Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hewitt Clarke Writes About Meridian

From the Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project
Biography of Hewitt Clarke
By Andy Collins (SHS)

Hewitt Clarke was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 7, 1931. He later moved to his father's hometown, Meridian, Mississippi, which was where he grew up. He graduated from Meridian High School and then went on to Ole Miss. While a student at Meridian High School, he wrote for the school newspaper, which is what first got him interested in writing. After graduating from Ole Miss, he became a special agent in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps in Korea and Japan, collecting information about the Communist party. Back home he then started work in the insurance industry, moving many times until he moved to his current home in HoustonTexas.

Book summaries are from Mr. Clarke's web site.

In Mississippi Blood (2008), Mississippi author Hewitt Clarke untangles a web of violence and deceit worthy of any big city crime beat -- anywhere. But that this intrigue unfolds in a sleepy, eastern Mississippi town of fewer than 40,000 souls, makes it even more sensational.

Larry Tiffee, a Meridian, Mississippi real estate developer and country boy from rural Arkansas, is discovered in a pool of his own blood at his posh home overlooking the city early in 1983. Among his other wounds the Coroner notes what appears to be the signature of a professional hit man, a precisely placed, coup-de-grace to Mr. Tiffee's head.

His estranged wife, Gloria, apparently crushed at the loss of her husband with whom, she maintains, she was about to reconcile is questioned and released. But as the hapless killers flee, attempting to lay a paper trail of gasoline purchases and credit card receipts designed to lead authorities astray, their plans run afoul of a task force of police officers and investigators across four states.

The seemingly well thought-out scheme begins to crumble amid allegations of money laundering, illicit drug transactions, and corruption. Next enters the Dixie mafia, an outlaw biker gang called the "Satans" and a 1,000 dollar a day body guard. So complex are the pieces that the case might not have been solved at all, dismissed as a simple burglary gone bad, except for the efforts of a lone private detective.

The East End Tea Room (2005). This is a true story about the citizens of Mississippi weathering the storm in the 1960's when hundreds of civil rights activists from the North invaded the state. It was during a time when black ghettoes in the civil rights worker's own backyards in Northern cities were about to explode in death and destruction. In one year, 67 race riots broke out in Northern cities. In Detroit alone, 43 people were killed and millions of dollars in property destroyed. And the nation may have noticed, but the media never reported, that none of these destructive race riots occurred in the South. 

DNJ:Mr.Clarke wrote three other books: Bloody Kemper (1998), Thunder at Meridian (1995) and War Stories from Mississippi (2004). These are mostly historical and I have not read them. His books are interesting, but in my opinion, he could have benefited greatly from an editor. Some of his narrative tends to drift and dead end. And, there are occasional typos, all of which a good editor could have corrected. He does dig out hard - to - get facts and understands our heritage and culture, but he is too unreconstructed for my tastes. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and he seems to be a delightful fellow with whom I'd like to sit around and have a few drinks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

East Mississippi State Hospital

Date built: 1885
Building Plan: Cottage Plan
Current Status: Active

On March 8, 1882, the Mississippi State Legislature approved enabling legislation to establish the East Mississippi State Insane Asylum. This came about largely due to the efforts of Miss Dorothea Dix, a champion for mentally ill in the United States. The city of Meridian purchased and donated 560 acres of land for the construction of the facility. The asylum opened its doors for service in January of 1885, with a 19 year old man from Meridian as the first patient.

The name of the institution was changed from East Mississippi State Insane Asylum to East Mississippi Insane Hospital in 1898, and finally to East Mississippi State Hospital in the early 1930's, perhaps reflecting changes in attitudes toward the mentally ill nationwide.

During the early years the hospital was almost self sufficient with farming facilities, a hog farm, a cattle farm, a dairy barn, a poultry plant, and orchards of peach, apple, pear and pecan trees. A canning plant was built to process the produce.

In the mid 1950's the hospital realized much progress toward becoming a modern psychiatric hospital. Since its beginning the hospital had provided for only custodial purposes but during the 1950's it began to develop treatment services for the patients. With adequate and well-trained medical and psychiatric staff, the various kinds of therapies and the use of tranquilizing drugs were instituted. The hospital began to be recognized as a successful treatment center of psychiatric illness. It was also during this period that much improvement was made in the physical structures. The Administration Building was remodeled to modern standards and a new occupational therapy building, recreation building, and a new employee dormitory were constructed.

EMSH conducted the practice of Eugenics until 1963.

EMSH Float in the Calf Scramble Parade in the 50s. (click on)