State Antiquities Law, amended in 1983, is widely recognized as one of the strongest preservation laws in the country.

He has worked successfully with the Legislature not only to secure authorization and funding for the Department but also for a series of grant programs that have been of great benefit to historic properties and programs around the state.

The MDAH director serves as secretary-treasurer of the Mississippi Historical Society. Elbert Hilliard provided a constant to the Society over the years, working on Society/Department partnerships on many ambitious projects, including the Heritage of Mississippi Series and the Mississippi History Now online educational publication.

He has served as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Mississippi History throughout his term as director. During that time it became a refereed journal with an editorial review board of distinguished scholars.

Hilliard helped spearhead funding efforts for the construction of the state-of-the-art William F. Winter Archives and History Building, dedicated in 2003.

A public reception will honor Hilliard on Thursday, January 27, 2005, at 3 p.m., in the Old Capitol Rotunda. PHOTO GALLERY>>

Eudora Welty Foundation's National Advisory Board Meets

The Eudora Welty Foundation's National Advisory Board (NAB) met October 9 in Charlottesville, Virginia, for updates on fundraising needs for the Eudora Welty House, which is scheduled to open in April 2006. Hosts for the meeting were Dan and Lou Jordan; Dan Jordan is the director of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville. Twelve of the twenty-one NAB members attended, as well as nine of the eleven Welty Foundation Board members, five MDAH staff members, and Eudora Welty scholar and biographer Suzanne Marrs. PHOTO GALLERY>>

Mark Your Calendars

Winterville Mounds Museum, Greenville

During November (Native American Month), school groups can make field trips throughout the month to Winterville Mounds for special programs focusing on the native foods of the Americas. Reservations are required. Free of charge.

On Saturday, November 6, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Native American Day will feature demonstrations of traditional Native American cooking, basket-making, and flint-knapping, along with tours of the mounds and museum. Free of charge; some crafts will be for sale. For information call 662/ 334-4684.

Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History, Jackson

The Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra will perform a free concert of classical and baroque music on Sunday, November 14, at 2 p.m. For more information call 601/576-6920.

Old Capitol Museum Wins Awards

The Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History has received three prestigious awards from the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC). The Old Capitol tied for the Award of Excellence (highest award) in the 2003-04 Curator's Exhibition Competition (in its budget category) for Two Rivers Unleashed, according to awards chair Peter J. Baldaia, chief curator, Huntsville Museum of Art.

The museum also won first place in the Educational Package category for three annually produced brochures and first place in the Promotional Package category for its Eudora Welty House garden materials: invitation, program, garden guide, bookmark, and seed packet.

The awards were presented in Winston-Salem as part of the SEMC awards ceremony on Thursday, October 21.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust offers two events November 12-14 in Biloxi: a Cemetery Preservation Workshop ($70 for MHT members and $95 for non-members) and Fall Insiders' Tour of Biloxi and Ocean Springs-cemeteries, art and cultural museums, and historic collections ($225). Call 601/ 636-5010 for more information.


MDAH Awarded National Film Grant

MDAH has been awarded a grant to preserve a collection of amateur films shot in the 1940s by Robert A. McClure, a Delta farmer. The $3,234 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation will fund the conservation of four black-and-white silent films that document the state during its transition from labor-intensive manual farming to mechanized methods.

The films were shot on 8mm and 16mm film. A 1944 film of field workers in Coahoma County shows the manpower necessary to grow cotton at the time. A 1947 film shows mechanization beginning to replace human labor in the cotton fields. The film titled "Clarksdale Dusting Co." shows footage of a converted military airplane that is thought to have been the first plane used for spraying pesticides. Also documented is a rare snowstorm that swept across north Mississippi on January 5, 1944.

After conservation, the films will be available for viewing in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson.

The films were donated to MDAH by McClure's daughters Joy Coker, of Munford, Alabama, and Ann Saucier, of Laurel. Robert McClure was the great-uncle of Donna Dye, former director of the Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History. Dye first approached family members and suggested they donate the films to the state archives.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust offers two events November 12-14 in Biloxi: a Cemetery Preservation Workshop ($70 for MHT members and $95 for non-members) and Fall Insiders' Tour of Biloxi and Ocean Springs—cemeteries, art and cultural museums, and historic collections ($225). Call 601/ 636-5010 for more information.

Barry Discusses Influenza

John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide (winner, MHS McLemore Prize), will discuss his new book, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, on Tuesday, November 9, at 7 p.m. in the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation auditorium, corner of Cherry and Crawford Streets, Vicksburg. There is no charge, but please call (601/631-2997) to reserve a seat.

Visit Mississippi History NOW for "Gideon Lincecum (1793-1874): Mississippi Pioneer and Man of Many Talents," by USM history professor Greg O'Brien.

Members of the MDAH Board of Trustees traveled to Greenwood for their fall quarterly meeting at the invitation of Fred E. Carl, Jr., Viking Range Corporation. At a reception on Thursday, October 21, Carl and others were honored for their outstanding preservation efforts in the city and county. At the meeting at the Viking headquarters (above), the board formally elected H.T. Holmes as MDAH director to succeed Elbert R.Hilliard in January. Above (l-r): Van R. Burnham, Jr., M.D., Clarksdale; Duncan M. Morgan, Natchez; Martis D. Ramage, Jr., Belden; Elbert R. Hilliard; William F. Winter, Board president, Jackson; H. T. Holmes, Jackson; E. Jackson Garner, Jackson; and Lynn Crosby Gammill, Hattiesburg.

Accepting MDAH resolutions of commendation from Hilliard and Winter for outstanding preservation efforts were (left, top, l-r) City Council members Ronnie Stevenson and David Jordan and Mayor Harry L. Smith and (left, bottom) Greenwood Main Street Association president Allan Hammons and manager Barbara Ingram.


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Published by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History • Elbert R. Hilliard, director • Chrissy Wilson, editor
Please send correspondence to: MHN, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205 or email to pubinfo@mdah.state.ms.us