Carthage Mayor Lin Joffrion’s first interactions with the Black community came in 1971 when the schools integrated and he went to the Turner School for junior high.
It could have been a tough time, but Joffrion said everyone worked to make sure it wasn’t. And when Joffrion visited the new Panola County African-American Wall of Fame last week, he recognized many of the names on that list as people who helped the community come together.
“We’ve got a lot going on in our country today, not all of it good, but we don’t have those problems here and the main reason is we know each other and we respect each other,” Joffrion said, later adding “There’s a lot of good names on that wall and a lot of credit goes to those people for us being where we are today.”
Joffrion spoke at a special ceremony the City of Carthage held Wednesday at the wall to welcome its presence. Omowali Lumumba built the African-American Wall of Fame at his outdoor museum in Cook’s Quarters. He said the purpose was “just to really acknowledge the African-American contribution to Panola County in particular.”
Honorees are from a wide variety of backgrounds, including teachers, nurses, doctors, police officers, football stars and other everyday people who helped make Panola County great. Lumumba noted some examples, such as longtime First State Bank & Trust employee Welton Sanders — whose career there spanned 65 years.
“I was trying to recognize really the working class, because to me the working class is the foundation of the community,” Lumumba said.
Standing by the wall on Wednesday, Joffrion and Lumumba kept pointing out names: coaches, former city officials, Joffrion’s ag teacher and people like Herman Reed, who was Joffrion’s math teacher and also a county commissioner.
Joffrion pointed to C.G. Bowie’s name and called him a fabulous band director. He never took band, but his younger sister did.
“All she’d do is she’d come home every day raving about Mr. Bowie, Mr. Bowie,” Joffrion said.
Jo Elaine Tucker Hawkins — herself an honoree for her longtime work with Carthage ISD — also spoke Wednesday, saying she’d love for the wall to be covered so that the wall could be protected from rain. She’s also hoping it will eventually circle the outdoor space.
“I would love to just see it in a circle and children could come and walk around and read the names on the wall,” she said. “Because everybody on this wall has a history.”