Tommy “Air” Curtis has played many active roles in the community starting with his days at Vicksburg High School as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track.
Today, his work and service is reflected throughout the city.
Curtis was born and raised in Vicksburg. When he was 10, his dad died in a car accident.
In the fifth grade, Curtis began playing football at the YMCA for the Redwood Rockets. Then, as Curtis was still trying to find his role as a football player at Vicksburg Junior High, he quickly showed his skills in track.
Curtis began finding his football role toward the end of his junior year at Vicksburg High School in 1996. During the summer before his senior year, Curtis participated in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments, and he continued to work hard.
During his senior year, Curtis earned the name “Air” after Steve McNair, a football player he looked up to at the time. Curtis had a breakout season that year, throwing for 2,506 yards and 19 touchdowns in 1997, which would set a single-season record in Warren County.
“I had a great group of wide receivers,” he said.
Curtis had plenty of receivers to choose from, including Bunkie Perkins, Roderick Stirgus, Larry Wright, Greg James and Robert Williams. Curtis also mentioned his running back, Lester Martin, who had over a 1,000 yards rushing in addition to all the passing Vicksburg was doing.
Curtis went on to play football at Hinds Community College where he would play corner back alongside Fred Smoot, a future NFL player.
In his sophomore year at Hinds, Curtis suffered an injury, and he transferred to Delta State University where he would gain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2003. He went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Ashford University, and a master’s of art and religion from Liberty University.
In 2004, Curtis joined the Vicksburg Police Department as a patrolman. Over the years, he has had many roles with the VPD, including school resource officer, juvenile investigator, internal affairs investigator, and as sergeant and head of the juvenile division where he is today while also assisting in adult criminal cases.
Curtis has always had a special place for youth in the community. He coached youth sports and helped out with Vicksburg Street Ball Program during the summer.
He is also an entrepreneur. Curtis is CEO at All Around Training, a workout facility in the Vicksburg Mall, where his wife, Rebecca Curtis, is his go-to person and wellness coach.
Curtis credits his wife and family, especially his mother, Elmira Curtis, and his faith in Jesus Christ, who he thanks the most for his success.
“You will only go as far as your education,” Curtis advises young athletes. “… Be a student before an athlete.”
Logan Sanderford: ‘You just have to be kind to people’
The service journey of River City Early College senior Logan Sanderford began with a friend in need.
“I had this best friend in ninth grade, and no child learns the same, so he had a really hard time learning,” she said. “Every day, we had an hour at the end of the day when kids that played sports would leave, and me and him would sit together and work on his grades and his schoolwork. He got a B in one of his classes and came to me just crying, just absolutely ecstatic, and that really just made it all worth it for me.”
Afterward, a brief conversation with her school counselor opened up the world of service to Sanderford, showing her that good can come out of any situation.
“I came from a school where I always felt like an outcast, and it wasn’t anybody’s fault, but I was just that kid,” she said. “My counselor, Mary Richardson, just taught me to be kind to people no matter who they are or if they look different from you, speak different from you—it doesn’t matter. You just have to be kind to people because you never really know what’s going on with them. So I kind of took what she taught me and ran with it.”
Since then, Sanderford has striven to go above and beyond to help others when given the opportunity.
“Since ninth grade, I’ve been the president of our Service Club here at River City Early College, and I try to put together different events,” she said. “Like, we’ll normally have a carnival for different seasons, and it’s super fun. I’ve also done tons of coat drives, food drives, and my most successful drive was in 2015 when animals were included. I took dog and cat food, and we ended up with a whole U-Haul full of food.”
Sanderford plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi and major in business to continue her education but for now, she is content with volunteering at her favorite place in town, Jacob’s Ladder.
“I’ll always be involved in something no matter what,” she said. “I can’t just sit still, and I always want to be involved with Jacobs Ladder. They really are special to my heart, and my very best friend Pat goes there. He can’t speak. We can’t understand each other, but the love that he radiates, I feel. And I never want to not be a part of that.”
‘The dreadful summons’: an epidemic remembered
Mankind has often been beset by pestilences and plagues, and the worst to ever hit Warren County was the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. There had been earlier ones and a few later, but none of the magnitude of the one in 1878. It claimed more than 1,000 lives in Vicksburg and Warren County.
My grandmother, Carrie Lee Cotton, grew up next to Redbone Cemetery and was a child in 1878. She remembered funerals held at night, for a victim was usually buried immediately after death.
Mrs. Sophie Adams Goodrum lived in the community and in her diary, she recorded the deaths of friends and neighbors who were buried at Antioch and Asbury cemeteries. Antioch is on Fisher Ferry Road at the intersection with Goodrum Road, and Asbury is located on Halls Ferry Road beyond Timberlane.
It was a year “long to be remembered,” Mrs. Goodrum wrote. She was remembering the late summer of 1878 when yellow fever, also called the black vomit, devastated untold numbers of families.
Mrs. Goodrum lived on a plantation between Antioch Baptist Church, where she was a member, and Asbury Methodist Church. She recorded the deaths of people from both congregations.
Toby Whitaker, a 20-year-old member of Antioch, was the first in the community to become ill; he was stricken on Aug. 27, 1878, and his parents had the responsibility of nursing him.
“Not a single person would enter the house to help in this dark hour,” Mrs. Goodrum, who was Toby’s aunt, wrote. William and Sarah Whitaker, Toby’s parents, stood “alone, with none but God to help. Many times they thought him dying—no friend but his own parents to watch and comfort—all earthly friends had fled from the terrible scourge.”
Though death seemed certain, by Sept. 6, Toby was improving and able to change clothes for the first time since he had become ill. Then, others in the household became sick. The Goodrums took provisions to the Whitaker home but dared not go beyond the gate. Only William Whitaker escaped becoming ill, and he was exhausted from nursing his family and seeking provisions.
Miss Bettie Bell, a neighbor, died on Sept. 15, and Williams Whitaker had the responsibility of burying her. James W. Goodrum and his sons built a casket and paid a man to take it to the yard, but he would go no farther than the fence, for most thought that anyone who went near the sick or dead were sure to succumb to the disease.
Two men were hired to dig the grave, but they became frightened and ran away, so William Whitaker carried the casket into the house, and he and Toby placed the girl’s body in the box. Whitaker then backed the wagon as close to the door as possible. He and Toby took a plank, placed one end on the wagon and the other near the casket, and then slid it into the wagon. The two then drove to the graveyard where they used the plank to slide the casket out of the wagon and into the grave. Toby was exhausted, so his father filled the grave.
“Sorrow and anguish fill every heart—death stares each in the face, and everyone waits in breathless suspense for the dreadful summons,” Mrs. Goodrum wrote. She longed for news of neighbors, but she dreaded the reports she might hear.
Sophie Whitaker Pettit, Toby’s sister, began nursing her mother-in-law when she became violently ill on Oct. 28. Two days later, Sophie also grew ill, becoming delirious, and she lost consciousness. Her aunt, for whom she was named, wrote: “Dear Sophie, shall I never more behold thy bright, cheerful face?”
“Our hearts sicken within us, as we glance up and down the road for some bearer of sad news. At last the dreadful tidings came—our darling Sophie is no more! She took her flight to heaven today abut 1 o’clock. Her parents and brother were with her, but death regarded the agony of none. We ask ourselves who is to be the next victim, and who is to be spared.”
Sophie Pettit was possibly buried in the Pettit family cemetery, but no stone marks her grave. The Adams-Goodrum family cemetery, where Bettie Bell was buried, was destroyed in later years by the development of a subdivision.
No services were held at Antioch from August until the middle of December, and Mrs. Goodrum wrote that there were many vacant pews in Antioch and many fresh graves in the cemetery. For weeks, the only subject talked of was the plague.
Mrs. Goodrum recorded four deaths that occurred in the vicinity of Asbury.
Patience Lynche Kline, wife of Nineon Kline Sr., died on Oct. 9.
“They laid my friend away in the silent grave, between 9 and 10 o’clock at night, on the day on which she died, without the procession of friends,” Mrs. Goodrum wrote, “—they carried her off in the night and laid her beneath the forest trees.”
Mrs. Kline was buried at Asbury Cemetery. She was 60.
The next morning, Oct. 10, between 5 and 6 o’clock, Mrs. Theresa Nailer died. She was the second wife of Dr. Daniel Burnet Nailer. She was buried that evening at Asbury, and the Howard Association, which assisted in the fight against yellow fever, paid for a metal casket and the use of a hearse at a cost of $160.
“Sad and lonely the hearse passes,” Mrs. Goodrum wrote. “No long procession of friends—just enough to lay her away in the dim twilight.”
Mrs. Nailer was buried at Asbury.
Two days later Nineon Kline Jr., 31-year-old son of Patience Kline, died as well. He, too, was buried at Asbury.
The effects of yellow fever were felt long after the disease abated. Two days before Christmas in 1878. Mrs. Emma Kline Lane, daughter of Nineon and Patience Kline, and wife of Williams Lum Lane, died about 4 o’clock in the morning, leaving a week-old infant. Emma had suffered from yellow fever, and Mrs. Goodrum felt that she never fully recovered, that the fever had weakened her system.
Emma had married Jan. 29, 1878, the ceremony taking place in the Kline parlor. Now, on Christmas day, less than a year later, her body lay in a casket in that same parlor, dressed in the wedding gown she had worn on that happier occasion, a request she made shortly before her death.
Emma Kline Lane was buried at Asbury, beside the still fresh grave of her mother. Emma was 35.
Material for this article came from the diary of Mrs. Sophie Adams Goodrum and is owned by a descendant who shared it with the author.
Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.
Hinds CC names its heroes for Fall 2019
From Hinds Community College:
The Fall 2019 group of honorees in the Hinds Heroes employee recognition program at Hinds Community College have been named.
Hinds Heroes are chosen because they represent the college well, provide exceptional customer service to all its customers and consistently promote the Hinds mission of service. Heroes selected receive a lapel pin, a token of appreciation and one free day off work.
In alphabetical order, this semester’s honorees and a quote from their nomination are:
- Margaret “Nita” Burchfield, of Raymond, business administration instructor, department chair and curriculum coordinator, based on the Raymond Campus. In addition to teaching, she ensures curriculum is consistent across the district. She has been with Hinds for six years. “Nita is ALWAYS looking for ways to help her students, her coworkers and Hinds in general! Nita is always using a new technique or tool that will garner mastery of the outcomes in her courses.”
- William Everett Carraway, of Utica, history instructor at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. He has been with Hinds for 10 years. “He is an excellent instructor who cares about his students and is well-deserving of the recognition.”
- Kathryn Cole, of Clinton, district director of Enrollment Services, based on the Raymond Campus. Her duties include overseeing recruitment efforts for Hinds’ six locations and providing holistic enrollment services to prospective students. She has been with Hinds for 14 years. “Kathryn is amazing! She is very knowledgeable about every aspect of the college. She is a one-stop shop of information.
- Betty Collins, of Raymond, mathematics department instructor and chair, based on the Raymond Campus. She teaches classes both on campus and online. She has been with Hinds for seven years. “Besides being a great chair, she is a great teacher, leader, co-worker and friend to all. She treats everyone with respect and kindness
- Stephanie Henderson-Davis, of Raymond, financial aid adviser on the Raymond Campus. Her duties include collecting all required data for determining student eligibility for Title IV funds; advising students and families regarding federal, state and institutional guidelines and assisting students in person and via technology. She has been with Hinds for 32 years. “She goes above and beyond her duties to make sure that every student has the chance at an education! She has truly been my hero more than once!”
- Angela Hite, of Raymond, administrative assistant and Hi-Stepper director on the Raymond Campus. Her duties include assisting the associate vice president for Student Services/district dean of students, directing homecoming court presentations, the Miss Hinds competition and the Eagle Beauty Revue. As director of the Hi-Steppers, she has a range of duties including recruiting dancers and scheduling performances. She has been with Hinds for 26 years. “She is always going above and beyond for her students and the Hi-Stepper Alumni. She wears a smile no matter what and is always encouraging students to do their best and keep their heads up.”
- Dr. Phatia McClellan, of Jackson, biology instructor and department chair at Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center. Her duties include leading instructors with academic instruction and advising the campus’ Phi Theta Kappa chapter. She has been with Hinds full-time for one year and seven overall, including six as adjunct faculty. “She is an awesome instructor and is willing to help her students succeed no matter what.”
- Tangela Myles, of Brandon, director of the child care facility at the Rankin Campus. Her duties include caring for the children who attend the center, plus overseeing the safety procedures. She has been with Hinds for 19 years. “She makes sure that the childcare center on the Rankin Campus runs smoothly and without problems. She is a great boss and a good person to work for.”
- Kathy Price, of Terry, senior advancement specialist on the Raymond Campus. Her duties include being the financial manager for all accounts held by the Hinds Community College Foundation. She has been with Hinds for 22 years. “Kathy has taken on additional responsibilities with the New Market Tax Credit and is the ‘glue’ that holds it all together.”
- Ronald Rice, of Wesson, instructor in the carpentry program on the Raymond Campus. He has been with Hinds for 10 years. “Those who have had the privilege of working with him have discovered a special person and friend. Many former Hinds Community College employees are now recipients of treasured items he crafted, showcasing his master craftsman talents as a carpenter.”
- Jennifer Ross, of Raymond, administrative assistant in the Career-Technical Education Department at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include managing spending and budgets for several departments, purchasing equipment and handling inventory. She has been with Hinds for six years. “Her skills and knowledge of computer operations and software are performed at a level of expertise. She is always pleasant and takes initiative.”
- Tiffany Taylor, of Utica, administrative assistant in the Career-Technical Education Department at the Utica Campus. Her duties include a variety of clerical functions, including handling mail, filing correspondence, scheduling, keeping staff meeting minutes and recordkeeping. She has been with Hinds for nine years. “Tiffany is an outstanding employee. She goes far above and beyond what is required of her on a daily basis.”
Louisiana to begin I-20 Mississippi River bridge work in January 2020
Warren Central Vikings football season ends with a loss to Oxford
See ‘Anne of Green Gables’ at the Vicksburg Theatre Guild
Korean War casualty comes home to Greenwood after 69 years
Mississippi Wildlife Federation denies flood victim a booth at its event
Carl Tart Jr. makes history as first homecoming king at Ole Miss
Vicksburg youth dies in off-road accident in Madison Parish
UPDATED: Vendors following MDWFP lead and dropping ‘Extravaganza’ booths.
- Crime4 days ago
VPD make arrest in Sept. 22 shootout and in marijuana seizure
- News2 days ago
Mississippi man accused of 2015 capital murder will be released on bond
- News3 days ago
Three arrested in Utica for burglary
- Crime20 hours ago
Vicksburg Police seeking help in locating William Taylor
- Crime3 days ago
Harris arrested for 2018 murder
- News4 days ago
Silver Alert issued for Fayette woman
- Sports4 days ago
MVP Taylor leads the 8U Ravens to a Mississippi championship
- Sports4 days ago
Vicksburg High Gators take down the Madison Jaguars