December 1, 2008 Rotogram


Continuing our tradition of recognizing excellence in education, we honor outstanding local teachers and students today. A teacher and two students will be recognized from each of four schools — Ward Stewart, Henderson, Armstrong and West Oktibbeha Elementary.


As the academic year’s first semester draws to an end, Braxton Coombs, Mississippi State University Student Association president, will report on student life.


Invocation and Pledge: Ernie George

Attendance: There were 110 members (34 exempt, 1 honorary) present, and 92 (19 exempt, 8 honorary) absent.

Guests and visitors: Visiting Rotarian was Bill Overstreet of West Point who has become a welcome regular guest. Members’ guests included Jody Ray of Diana Jordan, and Trey Templeton of dad Chip. Guests of the Club were Bubba Hudspeth, Kell Smith and Rick Young with our guest speaker; Peggy Branch and Freddie Rasberry with Habitat for Humanity; and Jarrod Reneau, Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar, and Paul Sims of the Starkville Daily News.

Makeup reported: Scott Dodd in Louisville.

Kudos: President Chip congratulated Rotarian Bob Wolverton on his induction into the Starkville Education Hall of Fame.

Rotary Roof: Freddie Rasberry, Starkville Habitat for Humanity executive director, accepted a $3,000 check for the year’s first Rotary Roof. Installed on the 212 McKinley Street Habitat House, the roof is the first of two we will fund this year.

Rotary Minute:   Past-president Larry Box took us back to 1936 through a newspaper clipping covering a Rotary meeting. Dr. Jim Eckford, father of the legendary Dr. Feddie, spoke to the Club on the occasion of his 40th year as a doctor.

Eckford noted that he arrived in Starkville in 1896 with a new buggy, new diploma, new saddle and a gray horse. At the four-decade mark he said, “We have had the friendship, love, respect and confidence of the community. What more could we wish for?”


Before addressing his Rotary classification as a legal professional, Charlie Guest said, “I’d like to tell you of a few other classifications I have.”

He is classified as 1) the husband of Ruby for 46 years; 2) the father of 3 boys who have presented him with 8 grandchildren; 3) a Christian, a Presbyterian by persuasion; 4) generally a Republican voter, although he often casts local and state ballots for Democrats; and, 5) a “lot of other things people would say I’m classified as, but I really don’t want to go there.”

As Mississippi State University’s chief counsel for 21 years, Guest is the institution’s ethics officer. He and two other lawyers are responsible for public records requests, trademark and licensing management and government regulations compliance. Practicing almost all types of law, with the exception of family relations, his office currently is handling 171 projects and 20 active lawsuits.


An education is more necessary than hard work to succeed in the 21st century. With that theme, the executive director of Mississippi’s Board for Community and Junior Colleges reviewed the state’s economic history.

Using his MSU dissertation research as a starting point, Eric Clark proposed that the nearly 150 years since the Civil War days can be analyzed in three distinct eras.

“Prior to the war, there had been a lot of wealth distributed very unevenly in Mississippi,” he said.  “For three generations after the Civil War, we were flat on our back economically.”

Until about 1940, the state depended on agriculture or timber in a land-based economy. Most other businesses supported those industries.

Citing his family as an example, the former history teacher said, “My mom often said they grew most of what they needed, but had to have cash for three things: shoes, school books and land taxes.”

Tracking Mississippi’s per capita income as a percentage of the national average, the former secretary of state set his benchmark at 1930. In that Depression year, the average Mississippian earned only 32.5 percent of other Americans’ income.

Although the state still ranks near the bottom in income, he said we should be very proud of the relatively progress over the past 75 years. He credited Gov. Hugh White with instigating economic change.

White held that communities should get involved in paying to bring in industry. The former Columbia mayor and timber man carried his development philosophy to the statehouse and pushed through the Balance Agriculture with Industry Act. The legislation gave local communities the authority to levy local taxes to support industrial bond issues.

The effort was very effective in attracting low-capital, low-wage industries. The classic example was the garment plant.

For the next 40 years, this was the state’s economic engine. Clark gauges its effectiveness with the per capita income figures: in 1940 it was 36 percent; by 1950 it was 53 percent; in 1960 it was 54.5 percent; it rose to 64 percent in 1980 and 69 percent by 1980.

Noting these glory years of industrialization, Clark quoted one source in his research: “Nobody ever got rich working in a garment plant, but it sure beat the heck out of sharecropping.”

“In this time, you could make a living by working hard, but you didn’t have to be educated,” said the lifelong teacher.

The “garment plant” era ended in the 1980s when per capita income dipped to 66 percent of the national average. However, it had rebounded to 70.5 percent in 2000 and 73.5 percent by `06 with the advent of high tech industry.

“Now, for the first time ever, our folks have to be educated if we are to attract and keep 21st Century jobs,” said Clark. “We have to have a cultural shift to understand that education is no longer optional.”

Reviewing national statistics, he noted that a person with an associate’s degree earns an average $40,600 compared with a high school graduate who only earns an average $31,500.

“It is fundamental for folks to graduate high school,” said Clark. “But, now we have to go beyond that due to the effect of education on income.”

He reminded his audience that income does two significant things in our society. It helps people provide a better life for their families. And, it improves the tax base and public services for everyone.


Christmas Parade Float Prep·································································································· Dec. 1-6
Last meeting of calendar year and election ··········································································· Dec. 15
Rodeo      ······························································································································· Feb. 13-14
Indian Group Study Exchange Team ······················································································ April
District Conference, Meridian       ··························································································· April 17-18
Volunteer as a Between the Lions reader················································································· Weekly


Remember to nominate members for the Dec. 15 board of directors election. Offices to be filled include vice-president/president-elect, secretary, treasurer and 4 board members.

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