It was a nice duplex on Robinson Road in Jackson. Linda Bilbo was a real estate agent, and she had the house built. She occupied one side and a couple of northern origin lived in the other.
Problems arose, and Mrs. Bilbo evicted the tenants. They sued her, claiming she had cursed them. What she had said was “No damn yankee is going to ruin my house.”
The judge heard the case and ruled that saying damn yankee was not cursing. The story made Time magazine in the mid-1940s, just as World War II was ending in Europe.
Linda Bilbo was the former wife of Theodore G. Bilbo, Mississippi governor from 1916 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932, and U.S. senator from 1935 to 1947. I had the pleasure of interviewing her in 1971, when she was 95.
Despite her age, Mrs. Bilbo still did all of her yard work and housework, and in her spare time enjoyed hooking rugs and painting. She was tall and thin and a wonderful storyteller who liked to laugh. She dressed with flair, and despite the years and the lines on her brow, she still evinced elegance and beauty and was remarkably candid.
She was born in Marion County near Columbia, was a graduate of Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and had been a teacher. She was Linda Gandy when she married a Dr. Bedgood, who died shortly after their marriage. She returned to teaching and then met Bilbo, who was a young widower. They soon married.
Bilbo entered politics when he ran for circuit clerk in Hancock County and was soundly defeated. Mrs. Bilbo recalled that his opponent, the incumbent, was a one-armed Confederate veteran who was also a Baptist preacher, had held the job for 40 years, “and anybody should have known better” than to run against him. In later years Bilbo would brag he had “never been defeated, just delayed a few times.”
I believe Mrs. Bilbo was one of the first wives to hit the campaign trail for her husband. Women had been voting only a few years when she ventured into the political world when her husband was running for governor. She told me this marvelous story:
It was a particularly hot summer in the late 1920s, and just as hot was the race of who would be the state’s governor. Highways were mostly gravel and dusty, and the only hope for comfort on the road was the wind blowing through the side windows or the windshield if you had a car with the rollout type.
Mrs. Bilbo drove a large black automobile plastered with posters advertising “Bilbo for Governor.” She would politick in one area of the state and then meet her husband for a big rally. She was headed for such a meeting in Tupelo when she had a flat tire in Aberdeen and pulled into a service station and asked the owner to repair it.
“We were talking while he was fixing my tire — I have to be talking, you know — and he asked me where I was going,” Mrs. Bilbo told me. “I said, ‘Hurry up,’ as he was kind of slow getting it fixed. I’ve got to be in Tupelo by 6.”
“What are you going to Tupelo for?” he asked
“Political speaking — to hear Bilbo,” she replied.
“Humph,” he grunted. “If you’re going up there to hear Bilbo, you better take those signs off your car.”
“I asked him ‘Why?’ and he told me, ‘They’ll mob you up there — there’s not anybody up there for Bilbo,’” she recalled.
Mrs. Bilbo, in her sweetest. voice, replied, “Well, I’ll go up there and see if I can help make him some supporters.”
“They don’t like him up there,” the man persisted. “He stole some cattle or something.”
“He did?” she asked in seemingly innocent disbelief. “Can you prove that?”
“Yeah,” he answered confidently.
Suddenly the pretty lady’s sweet voice changed, fairly crackling with authority. “Well, you get busy and prove it,” she said. “I’m his wife. You’re going to prove that or stand trial.”
The man “turned as white as a sheet,” and Mrs. Bilbo demanded that he sign a statement that he had lied about Bilbo “right now or I’m going to have you arrested before I leave this town.”
As the man’s friends and neighbors and customers watched and listened, Mrs. Bilbo wrote out the statement, which she called a “lie bill,” and the trembling man signed it.
With her tire repaired, Mrs. Bilbo was back on the road and made it to Tupelo before time for the rally. She told her husband about the incident at Aberdeen and then stuffed the piece of paper into her purse, which she told me “was full of junk.”
While Bilbo was speaking and Mrs. Bilbo was seated on the platform, he told the crowd that many lies were being spread about him, and he related the story of his wife’s encounter at Aberdeen. Turning to her, he asked for the lie bill.
“I had to empty all that junk out of my purse before I found it,” she said, “and when I handed it to him he read it to the people, and they just howled.”
When Mrs. Bilbo told me the story, decades after it had happened, she didn’t miss a beat. Her voice was at first sweet and innocent, then deep and threatening. Her eyes danced with excitement as she told of that event long ago, and she laughed heartily.
Bilbo is a French name that means two-edged sword, and the governor loved to say, “I am both edges.”
I suspect Mrs. Bilbo is what made it sharp.
A piece of Vicksburg history is officially no more
WQBC radio was believed to be the oldest radio station in the state of Mississippi. Operating on AM frequency 1420, the call letters were reportedly for the words “We Quote Better Cotton” from radio’s heyday when farm market prices were a staple of daily programming.
The station dates back to 1928 when it was first licensed to Utica. In 1931 the station was purchased by the Cashman family and moved to Vicksburg. FCC rules against cross ownership with a newspaper forced the family to sell the station.
Notable alumni include world renowned blues musician Willie Dixon, Adrian Cronauer, who was the inspiration for the movie “Good Morning Vietnam,” and Woodie Assaf, who cut his teeth in radio before becoming the nation’s longest serving weather man on WLBT.
On Sept. 28, 2020, the last owners, COSTAR Broadcasting, surrendered the license to the Federal Communications Commission.
The station last operated from a studio and tower location on Porter’s Chapel Road. Those facilities have been torn down. With the license surrender, a piece of Vicksburg and Mississippi broadcasting history died along with it.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Vicksburg: ‘a scene to delight a boy’s heart’
As shots rang out just above the trees, the boys who were perched among the branches “came out of those trees like overripe pears falling,” wrote the late Vicksburg historian V. Blaine Russell .
The lads thought they had found the perfect — and free — vantage point to see the show at the fairgrounds. The man with the gun, who pretended he didn’t see the youngsters, was William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody who brought his Wild West Show to Vicksburg Nov. 17, 1908.
It was a typical performance, complete with a cast of hundreds. There were stagecoach holdups, Indians, cowboys and pretty girls and, of course, the star of the show, Buffalo Bill.
It wasn’t the first time he had brought his show to Vicksburg. His troupe had come to the River City Nov. 26, 1874, and had staged “The Indian Ball Play” featuring 30 Choctaws, but the show, including a dance afterward, wasn’t much of a success, according to John G. Cashman, editor of The Daily Vicksburger.
Despite the poor attendance, the troupe came back July 2, 1886, and put on “a grand Indian Ball Play and War Dance” according to the Vicksburg Herald. The paper also stated that “Sixty genuine scalp-taking Redmen” would parade downtown.
When the show returned to Vicksburg in 1908, it wasn’t just with dancing Indians but with a variety show. A writer for The Vicksburg Evening Post described it as “a thrilling piece of acting as the Indians ride like mad after the coach filled with terrified passengers. From the top of the swaying vehicle the fearless cowboys pour in a steady fire on the galloping redskins. The driver lashes the horses into a wild run. This is a scene to delight a boy’s heart and make one’s pulse beat a little faster.”
The Buffalo Bill show included 550 horses, and the Post noted that “no bolder or better horsemen have ever been seen. … the fiercest bucking broncos were ridden with grace by the hardy cowboys and cowgirls. … Picking up handkerchiefs from the ground. while running their ponies at breakneck speed was something the girls did to elicit applause.”
There were a variety of other acts, too, including precision drills by a company of Zouaves, Indian war dances and a horse that “did the hoocheecoochee dance — quite remarkable.”
Another act was possibly the forerunner of donkey basketball popular in later years: It was a football game played on horseback. The horses wore breast plates, knee pads, shin guards, boots and nose pads. The riders didn’t touch the ball, but the horses pushed, shoved and kicked it.
The highlight of the show was not the dancing girls, Indians and horses but Buffalo Bill himself, “gray and old, still robust and active and quick of eye, who was tumultuously applauded …” He was noted for his ability to shoot, and he gave a demonstration as “from the back of a galloping horse the old scout and hero of a hundred Indian fights was able to crack every glass ball pitched into the air, no matter how fast or furious the tossing was done.”
The day before his Vicksburg performance, Buffalo Bill had set up a tipi at the Kleinston landing where admirers visited with him while his workers set up the props for the show.
The old man told a Post reporter that his show had been on the road for 30 years, and he had missed only two performances.
He interrupted the conversation once, saying “Here, have a cigar. I have this kind made for me by thousands.” The reporter wrote that “the old scout puffed on a big black cigar and then there was good opportunity to watch those bright blue eyes in thought as he gazed alternately out of the tent and then at the curling smoke. His hair has turned snow white but he has plenty of it. He is six feet tall and straight as a young Indian.”
The newspaper said about 8,000 people had seen the two performances paying either 50 cents or a dollar for a glimpse of life as it used to be. “In this prosaic age of the trolley and pullman and the steamboat, it is hard for us to appreciate conditions that existed on the Western prairies …” The show was said to be “clean, moral and wholesome and provided lessons for the young and refreshes the memories of the old.”
Buffalo Bill had brought a taste of the Old West to the Old South.
Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Hijackers connected with al-Qaida in the Middle East took control of four jets, using them as missiles to destroy and kill. Two of the jets crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan. A third was flown into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Passengers on the fourth plane, which was headed toward Washington, D.C., managed to thwart the hijacker’s plan. It crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
In all, 2,977 people died in what remains the deadliest terrorist attacks in the world. Another 25,000 were injured, either directly or through exposure to toxins at the crash sites, causing long-term consequences. The attacks also cost more than $10 billion in infrastructure and property damages.
The attacks precipitated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the U.S. War on Terror, although none of the hijackers came from either of those countries. Of the 19 attackers, 15 were Saudi citizens, two were from the United Arab Emirates, and one each from Lebanon and Egypt. Osama bin Laden, who planned the attacks, was also from Saudi Arabia. U.S. forces killed bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan.
The war in Afghanistan, which began Oct. 7, 2001, to deny al-Qaida a place of refuge, is the longest U.S. war in its history.
Although the U.S. officially ended its war in Iraq after more than eight years in 2011, thousands of U.S. soldiers and contractors continue to be stationed there.
More than 2,300 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan and another 4,500 in Iraq.
Children born after the 9/11 attacks, who have never known a world without a War on Terror, have begun to enter voting booths.
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