volume 6 number 1
Rankin’s Red Carpet
Dixie National Rodeo 2019
2 • August 2019
Hometown Rankin • 3
Drawdown Fundraiser Benefitting
New Summit School & Spectrum Academy
For an evening of fun and fellowship to celebrate our children’s futures!
Friday, February 22, 2019
7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Mississippi Children’s Museum | 2145 Museum Boulevard | Jackson, MS 39202
$10,000 Cash Giveaway
Live and Silent Auction
Heavy hors d’oeuvres
$125.00 per ticket
(includes 2 people)
Purchase insurance for an
To purchase a ticket, please call our office at 601.982.7827
or visit www.newsummitschool.com
Presented by Mississippi Community Education Center
Must Be 21 to Attend | Dressy Attire
Trustmark Financial Services - Brandon, MS
Combined over 25 years experience
LPL Financial Consultant
Charles (Chas) Gualano
First Vice President
LPL Financial Consultant
Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or
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are not endorsed, recommended or guaranteed by Trustmark National Bank or any government agency. The value of
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6 • February 2019
FROM OUR PUBLISHER
We just passed milestone #5 at Hometown Publishing. Here we
go into year #6 and my gratitude list is long. First, I thank God for
leading me in making the decision to undertake this project. I’ve
loved spotlighting our neighbors and businesses. With so much
negativity infiltrating the media, we at Hometown Magazines feel
blessed to reflect and report on all the positive, the hard-workers,
and the overcomers.
However, it comes at a cost–time being our most precious
commodity that we invest in the publications. Our talented staff
juggles long hours on the phone, editing, invoicing, making contacts,
and visiting businesses. We’re incredibly small in number for the
amount of work we put together.
Each member of our crew pulls off a challenging workload and
then goes home to their own families and children ranging from
elementary age to college. Sometimes I think we could dedicate
and entire issue to the roller coaster ride of production deadlines
and family life.
As we suit up for another year and plan our content calendars,
we continue to be extremely grateful for all of our readers and
well-wishers. Compliments keep our workload oiled and running
Thank you for all the positive feedback, and thank you for
supporting the businesses that make Hometown Rankin possible.
May your 2019 be packed with happy memories as you make new
ones, and may you have the wisdom to enjoy each day to its
fullest–even the busy ones. l
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Tahya A. Dobbs
Daniel Thomas - 3dt
Kevin W. Dobbs
Mary Ann Kirby
In this issue
Rodeo 2019 10
Mississippi Rodeo Queen 12
A Rodeo Clowning Legend 18
A Day in the Life of a 4-H’er 26
Meet Steve Hutton 32
Rankin’s Red Carpet Gala 37
Veteran Spotlight 60
Deasia’s Season 68
The Miracle of Survival 78
Where Two or More are Gathered 84
www.facebook.com/hometownrankinmagazine. For subscription information visit www.htmags.com or contact us at info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 26 Eastgate Drive, Suite F / Brandon, MS 39042
All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Rankin may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Rankin is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.
Hometown Rankin maintains the unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted material. All advertisements are subject to approval by the publisher. The production of Hometown Rankin is funded by advertising.
Hometown Rankin • 7
8 • February 2019
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Exclusions and limitations apply. See a Licensed Agent for details.
Hometown Rankin • 9
The Dixie National Livestock Show & Rodeo is the largest professional
rodeo east of the Mississippi. The month-long livestock show and
week-long rodeo attracts cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation,
and internationally, to compete each year. These events will bring more
than 100,000 visitors to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson
for an estimated economic impact of more than $20 million.
National country music recording artists Easton Corbin, Morgan Wallen, Shenandoah,
John Anderson, Dylan Scott, Cody Johnson, and Scotty McCreery will each take a night
on the dirt February 7 - 13. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.
10 • February 2019
Visit www.mdac.ms.gov for more information.
Welcome to the
Each February, cowboys, cowgirls, 4-H
and FFA members, rodeo queens, and
spectators travel from all over the United
States to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds
in order to experience the largest rodeo east
of the Mississippi River. This is a “Genuine
The Dixie National Livestock Show and
Rodeo has grown into an event that draws
over 100,000 visitors to the fairgrounds and
generates millions of dollars for Mississippi’s
economy each year. Our dedicated team
works tirelessly to ensure the livestock shows,
equine events, agricultural showcases, and top
class rodeo entertainment is a success year
after year. From the professional cowboys
and cowgirls that compete for titles to the
young women who wear the crown of
Rodeo Queen, this event continues to
flourish as a tradition treasured by so many.
The Dixie National Junior Round-Up
and Open Livestock shows continue to be
the heart of the Dixie National by providing
opportunities for Mississippi’s youth and
open show exhibitors to participate. These
events had over 1,900 4-H and FFA members
and open show exhibitors and more than
2,500 head of livestock participate in 2018.
The pinnacle of the junior livestock show
circuit in Mississippi is the annual Dixie
National Junior Sale of Champions.
Proceeds from this event benefit participants
in the form of scholarships and reached
$344,778 last year. In addition to getting a
jumpstart on their college education, the
fine young men and women involved in
these events make memories and friendships
that last a lifetime.
We are truly grateful to our loyal sponsors
who give us the support to provide the level
of entertainment and professional rodeo
talent we provide every year. It is inspiring
to see how this event has grown over the
years and has been molded into the finest
and largest rodeo east of the Mississippi
River. Again, welcome and enjoy being a
part of the Dixie National Livestock Show
Commissioner of Agriculture & Commerce
Hometown Rankin • 11
12 • February 2019
From Mississippi Girl
to National Queen
The 2018 Miss Rodeo Mississippi, Taylor McNair,
was recently crowned the 2019 Miss Rodeo America.
A native of Learned, Mississippi, Taylor
excelled in the weeklong competition, which took
place December 2-9, 2018, in Las Vegas, against
28 other contestants and is the third Miss Rodeo
Mississippi to win the national title.
In addition to bringing home the crown,
Taylor left Vegas with an array of wins behind
her name. As the winner of the appearance,
personality, chap, and written test awards, as
well as receiving the Sherry Smith Memorial
Scholarship and third place for her scrapbook,
Taylor is excited to use her new title as a platform
to educate the public on agriculture and the sport
of rodeo. However, as the 3rd generation farmer
and rancher on her family’s farm, McNair Farms,
Taylor walks the walk and talks the talk in, and
outside, of the rodeo arena.
“I’ve grown up on my family’s farm and
learned, early on, the value of hard work,” said
McNair. “Growing up as the farmer’s daughter
comes with a lot of hard labor and, although
sometimes I’ve wished to have a brother, I
wouldn’t trade the memories and hard work
ethic for anything.”
A decorated member of rodeo royalty,
Taylor has collected several past rodeo queen
titles over the years; Miss Dixie National 2014,
Miss Crossett PRCA Rodeo 2015, and Miss
Rodeo of the Mid-South 2016 before being
crowned the 42nd Miss Rodeo Mississippi in
January of 2018. Throughout 2018, Taylor
spent the year representing Mississippi at all
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
(PRCA) events statewide.
A recent graduate of Mississippi State
University, Taylor earned a Bachelor of Science
in AgriBusiness with a concentration on policy
and law, and minors in both business administration
and economics. While at MSU, she was
a member of the Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor
Society, Chi Omega Sorority, Toastmasters,
Freshman Council, Foundation Ambassadors,
MSU Rodeo Team, and MSU Equestrian Team.
Being both a rodeo competitor and enthusiast,
Taylor was an active competitor throughout
junior high and high school in the National
Barrel Horse Association, Mississippi High
School Rodeo Association, and Mississippi
Quarter Horse Youth Association. As a past
Mississippi Beef Ambassador, Hinds County
Outstanding 4-H’er, Mississippi Star Junior
Photos courtesy of Sherry Smith Photography
Hometown Rankin • 13
14 • February 2019
Cattleman, and Horse Public Speaking
Champion, Taylor has received numerous
scholarships, 4-H livestock exhibitor
awards, and community service awards.
As a volunteer for both Horses for
Handicapped and FARMtastic, Taylor
is passionate about giving back to the
community and her sweet personality
shines as brightly as her new crown.
LeAnne Peters, a longtime member
of the Miss Rodeo Mississippi Foundation
board of directors, the communications
director for the Mississippi Cattlemen’s
Association, and the Mississippi Junior
Cattlemen’s Association advisor, has known
Taylor for many years and is confident that
she will represent Mississippi well in her
“I have had the opportunity to know
Taylor since she showed cattle in 4-H,
which was years ago,” said LeAnne. “She
was always a mentor to younger kids and
I know she will do a wonderful job. The
entire Miss Rodeo Mississippi board of
directors is incredibly proud of Taylor and
the integrity she exhibits.”
During her reign as the 2019 Miss
Rodeo America, Taylor will travel more
than 100,000 miles and appear at more
than 100 rodeo performances all over the
nation, as well as making appearances at
schools, civic groups, and other events as
an official representative of the Professional
Rodeo Cowboys Association. Taylor is
excited to spend this next year encouraging
the next generation of rodeo athletes and
queens all over the nation, promoting the
sport of professional rodeo, and educating
the public about agriculture and its
When Taylor is not promoting the
sport of rodeo or the agriculture industry,
she enjoys riding horses, running, working
on her family’s farm, reading, and traveling.
In the future, Taylor plans on obtaining a
J.D. from the University of Mississippi law
school and an LL.M. in agricultural and
food law from the University of Arkansas.
According to Taylor, at the end of day,
she is excited to be living her dream and
educating others about the industry she
has loved all her life. Perhaps Faith Hill
sang it best years ago when she sang, “A
Mississippi girl don’t change her ways just
because everybody knows her name; she
ain’t big-headed by a little bit of fame.”
In true Mississippi style, Taylor’s return
from Vegas showcased, even more, her
humility. “It truly takes a village to raise a
rodeo queen and I’m beyond thankful for
everyone that is a part of mine,” said Taylor.
Congratulations, Taylor! We cannot
wait to see what you accomplish for this
industry in 2019!
Hometown Rankin • 15
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16 • February 2019
Eat, drink and be soulful in
Jackson. The City With Soul.
18 • February 2019
Lecile Harris, who was born on
November 6, 1936, in Lake Cormorant,
Mississippi, is a rodeo legend.
Just one mention of the word
“Lecile” around any rodeo circuit,
stadium, or stock show, and
without any reference to his last
name, people instantly know
exactly who is being referred to.
And although you will likely never hear him say it,
Lecile is a big deal. He has excelled in the rodeo
arena as both a rodeo clown and bullfighter over his
60-plus year career and has accumulated an array
of accolades behind his name, including being
named the PRCA Clown of the Year in 1992,
1994, 1995, and 1996, as well as being inducted into
the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
While watching him perform, it is apparent that
Lecile is totally in his element inside the arena.
However, according to him, his entrance into this
career came as a total surprise.
“It was the summer after I had just finished
high school and was on a football scholarship at
the University of Tennessee that me and a buddy
of mine went to a weekend rodeo that was about
20 miles away,” said Lecile. “It was an amateur thing
but we became interested in it and continued to go.”
At that particular rodeo, the bull riding section
was divided into two parts; one to start the rodeo
where competitors would ride, and the other to end
the rodeo where spectators could jump in and ride.
It is no surprise that Lecile, who has made a career
on being fearless and jumping at opportunities,
wanted to take a chance to ride.
“I didn’t even make it out of the chute good
before he bucked me off,” said Lecile. “It made me
mad so the next Sunday I went back and tried
again. I went back three or four Sundays for a
month and kept trying to ride one.”
On one of those Sundays, the bullfighter’s car
broke down causing him to be unable to make it to
the rodeo. Lecile mentioned that he had been
watching the way the bullfighters moved and
wanted to give it a try.
“My first thought that day was that these were
just local bulls and wouldn’t be that bad, and my
second thought was that the moves the bullfighters
made were similar in a way to the moves you make
playing football as far as being quick to jump and
light on your feet,” said Lecile.
Hometown Rankin • 19
The following Sunday, the bullfighter was still unable to make it due to his
car not being fixed yet so Lecile stood in again on grounds that his pay would
be in the form of a free entry fee to participate in the bull riding section. Lecile
fought bulls and simultaneously rode them for the rest of that summer. According
to Lecile, that summer planted something inside him that he couldn’t shake–
something that made him want to do more within rodeo.
For the next few years, Lecile continued to ride bulls and fight them, all
the while still playing college football. A couple
years later, Lecile was given an offer
where he could move up to a higher
rodeo company as a bull fighter on
the condition that he stop riding.
“It wasn’t that hard of a decision for
me. Although I liked to ride, I wasn’t
that good at it,” said Lecile. “I was 6’5
and that’s too tall to ride bulls because
you are too top heavy. So from there I
began exclusively fighting bulls.”
About a year into exclusively
bullfighting, rodeos began gaining in
popularity and Lecile was told that he
needed to include some comedy into his
performances. Lecile, who was in a rock
n’ roll band at the time, was already
familiar with performing on stage and entertaining an audience, so incorporating
comedy into his routine was a natural transition.
“If you didn’t do comedy, you didn’t work back then as a bullfighter because
it was a requirement,” said Lecile. “We didn’t have separate bull fighters and
separate clowns; one person did it all. I learned comedy early in my career
because of that and continued to bullfight and perform comedy inside the
arenas for 36 years.”
Lecile rose in fame and became the number one bullfighter in the
international rodeo association, a position he held for nine years. However, at
one performance in Reno, Nevada, when he was 52, Lecile got badly injured
and decided it would be time for him to retire as a bullfighter.
“It was time for me to get out of bullfighting. I was 52 and that’s really too
old for a bullfighter because you aren’t as fast as some of the younger boys,” said
Lecile. “I made the switch to straight comedy and it has been one of the best
decisions I have made in my career.”
At the peak of his career, Lecile traveled extensively and worked over 150
performances a year. Although today he has slowed down a little bit and works
between 80-85 performances annually, he says he is still continually learning in
this profession and tweaking his routines to be better year after year.
“Rodeo comedy is different because so much depends on your body
language since you are typically a long ways away from the crowd so body
language is huge and everything must be exaggerated,” said Lecile. “For years
we didn’t have wireless mics so it was even harder. I was one of the first rodeo
clowns to use a wireless mic and that has been a game-changer.”
Inspired by other legends like Emmett Kelly and W.C. Fields, Lecile
has always gravitated towards
“When I was young and starting out,
I was an 18 or 19-year-old kid who
would paint wrinkles on my face to
get into my old character,” said Lecile.
“Now I am that old person so I
don’t have to do that anymore; these
days the wrinkles are already there
and I just follow them.”
One of the most challenging
parts of his career over the years
has been mastering the art of
timing. According to Lecile,
a good rodeo
clown should perform in such a
way that the audience in unaware
of any problems or slowdowns. A way that he has managed to master timing is
to make sure he stays inside the arena during the entire rodeo.
“When you are dealing with animals they are unpredictable, at best.
Sometimes you have a calf that doesn’t want to run out of the chute or a horse
that is being hard to handle so I make sure that, while I am in the arena, I am
always watching for those potential problems,” said Lecile.
“If I see that happening, I jump in with a comedy routine to distract the
audience so they won’t get bored; people want to be entertained they shouldn’t
have to wait for problems to get fixed. That’s the clown’s job.”
As someone who is involved in the livestock industry and has attended the
Dixie National year after year, I had never thought about the role rodeo
clowns play in developing an overall positive rodeo experience in that light–
further proof that Lecile has excelled in keeping his audiences entertained and
unaware of problems.
Today, in addition to performing, Lecile has his own rodeo each year in
Southhaven–The Rodeo of the Mid-South, which will take place this year on
January 19, 2019. The newly crowned Miss Rodeo America 2019, Taylor
McNair, earned her first crown at The Rodeo of the Mid-South. Although he
also works as a developer and manages his own sign company in Tennessee,
Lecile plans to continue performing as long as he can because, according to
him, he loves it now just as much as he did 63 years ago.
20 • February 2019
“The day this becomes a job I will quit and my career will be over because what I do is an
occupation and not a job,” said Lecile. “Sure it can be hard sometimes when you are traveling
and tired but it is still something I thoroughly love. The day it becomes something I don’t
love is the day I will quit.”
Just like always, Lecile will be performing at each performance of The Dixie National
Rodeo in 2019 and he hopes to see each of you there. After all, it won’t be his first rodeo. l
Hometown Rankin • 21
22 • February 2019
Byrd & Cook
Residential & Commercial
Carpet / Hardwood / Ceramic Tile / Laminate
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611 West Government Street
24 • February 2019
26 • February 2019
A Day in
the Life of
a 4-H’erErin Williams
The Mississippi State
University Extension Service
youth development program,
known throughout the state as
4-H, is one of the oldest and
most respected public service
programs in Mississippi. Extension agents and youth, alike,
participate in year-round educational programs and hands-on
activities through their forestry, livestock, safety, STEM,
wildlife youth education, and health and wellness programs.
While programs offered by 4-H are statewide, participants
often benefit the most through local chapters at their county
extension services where dedicated extension agents are able
to work in smaller groups with local youth.
Madison County native, Hannah Jones, who also attends
Germantown Middle School, has been involved with 4-H
since she was a young child. Of all the different 4-H divisions,
participating in the 4-H livestock
program has been Hannah’s favorite
and has helped her to have an active
career showing livestock. A decorated
and devoted veteran in the show
ring, Hannah has won many awards
locally, statewide, and nationally.
This year, like she has done for many years past, Hannah
and her show animals will enter the show ring at The Dixie
National to compete against students from all across the state
that are all vying for the same awards. Although the junior
livestock shows at The Dixie National take place over a couple
of weeks, preparations from the dedicated youth participants
have been underway for months. For more insight into those
yearlong preparations, read the following Q&A with Hannah,
where she shows us what a typical day in the life of a 4-H’er
Hometown Rankin • 27
What does a typical day look like for you in caring for your show
A typical day starts early in the morning. I feed them twice a day, but
the morning feed is always before school. I also always check their water
before I go to school. After school, it’s time to exercise my goats. We walk
and run down my driveway because it helps
them to build muscles but also because they
just like having fun. After that, I also lead
and teach my cattle and goats how to set up
correctly for the show ring and I do those
things every day, not just before a show.
Oftentimes, judges will say that you win by
what you do at home, not what you do at
the show, and I think that is true. My
parents push me to try hard, do my best,
and never give up.
What does a typical show day look like for
you and how do you prepare?
Show days also start early in the morning
when I load my livestock up and head to
the show. My family and I prepare their
stalls when we arrive at the show and then
we unload all the supplies (feed, grooming
products, and buckets).
Once show prep begins, the animals
are all washed and dried with huge a blow
dryer to look their best. We clip and comb
their hair a certain way and apply hair care
products to make them shine. Once I enter
the show ring, I have my eyes on the judge,
my animal, and the other animals in the
class. I present my animal in the ring with
a certain stance in line with the other
contestants. I brace my goats using my leg
to allow their muscles to pop. They need to
be square with all four legs spaced evenly apart. The judge actually feels
the animals to evaluate their muscle tone and fat cover. The judge then
places them in order. He starts with the bottom of the class and works
his way up to 1st place. He then gives reasons why he placed them in this
I’ve learned that some days you win, and sometimes you don’t end up
in 1st place. I have learned to always try my best, never give up, and
always congratulate the winner. I love how it feels to win and be
congratulated, so I want others to feel that way when they win, too. After
that, we load up all the livestock and supplies and have lots of family time
while my dad drives us home. It makes for a
How long have you been involved with
showing livestock, and how did you initially
I have been showing cattle and goats for
6 years. I officially started showing when
I was 8-years-old with 4-H. However,
I started showing in the peewee classes when I
was about 4-years-old. While both my parents
work outside of the farm, we still have a small
cattle farm. Farm life has allowed me to see new
life. My dad works with the MSU Extension
Service, so I was around the show ring when he
was working at the livestock shows, and my
mother is a veterinarian. Animals have always
been a part of my life; it’s just natural for me.
It’s been said before that the outside of
an animal is good for the inside of a child.
Would you agree with this given your upbringing
and successful show career?
Absolutely! I love all my animals. We have
cattle, horses, goats, chickens and a cat named
McDreamy. Spending time with
all my animals is one of my favorite things.
They have taught me so much about friendship
and trust, and all my animals have unique
I have to work to gain their trust. For
example, I have learned how to communicate with
a 1300-pound-steer and a 90-pound stubborn goat. We start building a
I work with my steers and heifers from March until its time for Dixie
National the next February. I teach them to lead and set up correctly;
I also wash and brush them. Most of them love for me to give them
attention with special rubs and snacks. We have to become a team
to find success in the show ring. They learn to trust me, and I learn
to trust them.
28 • February 2019
What life lessons do you feel showing livestock and being involved
with 4-H has equipped you with?
I have learned so many lessons from showing livestock, but the main
ones are responsibility, how to work hard, confidence, motivation, and
communication. It has been a fun
experience for me from meeting new
friends with similar interests, to working
with my animals, and celebrating my
wins in the show ring. Showing has
taught me that hard work pays off and
I see that firsthand. Because showing
is a competition, I have learned that
sometimes you win and sometimes you
lose, and also how to do both well and
graciously. I have learned to always try
my best and never give up.
You’ve had an incredibly successful
show career; what are a few of the
awards you have won that you are
most proud of?
Some of my favorite wins are showmanship
wins, which is based on how well my
animal and I work together. The judges
also ask questions in showmanship so
I have to think quickly and be confident
in my answers. I have to have knowledge
of my animals, feeding, and the livestock
industry to answer their questions. I
won the 11- year-old beef showmanship
with my steer, Blake, and the 11-year-old
goat showmanship with my doe, Phoebe.
Both of my steers that year were winners,
too. Dixie National 2016 was a special
year for me, and I was also proud to be
in the top 20 at the Junior National
Simmental Show in the intermediate showmanship class that
Another one of my favorite wins was this November at the North
American Livestock Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. My Simmental
heifer, Layla, won her division. We were able to stand on the green
shavings and compete in the championship drive. Every summer,
I go to Be A Champ Camp at Connors College for a showmanship
and grooming camp. I was also proud of winning the grooming
contest at Be A Champ Camp in Oklahoma in my age division.
Many kids compete for a spot in the sale of champions every year,
and it’s always one of my goals. I have been
able to participate in the sale the last three
years. Over the last three years, I have had
two goats and two steers in the sale. The
Dixie National Sale of Champions is such
a fun and rewarding day for my parents
and me because there is a lot of excitement
as I enter the show ring.
Caring for and exhibiting livestock is
incredibly time-consuming. How do you
balance your responsibilities at home,
responsibilities with your animals, and
also your school responsibilities?
Showing livestock takes lots of time and
commitment. I don’t have much spare time.
I’m very busy after school with feeding,
grooming, and practice. I am also a member
of Germantown Middle School Show Choir.
We have four concerts per year, as well as
after school practice to prepare. My parents
help me keep track of my show schedule.
I do miss school a few days for shows, and
I have to be sure I get all my make-up
Have you made friends in different areas of
the nation because of your showing career?
Showing has expanded my circle of friends
from Mississippi and also other parts of the
nation. I spent my 10th, 11th, and 12th
birthdays at show camps in Oklahoma.
My parents take me and my calf (along with
all my supplies) and I spend four days with one hundred kids from
across the nation. Showing has opened doors to travel. I love to visit
farms and livestock sales to look for new show animals. Some of my
animals were born right here in Mississippi, but showing has lead me
to Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Illinois. l
Hometown Rankin • 29
The state’s leading full-service orthopaedic specialty practice.
30 • February 2019
Jackson • Madison • Flowood • Brookhaven • Yazoo City • Ruleville
The Mississippi State Fairgrounds came
under new leadership last summer, and
changes are already being noticed. Steve
Hutton of Madison, a near life-long
Mississippian, wasted no time beginning
what many have recognized as a much
needed overhaul of the 105 acre fairground
property. Over 25 buildings make up the
fairgrounds including the Mississippi
Coliseum, Trademart, Kirk Fordice Equine
Center, livestock barns, horse stables, small
animal pens, and the like. “I don’t know
the front end of horse from the back, and it
doesn’t matter,” Hutton said. “I know how
to raise money, fix problems, structure
staff, and organize events, and I’ve already
begun to do all four.”
June 5, 2018, Steve walked into his new
office at the coliseum for the first time at
8am. At 8:30am he walked onto the
coliseum floor to meet the coliseum manager.
They couldn’t even carry on a conversation
because the buzzing of the old metal-halide
lamps illuminating the arena floor was so
loud. It sounded like an old high school
basketball gymnasium. The manager
indicated it had been that way for the 17
years he had worked at the Fairgrounds.
By 9am Steve had Irby Lighting enroute
to perform an analysis of every building on
the 105 acre campus. The Entergy Solutions
for Business program offers incentives for
businesses to get rid of their antiquated
fixtures, and replace them with energy
efficient LED lighting. Steve and his staff
broke down Irby’s analysis into several
smaller projects to be completed over the
next few years. Phase I was the Coliseum
lighting, which would allow for the largest
Entergy incentive. The 80 metal-halide
lights alone burn 100,000 watts every
time they are turned on. They ordered
$40,500 worth of new energy efficient
LEDs and Entergy is providing a $34,000
incentive upon completion of the project.
The Fairgrounds will pay off the $6,500
balance in saved utility costs over the next
eight months, and then save $6,500 every
eight months from here on out. They are
also increasing the average candlepower on
the coliseum floor by 10-15%. Hutton took
a 17 year old problem, and not only fixed it
but, in essence, got it done for free and
eventually will make money on it through
Steve then hired a full time facilities
superintendent and is completing the
lighting installation in-house. Hiring this
30 year union electrician full-time also saves
the fairgrounds roughly $40,000 per year
by eliminating contract electricians, and
they get 10 times the amount of work done
with a person on the grounds full time.
He also has hired a full-time HR director
eliminating yet another expense that was
being outsourced for HR and payroll, a
full-time events director working to bring
more events to the fairgrounds, and a
full-time operations manager, to ensure
those events are catered to once they arrive.
“I would do this job for free, but don’t
get me wrong, I’m fortunate I don’t have
to,” Hutton added. “This one position takes
everything I have ever learned and loved
and condenses it into one massive project.”
Steve was a PGA professional for 20
years, running country clubs for the first
13 years of that career, then transitioning
to tournament director of the Southern
Farm Bureau Classic, known today as the
Sanderson Farms Championship. He left
his position at Mississippi’s PGA TOUR
event in 2004 and became vice-president
of Promise Keepers, conducting large-scaled
stadium and arena events across the United
States. He actually rented the Mississippi
Coliseum, twice. He then founded
Momentum Events and continued to
produce events across the Southeast,
including the extremely popular Christmas
32 • February 2019
On Ice event in Madison, bringing over
202,000 people to an outdoor ice rink
over the holidays.
While nicknamed The Fair Commissioner,
Hutton’s official title is executive
director of the Mississippi Fair Commission.
A definition of the Mississippi Fair
Commission is actually found in State Law.
69-5-1 of Mississippi Code says…In order
to promote agricultural and industrial
development in Mississippi and to
encourage farmers to grow better livestock
and agricultural products, there is hereby
created a body politic and corporate to be
hereafter known as the Mississippi Fair
Commission. “The biggest differences
between this agency and other state agencies
is that I’m appointed, not elected, and our
agency receives no funding from the state,”
Hutton said. “We are a special fund agency,
so whatever money we make during the
Mississippi State Fair, The Dixie National
Rodeo, which we own, and renting the
various buildings over the course of a year,
makes up our annual budget. The fairgrounds
are in disrepair, so it’s hard to lure
a customer to rent a building or have a
show. But at the same time, we can’t fix
the fairgrounds if we don’t have revenue
from renting the buildings or having shows.
But I have a plan.”
Hutton has legislative approval and
authority to grant naming rights to the
buildings on the fairgrounds. “Soon, the
Mississippi Coliseum won’t be the Mississippi
Coliseum. Shreveport has the CenturyLink
Arena, Tupelo has the Bankcorp South
Arena. The Coliseum will eventually have
a new name. Barn 4 will have a new name.
Our box office will have a new name. I’ll
take every dollar I get and pour back into
the livestock and equine areas which have
long needed some attention. The fairgrounds
exist so our kids can show their livestock
during the fair and rodeo and our equine
community can have a beautiful safe place
for their cutting horse and barrel race
competitions. It may take 10-15 years, but
that’s my commitment.”
Visitors to the fairgrounds will notice a
large construction project on the east side
of the coliseum. A new $30 million
trademart is under construction and
scheduled for completion in the spring of
2020. This state-of-the-art 105,000
square foot facility will have 3 trade show
bays, additional bathrooms, beautiful
appointments, a commercial kitchen, and
will be connected to the coliseum allowing
the 24,000 square foot coliseum floor to
become Bay #4. Hutton added, “This will
allow us to host larger shows, and attract
shows that need seating for a speaker/
audience in addition to trade show space.”
When it comes to the State Fair and
Dixie National Rodeo, Steve wants to be
very careful to maintain the traditions of
the past while infusing a vision for the
future. “We are looking at bringing ice
skating to the coliseum during the fair.
We are looking at our entertainment
options and asking ‘does anyone really
come to fair because of entertainment?’”
The Dixie National Rodeo has been a
staple in the metro for 54 years. Known as
the Greatest Show On Dirt, the Dixie
National is the largest indoor rodeo east
of the Mississippi River. While this annual
event attracts a loyal fan base every year,
Hutton jokingly admitted, “I can only say
this once…this really will be my first rodeo.
But an event is an event. Take the word
‘golf’ out of my PGA TOUR job description,
and take the word ‘bull’ out of this one,
and at the end of the day they are both
events. Harper Morgan, our rodeo partner
does what they do best…brings in a quality
show. We do what we do best…provide a
venue, marketing, and tickets. I can’t wait.”
Hometown Rankin • 33
34 • February 2019
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Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other applicable Federal and State Acts, Hinds Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate
on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries
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Hometown Rankin • 35
36 • February 2018
Three years ago, with the intense desire to promote
Rankin County businesses being at the core of our
company mission, the team at Hometown Publishing,
publishers of Hometown Rankin Magazine, embarked
on creating a red carpet event that would celebrate the
outstanding business community in which we live and
work. Rankin County’s Best of the Best Red Carpet
Gala was born.
The gala was held on January 17th and it was a
truly spectacular evening! We not only celebrated the
winners, but the nominees as well. We were honored
to have both Governor Phil Bryant and Congressman
Michael Guest speak to the crowd of over 700. And
at the end of the night, we had learned the winners in
So, we thank you. Thank you for not only supporting
this event but for supporting each other as we all strive
to make Rankin County the very best it can be.
Planning is already underway for 2020–and we
can’t wait to see you there!
Hometown Rankin • 37
38 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 39
40 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 41
42 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 43
Nominees & Winners
Asahi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Fuji Japanese Sushi & Grill
Osaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
OEC Japanese Express, Richland
Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Grill - WINNER
Dickey’s Barbeque Pit
Little Willie’s BBQ - WINNER
Smokehouse of Florence
Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, Richland
Soulshine Pizza Factory
Cerami’s Italian Restaurant - WINNER
Amerigo an Italian Restaurant
Lost Pizza Co.
El Sombrero Mexican Grill, Flowood
El Potrillo Mexican Restaurant Grill
& Cantina, Brandon - WINNER
El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant, Florence
Sombra Mexican Kitchen, Flowood
BEST FRIED CHICKEN
Fannin Mart Restaurant
Georgia Blue - WINNER
Grant’s Kitchen and Grill
Taste of Detroit
The Feathered Cow
Mugshots Grill and Bar - WINNER
Laid Back Burger Shack
Cicis Pizza, Flowood
Lost Pizza Co. - WINNER
Papa John’s Pizza, Florence
Pizza Hut, Richland
Soulshine Pizza Factory
Doe’s Eat Place
Boo’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que
Table 100 - WINNER
Newk’s Eatery, Brandon
Frisco Deli - WINNER
Subway of Crossgates
McAlister’s Deli, Brandon
Heart & Soul, Brandon - WINNER
Waffle House, Flowood
Jo’s Diner, Flowood
The Donut Shop Café, Florence
Primos Café, Flowood
Half Shell Oyster House - WINNER
Grant’s Kitchen and Grill
Jerry’s Fish House
Amerigo Italian Restaurant
Chicken Salad Chick
Grant’s Kitchen and Grill - WINNER
Newk’s Eatery, Brandon
Tom’s Fried Pies
BEST COFFEE SHOP
Cups an Espresso Café, Flowood
Café Crave - WINNER
Cups an Espresso Café, Crossgates
East Brandon Coffee Factory
Amerigo an Italian Restaurant
Bop’s Frozen Custard
Nothing Bundt Cakes - WINNER
BEST SPORTS BAR
Alumni House Sports Grill
Buffalo Wild Wings - WINNER
The Feathered Cow
Bonny Blair’s Sports Café
Mississippi Legends Grill
BEST SWEET SHOP/BAKERY
Sugar Magnolia Takery - WINNER
Nothing Bundt Cakes
Tom’s Fried Pies
Fresh Cut Catering & Floral
McClain Lodge - WINNER
Newk’s Eatery, Brandon
Sugar Magnolia Takery
Darwell Yeager, Darwells Too
Danny Eslava, Eslava’s Grille
Peyton Warren, Table 100 - WINNER
Grant Nooe, Grant’s Kitchen and Grill
Luke Sims, The Smokin Patty
44 • February 2019
Health & Wellness
Kennedy Chiropractic Clinic
Brown Chiropractic Center - WINNER
Fowler ProChiropractic & Wellness Center
Cumberland Family Dentistry
Hankins and Herrin
Family Dental - WINNER
Mayatte Family Dentistry
Florence Dental Clinic
Reservoir Smiles Dentistry
Dr. Minor Pace, 20/20 Vision
Dr. Anna Taylor, Taylor Eye Care
Dr. Mark Allen, The Optical Shoppe
Dr. Bobby Pankey, Optical 2000
Dr. John H. Mohr - WINNER
Dr. Amanda H. Cook, The Children’s Clinic
Dr. Samuel Anthony Smith,
The Children’s Clinic
Dr. Dennis W. Rowlen,
Rankin Children’s Group - WINNER
Dr. Joseph D. Edwards, Jr.,
Rankin Children’s Group
Dr. W. Craig Flowers,
Rankin Children’s Group
BEST FAMILY DOCTOR
Dr. Carrie Nash, Baptist Medical Group,
Brandon - WINNER
Dr. Todd Perkins, Merit Health, Flowood
Dr. Scott Davis, Baptist Medical Group,
Dr. Mark Hellrung, St. Dominics, Brandon
Dr. Rod Shields, South Rankin Family Clinic
BEST MEDICAL CLINIC
Baptist Medical Clinic, Brandon - WINNER
Florence Family Clinic
Corner Clinic Urgent Care
BEST NURSE PRACTITIONER
Karen Seago, NP, Merit Health - WINNER
Kelley Martin, NP, Florence Family Clinic
Jennifer Mooneyham, NP, 4 Family
Ashley Shivers, NP, Puckett Medical Clinic
Candace Ashley, NP, Florence Family Clinic
BEST PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Dr. Angela Hoover, Florence Rehabilitation
Blake Hobbs, Medicomp Physical Therapy,
Jeremy Harvey, Medicomp Physical Therapy,
Reservoir - WINNER
Matthew Armstrong, Capital Ortho
Russell Young, Elite Physical Therapy
BEST FITNESS CENTER
The Club at Crossgates - WINNER
Focus Fit, Pearl
Planet Fitness, Pearl
Fitness Plex, Florence
Anytime Fitness, Richland
BEST PERSONAL TRAINER
Tierney Quick, Beyond FIT
Misti Garner, Get Fit with Misti - WINNER
Tom Cosgrave, Three Lions Crossfit
Kristin Creel, Reservoir YMCA
BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST
Rachel Garletts, Well Being Massage Therapy
Tiffany Melton, Massage by Tiffany
Lacey Clark, The Wellness Spa - WINNER
BJ Bolton, Massage Indigo
Riley Ware, Massage by Riley
BEST CAR DEALERSHIP
Bob Boyte Honda
Gray Daniels Auto Family
Fowler Buick GMC - WINNER
Noel Daniels Motor Company
Roger Dabbs Chevrolet
BEST DRUG STORE
Brandon Discount Drugs - WINNER
Polks Drugs at Crossgates
Olde Towne Drugs
Rhodes & Robby Rexall Drugs
Willow Blu - WINNER
Simply Southern Celebrations
Kathy Floyd, Kroger at Crossgates
BEST GIFT SHOP
O! How Cute
Mockingbird Marketplace - WINNER
BEST JEWELRY STORE
Crown Jewelers - WINNER
Newton’s Fine Jewelry
Courtyard Manufacturing Jewelers
Hometown Rankin • 45
Nominees & Winners
BEST FURNITURE STORE
Miskelly Furniture - WINNER
D Noblin Furniture
T & D Furniture
BEST PROMOTIONAL ITEMS
One Way Promotional Products
Pollchaps Screen Print
& Embroidery - WINNER
BMARKETED – Benavides, LLC
BEST HAIR SALON
The Glossary Salon
Liv the Salon
Hair & Company - WINNER
Ann’s Hair & Spa
BEST HAIR STYLIST
Kerri Welch, The Glossary Salon
Sydney Shoemaker, Liv the Salon
Regennia Pearce, Dixie District Outfitters &
Jamie Windham, Shear Shack
Brittany Whatley, All About You - WINNER
BEST NAIL SALON
Guitar Nails, Pearl
Infinity Nails - WINNER
BEST CHILDREN’S BOUTIQUE
Southern Raised - WINNER
Tootsie Trends Boutique
Lil Ms Sew & Sew
Diva Dolls Boutique
BEST WOMEN’S BOUTIQUE
Red Wagon Boutique - WINNER
Tootsie Trends Boutique
Dixie District Outfitters
BEST RESALE/CONSIGNMENT SHOP
Forget Me Nots - WINNER
Ohh! My Gifts & Things
Wear it’s At
Samaritans Heart Resale Shop
Kimberly Shelton, CPA - WINNER
Dennis Meek & Company
Garrett & Garrett, PC
Windham & Lacey, PLLC
Becky Niemeyer, CPA
David Ringer, Ringer Law Firm
Amanda Spencer, Spencer & Lingold
Craig Slay, Palmer & Slay
Elliott Law Firm - WINNER
Prentiss Grant, Attorney at Law
BEST FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
Copiah Bank, Richland
Community Bank, Brandon
Trustmark Bank, Brandon - WINNER
Priority One Bank, Brandon
BEST HEATING & COOLING
Current Solutions Electrical
Pure Air Consultants
AC Doctors - WINNER
AirCo-Heating & Air Conditioning Services
BEST HOME INSPECTION COMPANY
Magnolia Home Inspection
A Wise Inspection
Echols Home Inspection
Clear View Property
Alpha Building Consultants - WINNER
BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT
Kitchen Kreations - WINNER
The Stone Source
Superior Home Improvements
Sebren Home Improvement
46 • February 2019
BEST INSURANCE AGENT/
Adam Richards, Farm Bureau Insurance
Clancy Walker, Insurance Protection
Specialists - WINNER
Don Bass, State Farm Insurance
Eddie Grimes, Allstate Insurance
Justin Ashley, Alfa Insurance
Ambiance Landscape - WINNER
Southern Brees Lawn Care
Southernscapes Landscape & Design
Murphy’s Lawn & Landscape
BEST NEW HOME BUILDER
Burrell Properties - WINNER
S & S Home Builders
Deep South Custom Homes
Iron Creek Custom Homes
Lyles Signature Homes
Rene Churchill Photography
Betty Hodge, By His Grace Photography
Vicki Ross Photography
Destiny Tillery Photography - WINNER
Sharon Coker Photography
Mandy Castle, McKee Realty
Barbie Steverson, Crye-Leike - WINNER
Haley Winningham, Hopper Properties
Kris Koziol, Keller Williams
Edwayne and Layla Hutton,
Three Rivers Real Estate
BEST TIRE &
49 Tire & Auto
Gleason’s Tire & Auto
The Tire Depot, Flowood - WINNER
Rapid Oil Change, Flowood
Pete Patrick Tire & Auto
Florence Animal Clinic
Hometown Veterinary Services
Flowood Pet Hospital & Resort
Brandon Animal Hospital - WINNER
Dogwood Animal Hospital & Pet Resort
BEST LOCAL BAND
South of 20
Stace and Cassie Shook
Luckenbach Willie Tribute Band - WINNER
BEST GOLF COURSE
Castlewoods Country Club
Bay Pointe Resort & Golf Club - WINNER
Pearl Municipal Golf Course
BEST PLACE FOR
Pump it Up
High Heaven - WINNER
Winner Circle Park
BEST PLACE TO WORK
SMALL BUSINESS (1-50 EMPLOYEES)
Copiah Bank, Richland
Discovery Christian School - WINNER
Flowood Pet Hospital & Resort
Liv the Salon
MEDIUM BUSINESS (50-100 EMPLOYEES)
Region 8, Brandon - WINNER
Country Meat Packers
Community Bank, Brandon
LARGE BUSINESS (100 + EMPLOYEES)
Rankin County School District - WINNER
Merit Health, Rankin
FRIENDLIEST PUBLIC OFFICIAL
Jay Grace, Richland Police Department
Brandon Police Department - WINNER
Steve Gaines, Supervisor District 4
Mayor Pat Sullivan, City of Richland
Mayor Jake Windham, City of Pearl
BEST NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
Brandon Futbol Club
Wounded Warriors of MS
Mustard Seed - WINNER
Ever Reaching Community Outreach
Jr. Auxiliary of Rankin County
Hometown Rankin • 47
ROW, ROW, ROW PAST FEES.
CHECKING HERE IS FREE!
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48 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 49
Karen Seago, NP
187 Doctors Drive • Pearl
50 • February 2019
MHMG Merit Health Seago Best Nurse Practitioner 4x5.indd 1
1/23/19 12:40 PM
The Junior Auxiliary of Rankin County
33rd Annual Children’s Benefit Gala
A NIGHT IN
Featuring Live Music By
Saturday, March 2nd
The Westin Hotel
Silent & Live Auctions
$60 Per Person - Formal Attire
Valet Parking Available
Proceeds to benefit the children of Rankin County
Hometown Rankin • 51
52 • February 2019
Being alive for well over fifty years is one
thing. But being in business for 57 years is
downright amazing! Dr. John H. Mohr, an
optometrist in Pearl, Mississippi, has been
serving the public since 1961. He, along with
his wife Betty, have been providing eye and
vision care to hundreds of patients they
consider extended family.
This story presents many intriguing
elements. How do husband and wife manage
to run a business together for years and remain
a couple? How has Dr. Mohr maintained the
stamina to serve his patient base for so long?
What does a couple who live and work together
do for fun? The answers will warm your heart.
Betty explains that John used to have a
tremendously deep voice when they met and
then married in 1975. “He developed cancer of
the vocal chords when he was 43,” she began.
“He told me he needed my help because having
lost one vocal chord made his voice weak and
sometimes hard to understand.” She owned a
beauty salon in Jackson at the time but didn’t
think twice about selling it to help her husband.
“We were so blessed that he only ended up
losing one vocal chord,” she said. That was 50
years ago. In addition to running a successful
business, between them they have six children,
10 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
To some, being with a spouse all day, every day,
would seem daunting. But not to the Mohrs.
“One day a patient said to me, ‘Well honey,
at least you don’t have to go home with him.’
I told her, ‘But I do!’” Betty laughed. And to that
Dr. Mohr looked at his wife and said, “She has
been an exceptional wife.”
So how does the now 90-year-old Mohr
explain his long-term success? “I’m a throwback.
I operate the way doctors used to practice,” he
said. Betty added, “We still get calls at home,
and he has come to the office to meet patients
after hours when necessary.” It doesn’t hurt
that he was the very first optometrist to open
up shop in Pearl in 1961. “Now there are at least
a dozen,” he said. But they both say that much
of their business is repeat because their patients
appreciate the special care they receive. “Most
of his patients continue to see him because he
does his own work from start to finish,” Betty
said. “Many patients tell us that their eye exam
was the best because of the time he takes to sit
and talk to the each one.”
Employee Martha Stogner of eight years said
coming to work for Dr. Mohr was a blessing.
“I previously worked at UMMC in the
department of ophthalmology,” she said.
“We are truly a family and he has been a
Hometown Rankin • 53
lessing to me and so many other people. We
have patients that start seeing him at a young
age and those that are in their 90s – they won’t
go see anyone else.”
Mohr got into this profession simply because
he enjoyed his own eye exam experience so
many years ago. “I quit my job in auto part
sales and went to school at the Southern
College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.”
He claims to remain in business because he
dreads retirement. “I’m kind of a hyper person,”
In addition to being a long-standing member
of the Rankin County business community,
Dr. Mohr has done his fair share of community
service. He has been the head of numerous
optometric committees and associations. He has
also been active in local politics, most notably
as a part of the group that fought for Pearl to
become a city in 1973. “The effort took five
years,” he said. “L. D. Boling and I formed a
committee to fight for the corporation of Pearl,
and we finally succeeded.”
When you don’t see Dr. Mohr seeing eye
patients or just shopping around town with
Betty, you may look up and see him flying in
his Cessna 180. “It’s my hobby,” he said smiling.
“Although I don’t pilot it anymore, I still enjoy
being in the aircraft.”
The Mohrs are long-time residents of
Brandon, and plan to keep serving eye patients
from around the area for as long as they can. l
54 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 55
56 • February 2019
Why did you decide to make
Rankin County your home?
Shortly after getting married, my husband
Brian and I moved from Hattiesburg,
Mississippi, to Rankin County for him to
start working for Flowood Fire Department.
How long have you lived in Rankin
This month will make eight years.
Tell us about your family.
Brian and I will be married nine years this
month. We live in Florence with our two
children, Morgan (5) and Graham (3). Brian
has been in the fire service for over thirteen
years and started Wells Carpentry in 2014.
We enjoy spending our time together and
being involved in our local community.
What is your favorite memory of living
in Rankin County?
We have some great memories here in Rankin
County. We have been able to start our family,
buy our first home and launch our careers all
while calling Rankin County home.
Where are your three favorite places
to eat in Rankin County?
We love Amerigo, Mudbugs, and the new
Genna Benna’s in downtown Brandon.
What are some fun things to do in
Rankin County on the weekends?
Having small children, we love to be outside.
Rankin County holds some of our favorite
parks and picnic spots we visit frequently.
A favorite outing for the kids is getting to
visit their dad at the fire station.
Share some things you enjoy doing in
your spare time.
Painting has become a newfound hobby.
I also enjoy reading in my spare time.
Who is someone you admire and why?
My Mother, Kim Ewoldt. I have never
known anyone who carried themselves
with so much strength while also having the
ability to be transparent and kind. She also
raised five children and after having two
of my own, she will always be my hero!
Where do you see yourself ten years
I see myself still living in Rankin County,
working for Community Bank. I have so
much peace in this season of my life, there
isn’t much I’d want to change in the years
What are three things on your
Travel to Scotland. Complete the Spartan
Trifecta. Go on a family vacation to Disney
What is your favorite childhood
One of my favorite memories was when I
traveled to India with my dad. I was sixteen
and we partnered with local missionaries.
Our church supported and built a church.
Seeing their culture and lifestyle was so
beautiful and humbling. The individual
people we met were incredible.
If you could give us one encouraging
quote, what would it be?
If you know me very well, you have probably
heard me say this, “You can teach what you
know, but you can only reproduce who you
are.” This is something my dad taught my
siblings and me growing up, and something
I remind myself of daily. Character and
integrity outlast any form of knowledge you
could ever gain.
What is your favorite thing about
I love that the vision and heart of Hometown
Magazine is to connect to the local businesses
and people that we see every day. l
Hometown Rankin • 57
for voting us
Best Fried Chicken!
58 • February 2019
& after school
WORKOUT AND HELP OUT.
When you join the Y, you’re committing to more than simply becoming healthier.
You are supporting the values and programs that strengthen your community.
For more than a workout. For a better us.
Hometown Rankin • 59
Brigadier General (retired)
United States Army
What were the circumstances that got you into the military?
I had graduated high school and had no idea what I wanted to. My mother
frequently asked if I had decided where I was going to college. You can imagine
the shock on her face the evening I walked into the kitchen, where she was
preparing supper, and she asked again. My response was I had joined the
Army that day. My father only asked if I was sure that was what I wanted to do –
I said yes. My father retired from the Army five years earlier. He had landed at
Normandy, survived the Battle of the Bulge and three other major campaigns.
I could see he was concerned, since Vietnam was all in the news. However,
I can truthfully say he never encouraged me to join or not join.
What years did you serve and where?
My initial enlistment was from ‘69 thru ‘71. I trained at Fort Polk, Fort Knox, and
Fort Benning, and served overseas in Vietnam and Germany. I had planned on
becoming a helicopter pilot, but since there was a backlog at pilot school and it
would be 18 months before I started training, I decided to become a paratrooper,
thus insuring I would go to Vietnam. If I was going to serve, I was going to fulfill
my full duty as a soldier. During my following years in the military, I went to every
state and territory, except Guam, traveled to Central America, South America,
and much of Europe.
What was your biggest adjustment to military life?
It was really no adjustment for me. As the son of a career soldier, I had been
around it most of my life. I lived on and around military instillations, packed and
moved numerous times, changed schools each time (sometimes in the middle
of the year and three times one year}, and had to leave friends and make new
ones every time. On active duty I knew the officers and non-commissioned
officers (NCOs) arose every morning and put on their pants just as my father
had done. I wasn’t intimidated, but I still performed as was expected of me.
Describe a standout experience while in the military.
There are far too many for me to claim one more than others. The military offers
you many opportunities to excel and achieve recognition, but most of all to gain
self-esteem and self-confidence. I know I still find it hard to believe I went from a
private to a general officer. Sure there were good times and bad times and in
some situations bad times and worse times. It is hard to explain how you remember,
so vividly, a moment of laughter that occurred in a terrible environment—just as
you remember trying to care for a wounded buddy. I remember the exhilaration
of jumping from a plane in the middle of the night with a weapon and a hundred
pounds of equipment strapped to me, with no guarantees about what was below.
There is one experience from Vietnam that I have told more than once. Most
veterans are not much on war stories. In fact, the sign at the entrance to our
ranger compound said, “No War Stories Please”. I will briefly describe what
occurred. I was a member of a ranger company and assigned to a six-man
hunter-killer team. When you were so few, making contact with a large enemy
force did not leave much hope of a good outcome, and that is what happened
on this mission. We had engaged a point element of a larger force, searched the
bodies, and took off through the brush carrying anything of intelligence value.
The same afternoon, we had contact again, but it was not intended. It was then
we knew we were being hunted by a larger force. We moved through the evening
and after putting fresh camouflage on our faces and hands, started out again at
morning’s first light. We were moving very cautiously, as the enemy appeared to
be everywhere. In no time at all, they were actually pursuing us through a draw
between a river and a steep hill. As we moved, we remained alert as to what was
ahead, and what we saw was not good. We could see a large number of enemy
soldiers coming down a ridge to our front, which would naturally cut us off.
Bad guys in front and bad guys behind is not a desirable situation. Realizing we
could not get away, we set up in a small circle, with our rucksacks in front of us.
There was no position available for us to use in the defense, so this circle of six
men with rucksacks, and in thick brush, was going to be our last stand. I remember
looking around at my teammates. They were sitting calmly waiting for the
inevitable. I remember the grins I saw as our eyes met. All of them had that look
on their face—we knew when we volunteered for the rangers this could happen.
I looked to my immediate left and saw my friend there was praying to beat heck.
Observing him, I thought that was probably a good idea. I remember looking up
at a little puffy white cloud, the only one saw. I made a lot of promises, if He would
just get us out of this. About this same time, we heard the bad guys closing in on
us. We readied ourselves and they moved in on us. I had my sights on one not
more than ten to fifteen feet from me. When he looked my way, I knew he was
going down. As he moved around from my right to left, I kept expecting to hear
one of the others open fire. I had not pulled the trigger yet, because he had not
yet seen me.
60 • February 2019
In what felt like forever (though in reality it was only seconds) the entire line of
bad guys had moved right by us. It seemed absolutely impossible. Not a shot was
fired. It was like when Moses parted the sea and they walked around both sides
of our little circle. As soon as they were out of sight, we threw our rucks on our
backs and headed as fast and as quietly as possible back the way we had come.
That afternoon we made it to a location where a helicopter could land and we
were extracted and taken back to the company area. I’d like to be able to say I
kept all l of those promises I made, but I’m not perfect. However, I believe we
survived because He intervened and not just because we were lucky.
What was your least favorite thing about being in the military?
I suppose the number of weekends, holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and
other events I missed because I was gone. I would have liked to participate in
these family events. However, it always made the ones I did make seem even
What did the military teach you that has become a permanent part of your life?
Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage
were the Army values when I retired, and something I took with me. There has
only been one perfect person on this earth, thus, I’ve certainly experienced
difficulty trying to live up to these values. Still, having them in place to guide me,
both then and now, has made a significant difference in my life. If others just tried
to live these same values, we would not have the embarrassing political and civil
climate we have today.
Is there anything you would like to see changed in the military?
The military changes constantly over someone’s career. I can’t begin to describe all
the different uniforms I wore in my 42 years. Technology has made such dramatic
changes in weapon lethality and life-saving equipment, that it is more than many
of us old soldiers could have imagined. However, it’s not so much changes to the
military organization that I’d like to see, but the utilization of our military I would
like to see changed. In the conflict prior to Vietnam, and in the first Desert War,
we saw what our military can do if given a mission with a desired end state, and
then left to accomplish the mission. We have been plagued with tasking without
an end state, and mismanaged by politicians. Victory is not attainable if there is
no end state. The military doesn’t go to war unless the government sends it.
When the military is sent, let it do its job and then come home. I remember an
old Special Forces soldier and Medal of Honor recipient told about one of his
experiences. After concluding his presentation, a lady in the audience, that he
guessed was about his age, asked why he went to Vietnam. His reply was
simply, “I thought you knew—because you sent me.”
How did your family adjust to your time in the military?
They had lived the military life for over 20 years, so they knew what it would be
like for me. I don’t believe they felt I would have any problem adjusting, and I
didn't. It was difficult for them when I was deployed. A father who personally
experienced war in Europe and my mother who waited for his return, both had to
relive some of the anxiety previously experienced. I remember my father walking
out to the plane with me when I was leaving for Vietnam. He shook my hand,
looked me in the eye, and said, “Don’t be a hero, but don’t be a coward.”
The look on his face said much more.
Who was your favorite
commander and why?
I wouldn’t dare try and identify
my favorite commander. I had
those I admired and respected
more than others. I had those I thought
more capable than others. What I came to
realize is that each of them had strengths and
weaknesses. I sorted through all of that and tried to determine which qualities
I wanted to emulate.
One commander I will always remember with great fondness was my first
company commander in Special Forces. I was soon to be promoted to sergeant
first class, which was pretty good after only eight years. My father had been an
NCO and that was what I expected to be. However, the major had a different idea.
He and my A-team commander called me into his office, and after a relatively
short discussion, told me I was to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, to complete
officer candidate school. He said it. He didn’t really ask for my feelings about it,
and I accepted it as an order.
I had the privilege, some years later, of being the general officer officiating his
funeral and presenting the flag to his wife. I would never have achieved the rank
of a general officer had he not encouraged me to attend OCS.
Would you recommend military careers to young people making career choices?
Absolutely! The military experience builds character. It is a great environment for
anyone to mature and give thought to the future. You learn values to carry with
you the rest of your life. You learn self-confidence, you learn teamwork, you learn
initiative, and most of all you just mature. When you leave the military, if you
decide to leave, you will be much more capable of standing on your own two
feet. When I returned from my initial enlistment, I went to college. I was so much
more mature than my fellow classmates and had no problems focusing on what
my purpose was in school. I had the self-discipline to accomplish the mission.
Describe your thoughts when you join in pledging allegiance to the flag?
I have a flood of thoughts going through my head. Every time I still see myself as a
young boy in school standing by my desk with my hand over my heart. I remember
my friends from the military. I remember my ranger buddies in Vietnam. I think
how lucky I am to be here and how I wish all of them could be. I promise never to
forget the sacrifices our military members made from the birth of this nation to
those sacrificing right now. I feel tremendous PRIDE.
When it is over, I try to calm my anger as I think of the the ungrateful, uncaring,
and ignorant people who have given nothing to this country and done nothing to
earn the privilege of being an American. Yet they disrespect the flag, the pledge,
and the memory of the fallen. Service members come home every day. Some with
a flag over them and some with the memories they will have for life. They don’t
see themselves as heroes, but as patriotic Americans. I just can’t understand why
the people in this country can’t take a moment and say thanks and be respectful.
Arlo Guthrie has a song called “When a Soldier Makes it Home.” Take time to
listen to it. Then ask yourself why anyone feels they have right to disrespect those
who have fallen and those who survived. l
Hometown Rankin • 61
©2014 Ergon, Inc. All rights reserved.
62 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 63
Mary Ann Kirby
64 • February 2019
The day I wrote this, George H.W.
Bush, 41st President of the United States,
had just been laid to rest. His death, at
94-years-old and mere months after
the death of his beloved wife of 73 years,
dominated the news cycle for days.
But while President Bush Sr. may have
been known, politically, for his foreign
policy, it was his inherent kindness and
deep compassion for others that stands
out as what will, likely, define his legacy.
I want to be like George.
The world, and humanity as a whole,
feels like it’s under siege these days.
Anger, insults, protests, polar opposition,
have never told you this, but…,” and
proceed to tell the most amazing stories
of kindness that Jack, a 13-year-old kid,
had shown them, repeatedly. These
stories were shared over and over, and
time and time again. I can’t imagine a
greater legacy—nor the comfort and
beaming pride his family must have felt.
I want to be like Jack.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to
actually measure how a kind gesture fully
impacts society. What if it’s shared with
a stranger? Or on a whim? But each time
we release kindness out into the world,
no matter how small, a powerful surge of
With so many benefits, every act of
kindness is a healthy one. It’s a scientific
Most humans are born with a natural
sense of compassion–and while it varies
wildly from person to person, we’ve all
known people that just seem genetically
altruistic. But for the rest of us, observing
kindness and then emulating that same
kindness may be the most effective way
to guarantee its continuation. And
without a doubt, cultivating kind behavior
in our kids emboldens them to grow into
socially conscious adults who will carry
forth the kindness mission.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind . . .
partisanship, and the epic offensive nature
of society, overall, seems to prevail as an
overarching theme in the news and on
social media. And while I know I should
probably stay up-to-date on current
events, sometimes even the headline is
more than I can bear. I have to limit the
time I spend with media, TV, and
internet in particular, and select only a
few stories to read in full–usually
reserved for pop culture, cute animal
stories, and celebrity news.
I’ve become unapologetically illinformed.
One amazing story I recently did read,
however, was about a local 13-year-old
named Jack Dunaway that had passed
away, sending his family and friends into
the agonizing throes of grief and loss.
Immediately upon his death, and in the
days that followed, fellow students and
classmates who knew Jack, some better
than others, began pouring out with stories
about how he had been so incredibly kind
to them. They’d say things like, “You
probably don’t know this…,” or “I may
energy pulses through humanity uplifting
everyone in its path! This chain reaction
serves a purpose that extends far beyond
just a “feel good” factor. In fact, to fully
understand the true impact of a compassionate
act, we need to understand the
science of kindness.
Yep, kindness involves science.
There’s scientific evidence regarding
the impact that it has on both the giver
and the receiver. Kindness stimulates
the production of serotonin in your
brain–which calms you down and
creates feelings of happiness. And it not
only boosts serotonin in the giver and
the receiver, but everyone else that
Kindness also causes the release of
endorphins and produces oxytocin which
promotes social bonding, exerts that
immediate calming effect, increases trust
and generosity, and strengthens the
immune system. It actually minimizes
stress because it has been determined
that compassionate people have 23% less
cortisol in their systems. Cortisol is the
infamous “stress hormone.”
If nothing else, be like you want your
kids to turn out.
So in 1989, in his inaugural address,
the 41st President of the United States
said this: “We cannot hope only to leave
our children a bigger car, or a bigger
bank account. We must hope to give
them a sense of what it means to be a
loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen
who leaves his home and his neighborhood
and his town better than he found
it. What do we want the men and women
who work with us to say when we are no
longer here? That we were more driven
to succeed than anyone around us? Or
that we stopped to ask if a sick child had
gotten better, and stayed a moment,
there, to trade a word of friendship.”
We possess a powerful ability to choose
kindness–and whether it’s random or
intentional, free or extravagant, the way
we choose to express it is as unique as
our fingerprints. And by adopting a
more compassionate mindset full of
intentional actions, we can make the
world a better place, one act of kindness
at a time. l
Hometown Rankin • 65
66 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 67
68 • February 2019
Meet Deasia Lindley Monet Scott.
She’s twenty years old, and a quadriplegic
since age four when she was thrown from
the front seat of her aunt’s vehicle after
being hit head on by a driver who fell asleep.
She recalls a man getting her out of the
wreck and putting her on the ground.
That lifesaver was a doctor who performed
an emergency tracheotomy when he saw
she wasn’t breathing.
When she woke in the pediatric intensive
care unit in Batson Children’s Hospital, she
couldn’t move her arms or legs. Her mother
told her, “You broke your spine and neck,
and that’s why you can’t move.”
Four years later, Deasia was moved to
2C, another floor for intensive care patients.
That’s been her home for the last twelve
years. Her home/hospital room is crowded
with life-supporting medical equipment,
a hospital bed, and walls lined with her
paintings. Art teachers have helped her train
to clasp the artist brush with her mouth to
paint images that brighten her room and
give her a sense of accomplishment. Nurses,
Deasia’s second family, move in and out of
the room checking on Deasia and greeting
their sweet friend. They are also considerate
to help Deasia with her homework.
Even though Deasia’s limbs are bound
in lifeless paralysis, her mind is alert and
perceptive, and her heart beats with a
compassion and tenderness that’s unthinkable
for her circumstances.
Read some thoughts from her journal
that she mouth-typed with a wand onto
“The hardest thing about living in this
hospital is that every day for the last twelve
years I have seen patients suffering. Some
have IVs; some are in wheel chairs. All my
life I have been hanging around sick kids.
It is so hard seeing patients suffer...but
there is one good thing about my wreck that
I know. Ever since I was a little girl I didn’t
know what I was capable of until I came to
this hospital. I didn’t know I had a talent.
Hometown Rankin • 69
70 • February 2019
I always drew as a little girl. But when I came
to this hospital I painted with my mouth,
and I got really good at it. When I was in my
wreck, God taught me something—that we
can’t run away from our destiny. Some people
say we can’t change the past, but they are
wrong. We can by starting fresh and forgiving
others. That’s how we can change the past.
And I learned that every time we suffer, it
makes us stronger. And if we didn’t suffer,
it wouldn’t be fair that Jesus was the only
person that carried this burden by dying on
the cross. We don’t suffer because of Jesus—
we suffer for Him.”
Deasia possesses an amazing faith in her
Savior. She gives her grandmother credit for
encouraging her as a young quadriplegic to
love and trust Jesus. Her journal speaks often
of her condition and how she deals with it:
“Every day I endure the pain. The only
reason I do is because when you’re in pain it
makes you stronger. And I feel Jesus’ pain
when I feel my pain. He was in so much pain
when He died on the cross and bled. Jesus
shed his blood for us. And when I get my
blood drawn once a month, I do it for Jesus.”
Her journal also shares personal
experiences: “Sometimes at night, I wake up
in the middle of the night, and I can’t go
back to sleep. I just stay in my room and look
up at the ceiling and then I call the nurse to
come into the room and open my blinds and
then I see a big, white, shiny moon shining
so bright. The moon is beautiful. Every time
I go to bed, I think about me walking outside
looking up at the stars and my eyes twinkle
when I see the stars. That’s what I imagine
when I see the stars.”
In 2010, Deasia had a celebrity visitor,
the first lady of Mississippi, Deborah Bryant.
Mrs. Bryant and Deasia, now close friends,
laugh about their first meeting. Mrs. Bryant
was visiting each of the patients, and when
she walked into Deasia’s room, she was met
with the question, “Who are you?”
Mrs. Bryant answered, “I’m the governor’s
wife.” From that moment a unique bonding
began and with each visit the two became
closer. Mrs. Bryant learned that Deasia loves
history and the Bible. When she watches TV,
she watches one of Mrs. Bryant’s favorite
stations – HGTV. They also share a love for
chocolate chip cookies.
Through a group of special individuals
having a concern for Deasia’s confining
quarters and three others on her floor in
similar condition, an idea was presented to
Mrs. Bryant for a home for medically fragile
children. Mrs. Bryant wholeheartedly
endorsed the idea and joined in the planning.
Blueprints have been drawn for the 30-bed
pediatric skilled nursing facility and will be
located near the Mississippi Library
Commission and Mississippi Schools for the
Blind and the Deaf. A variety of inpatient
and outpatient services and therapies will be
offered for the patients.
The facility will work closely with
Children’s of Mississippi, the pediatric arm
of the University of Mississippi Medical
Center, to help families make the transition
from Batson Children’s Hospital to their
homes smoothly and safely.
This amazing facility to be provided by
The Mississippi Center for Medically Fragile
Children, a nonprofit organization based in
Jackson, Mississippi, is a $12 million project
with $3 million in private funds already raised.
Mrs. Bryant has shared the good news
with Deasia, and she is already anticipating
the move into a home-like environment
surrounded by a wooded area with walkways
wide enough for her to “motor” along them.
The founders of the organization are
appealing to any and all to help make this a
Deasia journaled, “My favorite verse
in the Bible is: ‘For everything there is a
season, and a time for every purpose under
the heaven.’” Mrs. Bryant and Deasia Scott
are trusting and praying that this verse’s
“everything” includes a real home and
address for patients like Deasia. Hospitals
provide invaluable services, but they were
never meant to be called home.
The splashpage for the MS Center for
Medically Fragile Children is live.
Donors can visit www.msfragilechildren.org
Or mail checks to: MCMFC, PO Box 1122,
Jackson, MS 39215
Hometown Rankin • 71
December 5, 2018 / Governor's Mansion
72 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 73
74 • February 2019
Terica H. Jackson, M.D.
As a child, Terica Herron Jackson’s father, Edward
Herron, would tell her that an ounce of prevention was
worth a pound of cure. She took that saying to heart,
as today she focuses on preventive medicine as an
internal medicine physician at Baptist Premier in Jackson,
Jackson’s fascination with medicine began when
she was just eight or nine years old. Playing with her
sister and cousin in their grandfather’s barn, Jackson
flipped off a board and cut her toe. “It was just a little
gash. It didn’t require medical attention. My exceptional
mother cared for it and it healed and soon I forgot
all about it.” Almost a year later, when her mom was
putting on Jackson’s shoe, she noticed that something
wasn’t right. “There was a growth at the site of the
original injury. We went to the doctor and discovered
there was a foreign object deep within the laceration,
and my body had sequestered it off, leaving the
visible nodule on the skin surface. My interest in what
the body could do was piqued.”
She ended up having surgery on her foot, and,
in the hospital, Jackson met a kind anesthesiologist.
“She had a calm air about her. She walked me through
everything that was happening. I was positively
terrified, but her presence helped to quell my fears.
The care and confidence she exuded spoke volumes.”
It was then that Jackson decided she wanted to be
an anesthesiologist when she grew up. She wanted
to help someone else who would inevitably need the
same level of care later.
Throughout high school at Tylertown High,
Jackson felt most in her element when in science
classes. She majored in biochemistry/pre-med at Ole
Miss with a minor in Spanish. After college, she went
home to Jayess to prepare for the medical college
admission test. “At that time, internet was not readily
available in Jayess, so I chose to utilize the service in
the high school library as I still had contacts there.”
While there one day, Jackson was asked if she’d like
to fill the Spanish teacher position. “I saw a need, so
I got certified to teach, took a few more courses, and
for the next four years I taught at my old high school.
Although I enjoyed what I was doing, it was not my
passion. Healthcare was. And as such, I renewed my
pursuit of a career in medicine. ”
Her efforts were rewarded and in the fall of 2010,
she was accepted to University of Mississippi School
of Medicine. “While I initially had a desire to become
an anesthesiologist, I began to develop other interests
as I completed my clinical rotations. I soon realized
that I had a passion for both women’s health and preventive
medicine and that my passion for both would
be best encompassed as an internist as I fully enjoyed
the breadth of knowledge and the spectrum of care
involved in primary care.”
“Internal medicine is all about problem-solving. I
never know what to expect with each patient encounter.
They may look fantastic on paper, with great labs
and vitals, but when I talk to them, I hear a different
story. I have to utilize my knowledge and skills to
elucidate the etiology of symptoms, while taking into
account both subjective and objective data.”
Jackson’s patients are 18 years old and up. “The
appeal of internal medicine, to me, is being a part of
the patient’s life on a full spectrum. I have the unique
opportunity to get to know them, celebrate their joys
and successes, help navigate them through invasive
treatment options, and even discuss end-of-life care
when that time comes. But to do all that, I have to be
a good listener. One of my favorite quotes comes
from one of my mentors in medical training: ‘Patients
are true storytellers. They come in with pathology,
we interpret physiology and prescribe pharmacology,
but their stories are what we remember. Patients
shape our experiences and how we practice medicine.
People don’t care how much you know until they know
how much you care.’”
Having a team approach is key to Jackson’s
philosophy on patient care. “My relationship with my
patients is such that we are equal members of the
same team. Their success is my success. An internal
medicine physician works with a patient, and their
family, for a lifetime. It’s an area of medicine where
relationships are an instant and essential part of the
dynamic. I tell patients that they should look at their
doctor as a part of their family. They need to be able
to tell me anything and everything, and they need to
expect that I’ll provide truthful, knowledgeable and
compassionate advice. I’m both vested and invested
in the health and wellness of my patients. We are truly
players on the same team.”
Jackson is married to Jason Jackson, and the
couple has a one-year-old daughter, Kinsley. “Playing
with her and hearing her say ‘Mama’ never gets old,”
Jackson says. When she has time, Jackson always
enjoys spending time with her family. “I especially
love going hunting with my husband. It’s not really
about the hunting, but about spending time with him
and enjoying the outdoors together.”
Hometown Rankin • 75
76 • February 2019
Commissioner Andy Gipson
DIXIE NATIONAL RODEO
for bringing 54 years of true
to the state of Mississippi.
Hometown Rankin • 77
78 • February 2019
just like you hear and see
on TV,” is how Tavion Grau
described the first sounds
he heard after waking up
from a seven-day coma.
Hometown Rankin • 79
80 • February 2019
He remembers trying to reach down and rub his foot and
seeing, for the first time, that his foot and lower leg weren’t there.
His traumatic story began on May 23, 2015, the first day of
summer vacation after his freshman year in high school. Tavion
was visiting a friend and decided he would ride his friend’s
four-wheeler. An eight-year-old approached him, wanting to learn
how to drive a four wheeler. Tavion offered to teach him, and the
young driver jumped on the vehicle with Tavion sitting behind him.
Shortly after that driving lesson began, a collision, chaos, and
catastrophe, rammed into Tavion’s life, changing it forever.
Tavion only remembers fragments of the collision with a truck
and his pushing the eight-year-old off the four wheeler to safety.
The first rescuers to the scene found the four wheeler under the
truck and Tavion under the four wheeler. Tyson Burelson, a Rankin
County detective, was one of the first to the accident and applied
a tourniquet to Tavion’s mangled leg. Rosa Grau, Tavion’s grandmother,
is quick to credit Burelson for saving her grandson from
bleeding to death.
On Halloween of that year, Tavion was fitted with a prosthetic
limb and took his first steps without crutches since the accident.
His family wasn’t surprised to see him make his way, rather
awkwardly, to his basketball goal. Tavion was back with the sport
The dedicated athlete didn’t know how long it would take him
to regain his position on the basketball team, but he wasn’t going to
let an artificial limb stop him. With hard work and the encouragement
from his coach, Darrin Chancellor, Tavion played with the high
school team his junior and senior year.
Some family members were fearful he would be more
susceptible to falls and injuries, But Grandmother Rosa stifled
their fears. “Let my hero play,” she said.
His brother, Toraz, watched him as he hit the court his junior
year. “He shot, was knocked down, but made the shot.”
Tavion is remarkable in that he manifests no bitterness or
self-pity. He maintains, “Everything happens for a reason.” His
only complaint about his prosthetic adjustment is the difficulty in
dressing and getting his pants to fit over the prosthesis. He also
added, “I’m not as quick as I used to be.”
He hopes to try out for basketball at a junior college in the
near future. Meanwhile he focuses on the encouragement from his
friends when they remember the miracle of his survival, “God’s got
something special for you.” And Tavion believes that, too. l
Hometown Rankin • 81
82 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 83
84 • February 2019
or More are
Five people sat at a kitchen table taking
notes and sharing a vision. Above them hung
a sign painted with one single word, “Gather.”
Looking back, it was the perfect picture of
what would soon take place. Over the next
few weeks many would gather for a common
purpose, to honor and bless a family that is
Friends, family, church members, and
co-workers acquainted with the Miley family
had been lifting them in prayer for seven
years. Their oldest son, Harrison, was
diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in 2012, at
just 15 years old. Throughout those years,
a question weighed on everyone’s heart;
“What can we do?” We all knew to pray,
but still a yearning remained to do something
tangible that would minister to the
“God, you know this family and how we
can bless them. Inspire an idea of how we
can support them during this tough time.”
I believe this prayer, or one similar, was
on the hearts of many as we watched this
beloved family receive the news that their
son’s cancer, that had once been in remission,
had returned. After a short stay at St. Jude in
early June of 2018, doctors determined that
this cancer was aggressive, and they could do
nothing more than slow its growth.
Charla Miley, the mother of Harrison,
works at a shop where she has a space set
aside for ministry and encouragement.
Photos of her grandmothers sit in frames on
opposite ends of the room. When conducting
a tour of the space, Charla explained that
she has great memories of sitting on the
porch with her grandmothers. Mrs. Miley
went on to explain how pleasing the porch
was to her senses—the sights, sounds, and
smells. She gave the impression that time on
the porch, for her, was very therapeutic. Her
space at the shop is meant to mimic that
atmosphere for others.
That tour was the inspiration for a
project that would take place over a twomonth
timespan. The prayer request of
how to bless the family was answered with
reminders of Charla’s love of porches,
community, and family. The question was
raised, “Can we build this family a sanctuary
in their own back yard?” The first step was
to get permission from Darren Miley, a pastor
at Pinelake Church, and father to Harrison,
to make alterations to his deck. His answer
was a repeated, “Thank you, thank you.”
As the five people sat at the table
discussing the possibility of taking on the
project, everyone agreed that this could
be done. From a personal perspective,
I envisioned a quick project, where a few
talented contractors would place posts
around the existing deck, add some sort of
roof, and encompass the porch with a screen
for protection from mosquitoes. However,
I’ve seen it play out this way time and time
Hometown Rankin • 85
again–we can make plans and envision
dreams, but God can go far beyond anything
we could ever anticipate. I’m so thankful
His plans for this family were much bigger
than any of us imagined.
Jacob Scott, who took on organizing
construction of the porch, was already
thinking bigger. His heart was to give this
family a beautiful space with a firepit and
a fan. He said we’d need about $7,000 to
complete the project. The rest of the
planning team, Amanda Scott, Carol Cerami,
Clancy Walker, and I, exchanged glances.
We knew this amount of money would be
a challenge to raise in just one month.
However, we kept stating that God can do
anything He wants, so we proceeded with
The next day, a fundraising account was
opened with the first donation coming from
the banker who assisted in setting it up. That
same day, letters were emailed, and the word
began to spread. The final amount that was
raised came to around $8,500.
In addition to funds being raised,
donations of supplies and labor from local
businesses and talented craftsmen were
offered. A restaurant even donated lunch
for the construction crew. The supplies
that were not donated were discounted.
An architect supplied beautiful plans that,
again, were above and beyond anything we
could’ve imagined. On Friday, September 21,
a team arrived, led by Jacob Scott and Royd
Walker, to begin construction. John Cerami
oversaw the gas and electrical components.
The days that followed were filled with
dozens of people coming to serve in any way
they were able. People of all ages were on the
site building a beautiful porch and creating
a space of sanctuary for the Miley family.
Larry Clegg built an amazing roofed glider
for the yard. Children busied themselves
with small landscaping and cleaning jobs.
Sunday, September 23, there was a
medical emergency with Harrison and the
family needed to rush him to the hospital.
We were told we could stay at their home
and continue work on the porch. Jeff
Holland, who serves with Mr. Miley at
Pinelake Church, asked us to gather to lift
Harrison and his family in prayer. The team
stopped working and formed a circle in the
middle of the yard. After several minutes
of prayer and a word of encouragement for
the construction team, everyone quickly
returned to their work stations.
As the sun was setting, a downpour
of rain began. The spongy yard gave way
to slippery mud puddles. This did not stop
the team of men who remained to finish
framing the porch. They worked despite the
thunderstorm, more determined than ever
to reach the building goal for the day. The
drenched men met their goal around 10
p.m. that night.
The work week began, and volunteers
arrived whenever they had some time to
spare. When Harrison returned home
Monday, September 24, he returned on
hospice care. The morning of Friday,
September 28, we learned that Harrison
had passed away. Everyone worked with a
quieter disposition that day. We continued
toward the goal of finishing the porchbuilding
project. What was once a vision
of a space for the family to make beautiful
memories with their son as he fought cancer,
became a vision of a space of sanctuary for a
family to heal after losing their son.
As the outdoor rug was rolled into place
and the leaves were swept off the new deck
boards, a peace swept over the yard. It was
time to hand the finished product over to
the Miley family. Their extended family
started arriving to attend Harrison’s life
celebration, and the space could now be a
blessing for them.
Harrison did not want a traditional
funeral, but instead, something that more
reflected the way he lived his life. The
evening of the celebration, his father stood
in front of a giant outdoor movie screen on
86 • February 2019
a lawn at Pinelake. He shared inspirational
words about his son’s life. He said that
Harrison was always full of wonder,
amazement and excitement. He shared that
he is filled with joy, knowing the wonder,
amazement and excitement Harrison is
He told how Harrison wanted a life full
of laughter and song. He wanted to run again,
something he had not been able to do in
several years—and that Harrison wanted a
miracle. His desire was for God to get the
glory for this miracle.
Darren went on to share how, in the
early morning hours of Friday, September 28,
Harrison told his dad he felt very different
and he wasn’t sure that he was going to
make it. He spent the next several minutes
speaking blessings over each family member.
Darren and Charla, and their sons, Harrison,
Travis and John, stayed together in the living
room that night.
Around 5 a.m., Harrison woke up saying,
“I’ve got to go! And I don’t want people
upset!” Harrison then took out his oxygen
tube and turned his head and laughed out
loud–something he’d not been able to do in
days. He then shouted, “Woohoo, woohoo!”
and looked at his father, closed his eyes, and
he was gone.
Darren shared how it was a sad day for
everyone, but that God gave a good message
in that glimpse of the moment when
Harrison’s faith became Harrison’s reality.
Mr. Miley proudly stated, “My son died an
amazing death. He literally looked in the
face of death and laughed!” He shared how
he is confident that Harrison shouted for
joy as he ran into the arms of his Savior.
And with that, the congregation of
friends and family who had gathered to
celebrate this young man’s life, with tears
of deep joy, deep sorrow, and renewed hope,
proceeded to enjoy one of his all-time
favorite movies, Veggie Tales Jonah, the
Looking back, the porch project had
very little to do with a porch and a lot to do
with the gathering of people to let a family
know they are surrounded by friends, family
and a church body that loves them dearly.
They have a wonderful space where they
can spend time together healing, and maybe
continue to share their son’s beautiful story.
Those of us who were able to be a
part of the process get to share how
inspiring it was to see each person
bring their talents to this project. Some
gave money, some brought food and
water, some raked and mowed, and
some climbed on the roof with their
nail guns, but all were needed.
Now we’ll be able to share how we
planned a small project, but God put it on
the hearts of His people to do something
big in a very short amount of time. We’ll be
able to share how blessed we are to know
The Miley family continues to share
Harrison’s story and their observations
of the porch project. You can read their
perspective by checking out Pass the
Patchouli on Facebook and Instagram. l
Hometown Rankin • 87
88 • February 2019
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Commitment to community is one of our core values.
BankPlus is committed to building strong communities
throughout Mississippi by improving quality of life and
making a positive difference where we live and work.
Hometown Rankin • 89
90 • February 2019
Hope and Guidance for
Mel Coxwell P.A.
A Family Law Firm
20 Eastgate Dr. Suite E
Brandon, MS 39042
Experience that Matters for a Brighter Tomorrow
Tyler & Elizabeth Ann Howell
The community donated raffle items
to help raise financial support to send
missionaries Brittany Murphree and
Marianna Myrick back to Lesotho,
Africa through Reclaimed Project.
Both girls graduated from Northwest
Rankin in 2013. After one year in Africa,
the girls came back to their hometown
to fundraise for their second year
92 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 93
94 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 95
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96 • February 2019
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Hometown Rankin • 97
98 • February 2019
Mary Ann Kirby
alentine’s Day. My earliest
thoughts of the beloved celebration
date back to the third grade and are
of tiny die-cut cards stating such simple
messages like, “Some-bunny loves you”
and, “Will you be mine?” I can remember
the importance of finding just the right
cards to give out, too. No way did I want
anything too mushy or anything. Picking
out the card was serious business.
They would eventually be placed in
individually decorated brown paper
sacks that were taped to the back of
everyone’s little-person sized desk.
Love was so easy.
Years later, flowers and gigantic
helium balloons were the must-have
order of the day, often delivered to the
workplace. I was never the recipient of
such over-the-top deliveries and was
even admittedly a bit jealous of those
who were. I mean, had they somehow
figured out a secret code to love that I
hadn’t? And how were you supposed to
get those big ol’ things home anyway?
I eventually married in my early
thirties. Prior to that time, while I managed
a couple of fairly decent relationships,
I was mostly single–a lot. I mean, there
were easier things in life than trying to
find a nice guy, you know. Like nailing
jelly to a tree. But it was worth the wait.
I would eventually find my perfect
match and we will celebrate 20 years
of marriage this year. Yay!
So as I look through the thousands
of cards at the store and contemplate
the message I want to convey, I’m
struck by a simple yet powerful thought.
I love us.
In reality, the card I’m looking for
should say, “Happy Valentine’s Day.
Who, in a million years, would have
ever thought that I’d be standing here
for the umteenth time looking through
this sea of red and pink hearts? But,
despite the fact that I get grumpy and
have unpredictable mood swings, you
keep coming home–and I thank you
for that. And even though you’ve yet
to develop the ability to read my mind,
I continue to love you anyway. We’ve
made a pretty darn fabulous kid that,
with any luck, will think marriage is a
good thing after watching us. So, there’s
that. Happy Valentine’s Day! I love us.”
There need to be cards with those
types of “real” messages. Someone
could make a fortune.
Relationships are hard. All relationships.
And they take work. Anything worth
having, does. And while my husband
and I have certainly made a good run so
far, we’ve definitely had our moments–
but we always manage to work through
them. Eventually, we even laugh it off.
Laughter is about connection, and
laughter and love go hand-in-hand.
So while I might not be one of those
that gets $100 worth of helium delivered
to the front door, I will get a funny card
from my fella. It will likely still be in the
store bag from which it was bought
along with one of my favorite Hollywood
gossip-type magazines and a box of
little white powdered donuts. He knows
they’re my favorite and that means the
world to me.
The truth is that love isn’t always
perfect. It isn’t a fairytale or a storybook
and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is
overcoming obstacles, facing challenges,
fighting to be together, holding on, and
never letting go.
It’s a short word that’s easy to spell,
difficult to define, and impossible to live
without. Love is work, but most of all, love
is realizing that every hour, and every
minute, and every second of it was
worth it–because you did it together.
Maybe more marriages would
survive if people knew that sometimes
the “better” comes after the “worse.”
And that’s ok. A successful marriage
requires falling in love many times,
over and over, with the same person.
I’m thankful for my person. I really do
love us. ♥
Hometown Rankin • 99
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100 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 101
RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOLS
Home - no other word evokes such fond memories.
Home - no other gathering place brings people closer together.
Home - not just a building but a family. That’s what you’ll find
Home - this year’s homecoming theme was the Amazing Race.
Each float entry represented a location where the Amazing Race
might be found; NWRE brought that race home to Flowood.With
favorite Flowood locations prominently displayed, NWRE’s float
was awarded first place among the other elementary zone schools.
Home - when NWR High School Football team advanced its way
through the competition to reach the playoffs, no bigger fans and
supporters could be found than at the elementary school “down the
hill.” We cheered for our boys, sent cards and videos showing our
love, and even ran with the big flags every step of the way following
Home - our beautiful campus wouldn’t function without our
beloved custodians. The Caring Cougars Club rallied our students
ensuring our favorite gentlemen would have the most amazing
Christmas ever! What better way to show our support than
throwing a parade in the school featuring our very own Mr. Calvin
and Mr. Rickie!
Home - our teachers LOVE coming to school every day! The
sense of family and unity at NWRE is a treasure to behold. At
NWRE, you’ll find teachers supporting one another through tough
days in the classroom; you’ll find teachers researching ways to help
every student reach their highest potential while still having fun
learning; you’ll even find teachers creating memories outside of
Someone once said that having a place to go is HOME, having
someone to love is FAMILY, but having both is a BLESSING.
We at NWRE count ourselves very blessed to be a part of the
Flowood family. To community, the parents, the students, and the
faculty - welcome home, we’ve been waiting for you!
102 • February 2019
The faculty at Richland Elementary is studying The Wild Card by
Hope and Wade King. This study challenges educators to embrace
their creativity and passion to create a learning environment that
will challenge, engage, and encourage each student. Recently,
Richland Elementary participated in Hope and Wade King’s
Rock Your School Day. It was a day of excitement and learning
like no other!
Kindergarten experienced one of the most magical school
experiences: Polar Express Day. Kindergarten was transformed
into a snow filled winter wonderland. Classes began their journey
parading through the school in their own Polar Express boxcar
engineered by each student. Once they reached their destination,
they enjoyed hot cocoa and marshmallows while watching The Polar
Express film. They also participated in other activities such
as listening to the story, comparing and contrasting the film and
book, creating edible trains, and making conductor hats along with
many other fun filled learning events.
Pumpkin Exploration Day was a challenging and exciting day
of learning for first grade. Teachers transformed their rooms into
learning labs and students rotated to other classrooms to participate
in various pumpkin themed activities centered on standards such as
nonfiction text features and main idea. Throughout the day, students
earned coins that they used to purchase their own pumpkins to take
Second graders expanded their knowledge through a unique
experience. They fine-tuned their critical thinking skills using a
mystery theme. Students participated in “Clue” like activities to
solve the mystery of the missing principal. They completed standards
based learning tasks in order to receive a clue to the mystery. Once
they uncovered the clues, they were able to solve the mystery.
As you can see, no matter the grade level, our students and
teachers continue to make Richland Elementary a great place to
teach, learn, and grow.
Hometown Rankin • 103
RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOLS
Article by DCS student Jaydn Bledsoe
Discovery Christian School is excited about the launch of
Chick-fil-A Leader Academy. The academy is a way for students
to learn how to become leaders in their community and the world.
They learn to break out of their boxes and share their ideas and
that they are not too young to be a leader.
The Chick-fil-A Leader Academy kickoff was held September 28,
2018. Two of their favorite quotes are, “The philosophy of the
school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government
in the next,” and “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more
important to be nice.” They are learning to replace the “I” with
“you,” –to stop worrying more about yourself and worry more
about others, and to take time to care and check on other people.
They talk about their biggest dreams and how they are going
to accomplish them and how they could start now. They are in
the process of fully understanding how to become leaders in our
community and in the world. Also, how to step out, be bold, and
make a positive influence in our community and world. They
cannot wait to change our small little piece of the world or maybe
even the whole world.
These amazing young people are going to do big things.
They are ready to change the world along with their sponsor,
Chick-fil-A/Regions Plaza location and their facilitator,
Front L-R: Hannah Williams, Sydney Grace Lewis, Wesley Murphy, Madison Goldman,
Mackenzie McCrory, Carly Williams, Gabbie Wade, Annalyce Clark;
Middle L-R: Kristi Adcock, Savannah Wilkinson, Markez Andrews, Cameron Macoy,
Grayson Williams, Madelin Wilson, Cade Adcock, Carley Macoy, Reese Jones, Jaydn Bledsoe;
Back L-R: Cameron Phillips, Connor Adcock, Isaiah Yates, Scout McCrory
104 • February 2019
Discovery Christian School 6th-8th graders recently participated in their annual
reading fair. Students were allowed to pick an appropriate fiction or nonfiction book.
Students were required to read the books and complete story boards outlining the six
elements of literature from their chosen pieces.
The middle schoolers had to identify characters, plot, point of view, setting, theme,
and style while also being creative with design and presentation. When presenting
their boards, students were also encouraged to dress as characters from their books.
This allowed students to truly feel like they were part of the plots of their literature.
We are very proud of these students for their hard work.
Congratulations to Matthew Bradshaw - 1st Place, Preston Engel - 2nd Place,
Jenna Blair - 3rd Place, John Michael Temple - Best Character.
Hometown Rankin • 105
RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOLS
The Florence Middle School Junior High Cheer Team
took first place in their division at the MHSAA state cheer
competition held at the Jackson Convention Complex on
December 15th. They also previously competed in the
Mississippi State Fair competition on October 14th claiming
Grand Champions in the Junior High Division.
Rankin County can claim another standout athlete who is a
senior at Florence High School. Jaylen Forbes, eighteen years
old, was dunking the basketball his ninth grade year and on his
birthday, last December, scored his record high – 51 points.
After being offered twelve D-1 scholarships, he signed with
Alabama last August. He stands 6’ 4” and is listed with the top 100
basketball players in the United States. It appears he will be a force
to watch, especially on his birthday!
Back L-R: Allison Morris (Choreographer), Gracie Walker,
Annelise Weathersby, Ava Grace Weathersby, Hannah Grace Reed,
Jessica Trawick (Sponsor)
Middle L-R: Jada Barnes, Lacy Burns, Laila McCoy,
Landrie Frith, Grace Holland, Josilyn James
Bottom L-R: Aubree Muse, Brelyn Muse (Co-Captain), Brooklynn Robinson
(Captain), Sydney Dodd (Co-Captain), Marley Young
106 • February 2019
“Kind People are my Kind of People.” This quote adorns the
backs of shirts that the Florence High School Random Acts of
Kindness (RAK) Club created, and it is our motto every day. The
RAK Club was just a small idea two years ago, and it has grown
into a blessing for students and teachers, alike. What started out
as ten students has grown into a group of thirty students with
committees for each area of kindness on which we focus.
We have strived to show kindness to students, teachers, special
needs students, and the community. We have learned that it does
not take much to make people feel appreciated, noticed, and loved.
We created a kindness tree that was decorated with falling leaves
embellished with happy, uplifting words of encouragement for
students to read as they passed through the hallway. We randomly
stuck post-it notes on desks in different classrooms so the next
student to sit in that desk would see it. We crafted Thankful
Turkeys for our teachers and staff for Thanksgiving letting them
know how thankful we were for everything they do for us. We
“decked the halls” with stockings that had kind messages written
on them for each student at our school. Mrs. Yow, a teacher at
FHS, said, “I have never seen such an undertaking but it was
nothing short of magical to watch all of those faces eagerly
searching for their stocking and the moment of pride when they
finally found it!!”
Finally, our big project was to throw a Christmas party,
complete with food and gifts, for our special needs students.
What a positive impact the RAK Club has had on our school
and their peers! We are blessed to be involved with such a great
club and group of students.
Hometown Rankin • 107
RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOLS
Students and staff at Pearl Lower, Northside, and Pearl Upper
Elementary Schools recently celebrated the 100th day of school.
This celebration of learning included many activities that focused
on the number 100.
The Mississippi Department of Education
recently released the graduation and dropout
rates for the 2017-2018 senior class. Pearl
Public School District is among the best in
the state! PPSD’s 94.1% graduation rate
ranks 7th in the state.
108 • February 2019
Parents of the Year
Annually, Pearl Public School District
participates in the Parent of the Year
program sponsored by the Mississippi
Department of Education. Each school
selects one parent as its Parent of the Year
for contributions made to the educational
program of the school. Thank you to these
and all parents whose efforts join with
those of the district to make Pearl a great
place for students.
2018-2019 Parents of the Year
L-R: PJ Turner, Pearl Junior High School;
Sharon Bennett, Pearl Lower Elementary;
Betty Eaton, Pearl High School;
Shannon Ellis, Pearl Upper Elementary,
Summer Slovak, Northside Elementary.
As part of a thematic unit on winter,
students in the PPSD Early Childhood
Educational Center enjoyed shaving
cream skating to simulate the experience
of ice skating.
Hometown Rankin • 109
202 North College Street • Brandon, MS
To schedule a tour or to make reservations,
112 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 113
It came in a square box,
wrapped in brilliant red
foil and tied in a gold,
The size of the box first made
Martha think the contents might be her
favorite chocolates, but the box was too
thin. She opened it, savoring what its
contents might be.
No, it certainly wasn’t an edible gift.
The box cover was a textured black with
a jeweler’s embossed name in the center.
Jewelry! Jewelry? No, it couldn’t be.
Martha knew she had all the baubles and
bling she ever wanted. Wes had made
sure of that. She had even expressed her
satisfaction in her jewelry collection.
Certainly it wasn’t a royalty stash, but
just how many baubles could one wear
in a lifetime?
Martha pulled the hinged cover up to
see, resting on black velvet, a delicate
silver chain interspersed with sparkling
diamonds. The brilliant jewels certainly
weren’t tiny, but just the size to convince
her that Wes had added to her “genuine”
He never ceased to surprise her with
his extravagant gifts. Martha fingered
the glittering chain and gently removed
it from its anchor on the velvet casing.
Wes beamed in delight, knowing he had
once again surprised her. For Martha,
luxury had always meant having more
than one needs; the necklace clearly
stated luxury. Love. She would always
consider it another love treasure.
In the years that passed, Martha wore
the diamond necklace often, always
remembering the extravagant love that
purchased it. On one gala occasion when
the necklace was the perfect compliment
to her evening attire, the orchestra’s
music stopped for an announcement.
An item of jewelry had been found on
the floor. “Please check to see if you have
a piece missing.”
Martha immediately reached for her
diamond necklace. Her fingers rapidly
traced around her neck; it was gone! She
rushed to the speaker and described her
necklace. “Is this it?” the speaker asked.
Martha was speechless but nodded her
head. Someone in the large gathering of
people had spotted the necklace on the
floor and was wanting it returned to its
owner. How easily the finder could have
slipped the necklace into his pocket.
No one would have noticed, and Martha
probably wouldn’t have noticed her loss
until she returned home.
It was a miracle. Her extravagant love
piece was back in her possession. And to
think, it was found before she even knew
it was lost. Martha touched the necklace
often for the remainder of the evening,
thanking her Father for the return of her
treasured love gift, even more valuable
now. After all, to be lost and then found
by the One who always loves extravagantly
is the greatest love treasure. ●
114 • February 2019
Hometown Rankin • 115
This will always be my go-to hospital.
Late one night in August, Cristie Rabalais rushed her father, Wayne Crenshaw, to the Merit Health Rankin emergency
room after he fell at his home. They were greeted by a kind security guard and immediately checked in and triaged by the
nurse on duty. After multiple scans and constant observation of Mr. Crenshaw’s condition, the ER physician determined
that 10 stitches were needed. Thankfully, Mr. Crenshaw is now on the road to recovery. Cristie stated, “Everyone treated
my dad with the utmost respect. I was very impressed with the entire staff. We are so fortunate to have a hospital
like Merit Health Rankin in our community.”
Quick, personalized ER care.
350 Crossgates Blvd.
Brandon, MS 39042