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Those who keep us safe: Elwin Johnson

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From an early age, Elwin Johnson, Jr. has been taught to always help those in need.

“Without family there’s no me, Johnson said. “Family is my foundation, my support system.”

It was his family who instilled in him the value of working hard and giving back to his community.

Johnson is a homegrown Vicksburg native who has always admired not only the work of firefighters but more importantly the firefighters at the Vicksburg Fire Department.

“I had always grown up looking at the Vicksburg Fire Department as an establishment in Vicksburg that was extremely respectable,” Johnson said.

He started his career with the department as an emergency medical technician, or EMT, in February 2019. In a little over one year, the Vicksburg Fire Department has formed him into the person he has always wanted to be.

“I strive to be the best person I can be each and every day,” Johnson said.

Being new, Johnson has really relied on other guys in the department to help him along the way.

“Lieutenant Jabaris McDaniel was one of my biggest motivations when I first started, him and really all my co-workers have been there for me,” Johnson said.

As an EMT, Johnson has been faced with some devastating calls that have turned into life-saving efforts. At one incident, he recalls a man that was overwhelmed and how Johnson made him feel safe. He called Johnson his hero. After that incident, Johnson agreed with the man’s comment.

“We really are heroes, and he made me really feel like a hero that day,” Johnson said.

Johnson had a normal first year as an EMT, but since his anniversary with the department, things changed when COVID-19 hit. Johnson said procedures are a little different, but it has been business as usual for the Vicksburg Fire Department.

“We make sure we are highly protected when we go on calls to keep not only ourselves safe but the patients safe as well,” Johnson said.

Overall, his short experience with the department has been the start to, hopefully, a long career.

“I really enjoy being there for my community,” Johnson said. “I love being there for all the citizens of Vicksburg in their time of need.”

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Vicksburg woman Tonya Brooks celebrates two years of being breast cancer free

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Photo courtesy of Tonya Brooks

Vicksburg native Tonya Brooks is now celebrating two years of being breast cancer free this month after defeating the disease that kills over 42 thousand people every year.

In March 2017, Brooks felt a lump in her left breast but didn’t get it checked out until September of that year. After receiving a biopsy and a mammogram, she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer on October 2, 2017.

“I was all over the place when I received the news,” Brooks said.

Just a couple of weeks after being diagnosed, Brooks began treatment which included 18 rounds of chemotherapy. Not only did she have chemotherapy treatment for nearly a year, but she also went through 25 rounds of radiation.

Surprisingly, Brooks never felt sick at all during her time dealing with breast cancer but she still encourages all women to get checked out.

“Lots of women don’t get tested because breast cancer doesn’t run in their family but checkups are good and always do a follow up, because it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Brooks said.

Brooks received all of her treatments at the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi and she had a strong support system back home.

Brooks thanked family and friends Terry Brooks, John Lewis, Tiffany McDaniel, Carrol Harper, Sharnecius Jenkins, Shantavious Jones, Shakendrius Tyler, Laura Barnes, Warcheta Bunley, and her Tyson Foods family.

“Never give up and never lose faith,” Brooks said, as words of encouragement for those who are going through breast cancer.

As of October 19, 2018 Brooks has been cancer free and continues to live a happy and healthy life.

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Vicksburg native TJ Taylor is a rising star in Mississippi political arena

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If you aren’t familiar with the name TJ Taylor it is probably because he truly tries to fly under the radar. In spite of his low profile, he may be one of the most influential young people currently in Mississippi political circles.

Taylor serves as policy advisor and chief counsel to Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn. In this role, he is on the ground floor of decisions that will affect the state for decades to come. 

The 32-year-old Vicksburg native seems to relish the opportunity, saying “it gives me the chance to travel the state and hear the real concerns of the people.” 

Taylor grew up in Vicksburg attending school in the Vicksburg Warren School District before his parents moved to Utica, completing his education at Raymond High School. His father, Arnold, retired from the Corps of Engineers; his mother, Cynthia, retired from the postal service. Taylor is the youngest of four children and credits his parents with his love of politics and debate adding, “we were encouraged to discuss current events.”

Taylor moved on to the University of Southern Mississippi where he earned his political science degree in 2010. From there he entered the law program at Mississippi College. In the summer of 2013, he was afforded the opportunity to intern in Speaker Gunn’s office.

Following graduation in 2014,Taylor worked at a public policy think tank in Jackson for a year before returning to the Speaker’s office in 2015 and ascending to his current role.

Taylor was recently recognized as one of the top 50 influential leaders in the state. He served as Gunn’s appointee on the state flag commission. It was Taylor’s idea to fly the five finalists’ flags before narrowing the field to the final choice that will be voted on November 3.

When asked what it is like working for the first Republican Speaker of the Mississippi House, Taylor said, “It’s a really cool experience. Phillip Gunn is a man of integrity who is not afraid to make an unpopular decision.” He added that “the flag issue is one of the highlights of this experience but being involved with him on a daily basis gives me a unique insight on how committed he is to the state of Mississippi.”

Taylor is married to a former law school classmate, Colorado native Brittany Taylor, who practices as an associate attorney with Stephens Millirons P.C. They reside in Madison and have two sons.

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The widow Bourne and her ‘terrifically terrible’ tale

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Mary Maybin Bourne was the object of two men’s affections. (Photo source: Old Court House Museum collection)

She told a tragic tale: Her name was Marie, and her husband had been a Union soldier who moved to Vicksburg and married her after the Civil War. He had been murdered by an unrepentant Rebel, shot down in cold blood just because he was a Yankee.

The woman and her three small children had moved to New Orleans. When the children grew up, she told them the story, and they repeated it from one generation to the next.

Wanting to know more of the family history, a lady and her college-age son came to the Old Court House Museum some years ago for genealogical research. They didn’t find what they expected. The lady was mortified, and her son laughed heartily, for the Vicksburg newspapers in 1884 told a different tale from what Marie had said.

The not-very-grieving widow had changed not only the facts but also her name. In Vicksburg she was Mary, not Marie, and according to the newspaper accounts, she was the cause of a double murder.

Joshua Bourne, who first came to Vicksburg as a captain in a Missouri Union regiment, came back after the war and married 14-year­-old Mary Maybin. During the carpetbagger rule he was elected chancery clerk of Warren County.

The other man in the triangle, James. T. Metzler, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Vicksburg. He was a member of Swett’s Battery in Confederate service, performing with “marked gallantry and bravery.” He did not marry, lived at home and after the war was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi.

The Bourne’s were having family problems, and Mary filed for divorce and moved out of the house. Joshua Bourne went to court, seeking custody of the children. It was rumored that Metzler was the cause of the separation, but he said he simply represented Mary Maybin Bourne as a business agent and that Joshua had been a brutal husband.

Both men went armed, and rumors were rampant that things would come to a head — and they did on Sept. 5, 1884, a Friday morning. Metzler was downtown chatting with a friend when Bourne approached, drew a pistol and opened fire just 5 feet away, the bullet penetrating Metzler’s bowels. He fled to the Famous Dry Goods Emporium nearby, Bourne in pursuit, pistol in hand, firing rapidly.

Metzler got behind a counter, managed to draw his pistol, and both fired until their guns were empty. Then they clutched one another in a death grip until bystanders separated them. Metzler had struck Bourne twice, wounding him above the heart and in the abdomen.

Clerks and customers screamed and fled in what the Herald described as “terrifically terrible” and “perfectly appalling.” Bourne was left on the floor as it was thought he would die any moment, and Metzler was removed by carriage to his parents’ house on Jackson Street. Bourne was later taken to the Madrid House, a hotel on Veto Street, but before that, lying in a pool of blood, he had asked to see a priest and his wife and children. Father Picherit and the two oldest children came, but Mrs. Bourne chose instead to go to the bedside of her supposed lover.

The Vicksburg Evening Post reported that it was a “pitiable and touching sight” to see the children and the priest kneeling beside the dying man. The scene at the Metzler house was equally tragic as his “gray-haired old parents” stood beside their mortally wounded son.

Both Bourne and Metzler died the day of the shooting. Their funerals were expensive, and both men were buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. Mary Bourne paid for her husband’s funeral, but records don’t state whether or not she attended.

More than a century later, her descendants found out that family history isn’t necessarily what has been repeated, but stories such as that of Mary Bourne make it a lot more interesting.


Jeff and Marion Richardson own the former Bourne home on Fort Hill Drive. If it were ever put on tour, what a story they could tell.

Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.

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