Stories that impacted Mississippians
Compiled by Ayesha K. Mustafaa
Interim Managing Editor
Over the past 19 years, The Mississippi Link has not missed a week of reporting on impactful events in the state and across the nation. The year 2012 in review shows a continuation of this commitment to bring to its readers the news and views that have shaped the lives of Mississippians and beyond. Out of 52 weeks of continuous publication, we now reflect on the top 20 headlines of 2012.
1. January 5 – 11
Lewis hits ground running as new sheriff of Hinds County
“There’s a new sheriff in town” was the opening headline for the year 2012, as the new Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis made history in 2011 as the first African American elected to the office. He continued to impact the lives of the residents of Hinds County by presenting his first set of policies and procedures, which immediately drew the ire of newly-elected Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes towards the $30 million budget. And so continued the debate for the greater part of 2012.
2. January 12 – 18
Barbour pardons nearly 200, including killers
Gov. Haley Barbour made national news when he pardoned 200 in his final days as Mississippi Governor. Two dozen of those pardoned had crimes listed as murder, manslaughter or homicide. Among those released was brother of former NFL quarterback and Southern Miss standout Brett Favre. Earnest Scott Favre was cleared of the 1996 death of his best friend Mark Haverty, when Favre drove in front of a train in Pass Christian while drunk. Also released was Azikiwe Kambule of South Africa who was convicted of manslaughter in 1996 from the carjacking and slaying of Pamela McGill of Madison County. Kambule was a teenager when he was given 30 years for the armed carjacking and five years as an accessory to the murder.
3. January 26 – February 1
‘Red Tails’ connects Mississippi cousins
When The Mississippi Link graphic artist Marcus Johnson set out to find a Mississippi connection with the famed Tuskegee Airmen and get a reaction to the 2012 released movie “Red Tails,” to his surprise through family inquires he found that he was related to Captain Christopher Newman of the 332nd Fighter Squadron, a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II – as depicted in the movie. Newman, 89, said the movie was good but he “lived it” and related being trapped in a P-39 plane that caught on fire during his 24th mission. The movie earned $19.1 million in its opening weekend.
4. February 9 – 15
HIV/AIDS and The Black Church “Divine Intervention”
More than 65 faith leaders, ministers, pastors, organization and health professionals gathered at The Penguin Restaurant on the campus of Jackson State University Feb. 7 to discuss the role of the black church in fighting and raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. It was set aside as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. According to statistical data presented at the forum, in 2009, Mississippi ranked No. 6 nationally in HIV infection case rates among the 40 states with confidential reporting.
5. March 1 – 7
The charter school debate pros and cons
One of most hotly debated moved in public education was proposed Senate Bill 2401 that would expand charter schools in Mississippi. Matthew Lynch, assistant professor of education at Widener University applauded the bill as a “step in the right direction,” allowing educators to “think creatively and solve problems. However, representatives of The Children’s Defense Fund Kim Robinson and Natalie Collier said, “In a time when education has already been underfunded to the tune of $1 billion over the last decade, it is irresponsible to hand down unfunded mandates….”
6. March 8 – 14
Meyers first female
Chief of JSU – Inauguration
Historic Jackson State University made more history as its first female president was inaugurated in its 133 years of academic excellence – Dr. Carolyn Meyers, 64. It was with a unanimous vote of the College Board that Meyers became JSU’s 10th president. Meyers described herself as a “researcher, collaborative leader and thinker.” She replaced interim president Leslie McLemore, who was appointed when president Ronald Mason left in 2010 to lead Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Meyers’ 30 years of experience in higher education included serving as president of Norfolk State University.
7. March 29 – April 4;
Apri 12 – 18 and Apri 19 – 25
It was the chain of events that captured the headlines in Mississippi and nationwide, when George Zimmerman, 28, a “non-black neighborhood watch captain,” decided to get out of his SUV with a 9 millimeter handgun and eventually shot to death Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager wearing a hoody jacket. Zimmerman was advised against following the youth by the local police dispatcher. The stalking-like behavior of Zimmerman of a black teenager with a hoody caused many across the nation to say, “I am Trayvon Martin.” Three weeks of national mobilization of black leaders and the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the fact that Zimmerman was not immediately arrested for the murder of Martin led to the resignation of Sanford, Fla., Police Chief Bill Lee. Although Zimmerman has been formally charged, the case continues today….
8. March 29 – April 4
Anderson first female chief of Choctaw Indians
Phyliss J. Anderson, 50, the first woman chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, said her goal was to reunite the tribe. She said there had been a division among tribal members for the past four years and she will work to bring the Choctaws together. She defeated incumbent Chief Beasley Denson. According to the Choctaw Indians’ website, Anderson is the fourth tribal chief since the tribe received federal recognition in 1945. She is a native of the Red Water community in Leake County and a graduate of Choctaw Central High School and East Central Community College where she earned an associate degree in liberal arts. The tribe is 10,000 members strong with land holdings over 35,000 acres in 10 Mississippi counties.
9. May 17 – 23
Reactions to Obama’s support for gay marriage
President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to openly support same-sex marriage on May 8, which ignited great debate across political and religious lines, with Larry Miller of the Philadelphia Tribune, stating it could either be a “boon or a curse for his re-election campaign.” Obama, in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, said, “… I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” There was immediate fallout from some black clergy, although Pastor Danny Ray Hollins of Greater Fairview M.B. Church, posted on his webpage, “What was Barack Obama elected to do? … He was elected to be president of all the people of this country … black, white, Muslim, Jews, gentiles, rich, poor, heterosexual, homosexual, metrosexual or no sexual….”
10. May 24 – 30
Alcorn graduate Donald Driver wins DWTS
Donald Driver had a Super Bowl ring already when he added to his credits the “Dancing With the Stars” mirrorball trophy. The Green Bay Packers receiver won the ABC dance show May 22. He attended Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where he lettered in both football and track and field. He finished his college football career there with 88 receptions for 1993 yards (19.69 Yards Per Catch). Driver is one of the most decorated track athletes in the NFL as an Olympic class high jumper, being able to jump 7 feet 6 inches. He was a five-time “Athlete of the Year” in his conference for his track and football prowess. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Driver was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft and as of 2012 spent his entire career with the Packers. Driver and partner Peta Murgatroyd were pushed into the winner’s column by the viewers, as only one point separated the three finalists.
11. June 7 – 13
Stop The Violence Prayer Breakfast
A task force of more than 125 law enforcement officers, city and county officials, ministers and citizens poured into the Hanging Moss Road Church of Christ family life center for a call to action prayer breakfast in the fight against crime in the city of Jackson June 5. With the declaration that “enough is enough,” the community leaders joined in partnership with the Hinds County Sheriff Department to bring a halt to the increase in aggravated assaults, armed robberies, carjackings and homicides over last year’s numbers. Homicides were up by nearly 50 percent over 2011.
12. June 28 – July 4
Sentencing for 3 in hate crime against Anderson
A year after James Craig Anderson, 49, was run down by a pickup truck, the three teens who pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with his death – Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler and John Aaron Rice – were still awaiting sentencing. It was the anniversary of the murder of Anderson that occurred June 26, 2011, in front of the Metro Inn on Ellis Avenue. On March 22, the three teens pleaded guilty to U.S. District Court hate crime charges related to Anderson’s death. Dedmon was first released on a $50,000 bond June 29, 2011, which was later revoked by Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith.
13. July 5 – 11
With Conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. providing a surprise supporting vote, the United States Supreme Court gave President Barack Obama a major victory June 28 by upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. In the most watched Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore in 2000, the justices upheld the landmark healthcare law that requires all Americans, except those objecting on religious grounds or facing financial hardship, to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty. The vote was 5-4 with Roberts joining the court’s four liberals – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan.
14. August 30 – September 5
Isaac strikes Mississippi
Seven years after Katrina, Hurricane Isaac impacted Mississippi, slamming into Gulfport Aug. 29 and flooding parts of U.S. 90. The Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced flooded and deserted streets and sporadic power outages affecting up to 14,000 customers. Wind whipped coastal communities like Bay St. Louis and Waveland, closing Interstate 10. In Pass Christian, Mayor Chipper McDermott was optimistic that Isaac would not deal a heavy blow, as he stood on the porch of the $6 million municipal complex built after Katrina wiped out the city. Its walls are made of 1-foot-thick concrete to withstand hurricane winds.
15. November 1 – 7
Superstorm Sandy’s devastation: floods, wind, fire and snow
Sandy was called a category 1 storm, but no such storm like her had ever been seen on the east coast. Stretching over an area of 1,000 miles with a full moon at her back, meeting a cold front coming in from the north, Sandy delivered devastation unseen on the eastern shores. She flooded the 13-year-old New York City subway lines, submerged three airport runways, forced cancellation of 50,000 flights worldwide, overpowered backup generators at hospitals, washed out the historic Atlantic City boardwalk, impacting weather from Tennessee to Massachusetts. In her aftermath along with the flooding were snowstorms and house fires, wiping out 100 homes – although they were surrounded by water.Hurricane Sandy was credited with changing the course of the 2012 presidential elections, when New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie set aside his differences with President Obama, which diminished his support for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
16. November 8 – 14
President Obama re-elected – moving forward for four more years
President Barack Obama won re-election with 303 electoral votes to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s 206. Obama gained 60,652,149 popular votes to Romney’s 57,810,390. It was a clear and decisive victory, now adding to history as the first African American U.S. president had also been re-elected to a second term. Ohio put Obama into the winning column after numbers from urban areas like Cleveland and Cincinnati overtook the state’s Republican rural areas. On election night around 8 p.m. central time, CNN created scenario after scenario which all concluded that Obama would indeed be the winner. Romney took till nearly 1 a.m. to concede the election. The draw back for the election day were the problems at election polls with lines of voters waiting up to five hours to cast their vote.
17. November 15 – 21
Plane crash in heart of West Jackson community
It was a miracle that Loretta Jamison only sustained burns to her body when she jumped from the window of her residence at 220 Marcus Butler Drive in the West Jackson neighborhood. The wood frame house was reduced to charred rubble Tuesday, Nov. 13, when a single-engine aircraft fell on top of it. Three people on the plane were killed in the crash – Col. John E. Tilton Jr., 65, Lt. Col. David Williams, 69, and Capt. William C. Young, 78 – all pilots headed to a Federal Aviation Administration safety conference in Raymond, just 25 miles away. Dental records were required to make proper identification of the three. As helicopters flew over the scene in the evening hours, news photos showed the intense flames that lit up the sky.
18. December 6 – 12
Nettie Williams was born Oct. 31, 1899, in Farmhaven, Miss., the youngest child of Rev. Allen and Mary Williams. She married Sulum Whittington and to their union 11 children were born. In 1946, Sulm died unexpectedly, leaving Nettie to raise nine of their 11 children on her own; two had reached adulthood. As a documented centenarian, she made appearances in Jet Magazine, on the Oprah Winfred Show and photo ops on the Today Show with Willard Scott. She met President Bill Clinton and witnessed the election of America’s first black president. She was the 18th oldest person in the world. Her oldest child, daughter Flossie Davis, 90, gave the family tribute at her funeral.
19. December 13 – 19
First African American female elected to MS State Senate Alice Harden dies
State Sen. Alice Harden (D-MS)) died Thursday, Dec. 6, of an undisclosed lengthy illness. She was the first African American female elected to the Mississippi State Senate.
Longtime friend and State Representative Alyce Clarke said, “We’ve lost a good woman. She was always a voice. … [W]hen we needed one in the Senate, we knew Alice would be there … doing what she felt was in the best interest of her constituents.” Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves issued statements, with Reeves saying, “…She fought diligently for all Mississippi children to have an opportunity to receive a good education. Her dedication to public service will be missed.
20. December 20 – 26
Mississippi remembers victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School with prayer vigil
The Governor’s office, the Mississippi Department of Education, Jackson Public Schools, Jackson State University, and many Mississippians expressed their sorrow and concern for the safety of all school children, after the Dec. 14 murder of 20 school children ages 5 and 6 and six adult teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was the worst school shooting in U.S. history. In a state issued proclamation, Gov. Phil Bryant said, “I call upon all citizens of this state to observe this moment of silence (Friday, Dec. 22, at 9:30 a.m.) and ask places of worship and government buildings, which have the capacity, to ring bells 26 times during that moment in honor of each life that was taken far too soon at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”