By Jackie Hampton,
There are so many well-known women that have achieved great things and will be remembered throughout history. Their legacies will live on for generations to come because their stories will be re-told in books, magazines, social media, newsprint, television, radio, podcasts, etc. Their mighty works will be recalled in speeches made, sermons preached and songs sung.
There are also many ordinary women whose stories are yet to be told and whose legacies are still being defined today. One such woman is 94 year-old Loyce Collier who resides in Morton, Mississippi. She is the daughter of the late Albert and Elizabeth Morton. She was born June 21, 1926 and is looking forward to celebrating her 95th birthday in just a few months.
She is well-known in her community where she has spent her entire life. She attended Morton Vocational School, and went as far as seventh grade even though the school went to eighth grade.
Collier’s mother died of a stroke when she was only 15 year, so she went to work. She had two sisters and two brothers. One of her sisters had polio and lived as an invalid. Her father, who worked at a saw mill, became ill in 1932 so she had to help take care of them both. She took care of her sister as though she was her own child, until she passed at the age of 77.
Her first job was washing dishes at a hotel seven days a week. She was paid $2 at the end of the week. The house she grew up in was paid for so food was the main expense. She said she never really knew how her parents were able to buy a house. She recalls that $2 went a long way back then. The water bill was only fifty cents a month. Later on, she did domestic work earning $5 per week.
Collier married the late John Walker when she was close to 18 years old. Together they had five children, 3 girls, Linda and Sandra who are twins, Deborah who is the youngest and their two sons Paul and Gary, now deceased. Paul, she noted was a Viet Nam veteran. While serving in Viet Nam, his entire platoon, with the exception of himself, was killed or suffered wounds mentally and physically.
Collier’s husband, who she described as a good husband and father died expectantly of a heart attack when he was in his forties. Again, she was left along having to earn enough money to support her family. Her youngest daughter was only six when he passed. She worked as a cook in the school cafeteria earning $100 a month. She also worked other jobs such as at the chicken plant and at Roosevelt Park during the summer as a cook where white children attended summer camp and participated in other activities. She said the only blacks that were allowed at the park were those that worked cleaning up or cooking.
Collier said she never earned over $9000 a year but was able to make certain all her children were educated.
Fourteen years after her husband died, she married Rev. Clinton Collier, who was deeply involved in the civil rights movement in Neshoba County. He taught social studies at Carver School near Philadelphia in the late 1060s and early 1970s and led the effort in school integration.
Connie Slaughter-Harvey, Esq. has known Collier for many years and talks with her as well as visits her on occasions. She knew Rev. Collier as well. Harvey said, “Ms. Collier is the epitome of beauty, grace, class and love.” Harvey said, “I have known Mrs. Collier for more than 30 years and have always admired her quiet strength and her compassion for others.” Harvey, who is well known for her work in the civil rights movement, said Collier was an anchor for her husband, Rev. Clint Collier, who marched with Dr. King and also lead the march to get King out of the Neshoba County jail during the civil rights era. She said, “Rev. Collier raised the bail bond for his release.”
She said, “Collier was her husband’s traveling companion and kept mental notes for Rev. Collier. He too, commanded my respect and love.” She said Mrs. Collier has earned the respect of all Morton citizens… black, white and Hispanic. Her smile and pleasant voice set her apart from others.”
Harvey said she is known as one of the best cooks in the county, as she can attest to that, especially when it comes to her bread pudding. Harvey said, “She is a pillar in the Christian community and was recently honored for 76 years of service to the Christian Banner U.M. Church in Morton. “
Harvey, who is founder and president of Legacy Education and Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc., said Collier’s mind is as sharp as they come. She stated when they interviewed her in 2012 and 2016, she remembered high school events and also shared her impressions of President Obama. She said, “It soothes my heart and soul to listen to her words of wisdom and love…such a great lady.”
Collier’s twin daughters Sandra and Linda both agree that their mother is the epitome of strength and love. Linda, who retired from Mississippi Department of Human Services in 2011 as a social worker said that so many people like her mom so often go unrecognized for the life they have lived and how they have impacted other’s lives in a positive way. She said, my mother allowed us to attend Piney Woods Country Life School at a time when others were calling it a reform school. She made sure we had a proper education. Linda, who attended Alcorn University said her sisters Linda and Deborah attended Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Sandra, who is still working as a registered nurse had some of the same thoughts as her twin sister regarding how often times people who have the greatest impact on others so often go unrecognized. She said, “Our mother would tell us, failure is not an option. Go get that degree, and if you don’t come back with that piece of paper, don’t come back at all.”
Collier, who still cooks every day, and large meals when she knows company is coming, says she still drives her car. She said, “I use to run into people at Walmart before the pandemic who would ask her, do your girls know you are here?” She said I would tell them, “I do what I want to especially when they are at work.”