Best Elected Official and Most Under-Appreciated Jacksonian: Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.
If you had told me a year ago that JFP readers would choose the mayor in these two categories, I would have cracked up. "Election Man" has not had an easy time of it—being heavily criticized no matter what he does.
However, Johnson is resilient, if anything—and his studied and methodical approach seems to be paying off when it comes to the public's perception of him. In our lengthy interview in November 2003, he spoke out, really for the first time, answering many of the urban myths (and some truths) about him and the job he was doing. He pointed out, correctly, that it might be taking him a while to jumpstart the city's development—from the King Edward to Farish Street—but at least he was trying. He said: "Yes, it's taken 50 years; who else has done anything about it? The King Edward? Who's done anything about it? The parkway? They hadn't acquired any land before I came into office. ... We are in development mode; we're making sure things happen to improve quality of life in the city." Since that interview, Johnson's plans have been coming together left and right—with cranes and alliances with developers and the business community around the city, especially downtown. Crime has dropped precipitously in the last two years, and he is residing over a city in a hopeful mode. And, yes, he led the fight to raise restaurant taxes to fund a Convention Center—a major political victory.
Second place: Frank Melton
Third place: Dent May
Good showing: Todd Stauffer and Jay Lossett
Best Elected Official
Second place: Justice James Graves
Third place: Sheriff Malcolm McMillin
Good showing: Councilman Ben Allen, Gov. Haley Barbour
Best Radio Station: Mississippi Public Broadcasting
MPB? PRM? MPR? Everyone knows what you mean when you just say "public radio"—24 hours, seven days a week of great programs like "All Things Considered," "A Prairie Home Companion," "The Gestalt Gardener with Felder Rushing," The University of Southern Mississippi's Oral History Program, "Magnolia Arts Hour," the "Mississippi Concert Hall" series, "Night Train," "Morning Edition," "Voices," "Thacker Mountain Radio"—the list literally could go on and on. Tune in at 91.3 on your FM dial and enjoy.
Chris Butterick, general manager of JACK-FM 94.7 and Rock 93.9, thinks it's "pretty damn cool" that his two stations placed on the ballot. Butterick attributed the new JACK-FM's success to its new format—used by only three other stations in the country— limited commercials, few announcements and a whole lot of music that doesn't necessarily fit together. "It only proves that Jackson does like something new and different," added Butterick. As for Rock 93.9, Butterick said its younger audience has driven its success over the last three years.
— Kate Jacobson
Second place: JACK-FM 94.7
Third place: Rock 93.9
Good showing: WLEZ, WJSU and Y101
Best Jackson Author: Eudora Welty
"Till the day she died, she went by every morning to the Jitney Jungle, I think, because she loved the sound of Jitney and Jungle," Eudora Welty's friend, Roger Mudd, recalled in a MPB Writer's Profile news release.
Welty lived on Pinehurst Street from 1957 until her death in 2001. The house has been declared a national landmark and is in the process of being turned into a literary museum. Its closets are filled with degrees and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Welty viewed the world through its windows with a compassion and understanding of humanity noted both in her work and in the memories of those who knew her. She was a Jacksonian and a world-changing woman who filled her pages with a mind and heart apart from any before her or since.
She is sorely missed, but the words she so intricately composed will live on forever. —Jessica Kinnison
Second place: Jill Conner Browne
Third place: Ellen Douglas
Best Hair on a TV Personality: Barbie Bassett, WLBT
Barbie Bassett, who won the category last year, adds a little sunshine to the forecast with her full, brown, perfectly placed hair. Even when she's in the cockpit of the traffic helicopter, every hair's in place. And not another news anchor could appear as handsome and sophisticated as long-time WLBT broadcaster and perennial second place finisher, Bert Case. Maggie Wade, placing third, could fit right in with any modern version of Diana Ross & the Supremes with her semi-long, wonderfully styled hair that accents her face and beautiful smile.
— Skyla Dawn Luckey
Second place: Bert Case
Third place: Maggie Wade
Best Jackson Artist: Wyatt Waters
The people love Wyatt Waters—I see this in the way that Jacksonians, in hungry droves, snatch up his latest pieces, his calendar filled with his classic works. Waters is a Mississippian through and through, using his undeniable talent to memorialize the state in incessant watercolors. And he's nice! Long-haired and pictured in a cool black outfit in a JFP house ad, Waters might look like a pretentious artist, but he's just another really nice guy making the state sigh collectively at his talent.
His counterparts—the other top Jackson artists you chose—are no strangers to success themselves. I've often thought of loaning out my soul to some devil in order to have an Ellen Langford Farmer's Market Café painting in my living room, and I once actually did promise William Goodman my soul for the sexy as-big-as-me painting hanging over my couch now. And Tony—possibly the most humble man I've ever met—seems to transcend himself with every piece. Quite simply, everything he creates is so good it breaks my heart.
Second place: Tony Difatta
Third place: Ellen Langford
Good showing: William Goodman
Best News Anchor: Maggie Wade, WLBT
Best Newscast: WLBT
For three years running, WLBT news anchor Maggie Wade has been voted Jackson's best, as has been her station for best newscast. Wade has been recognized by the United States Congress for her work with "Wednesday's Child," a segment dedicated to helping foster children without permanent homes. Wade has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame by Mississippi Families for Kids. Wade's co-anchor Howard Ballou placed second for the third year in a row, and WJTV's Melanie Christopher came in third.
— Skyla Dawn Luckey
Second place: Howard Ballou, WLBT
Third place: Melanie Christopher, WJTV
Second place: WAPT
Third place: WJTV
Best Non-Profit Organization: Stewpot Community Services (various locations)
She was 17 and had volunteered to gain community service hours for college. Her long, blonde hair pulled up away from the food, she put on the clear plastic gloves the lady left for her. The gloves were plastic, like something she had seen on "ER." They definitely didn't go with her outfit. The first fourth of the line was at the table eating their soup as she was still envisioning being at home in her bed. Mindlessly, she poured the soup; a woman's soft fingertips touched hers as she handed over the bowl. The woman looked directly at her with the eyes of her mother, with the touch of humanity, smiled and took her soup to the table. The girl's expression didn't change, but she perceived at the last minute how superficial her thoughts had been.
Stewpot is real. The recipients of charity don't always smile or touch your fingertips, but who cares—they are always human. Call them at 353-2759 to volunteer.
Second place: Operation Shoestring (1711 Bailey Ave., 353-6336)
Third place: Good Samaritan Center (various locations)
Best Radio Personality: Bruce Browning
When my family moved to Booneville, Miss., in the early 1960s, we didn't know a soul, not one. Some of the first people I met are still my very best friends to this day. Bruce Browning was a student at Northeast Jr. College; I count Bruce among those precious numbers. Ecru native Browning had a radio show—"The Double B Bash"—at the local station WBIP. He was in a band, The Poor Excuse. I was the resident roadie, sometimes sitting in so Bruce could dance with one of his many dates.
Bruce and I would cross paths many times after those early days—at Ole Miss, Southern Miss and later when his band The Blue Beats, out of Memphis, became a big draw in the Jackson club scene when I was running George Street Grocery and then Hal & Mal's. We have canoed the Pearl River, paddled the Boundary Waters, camped, fished and hiked the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and slept on the beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
Bruce Browning is a modern-day gypsy with a heart the size of China. He never meets a stranger. His warmth and musical wisdom come across the airwaves when he sits down behind the mic and spins his web of magic on-air.
He is not only the most popular radio personality in Jackson, but the most popular traveler in many, many ports around the globe.
Second place: C. A. Webb
Third place: Bob & Bender
Good showing: J. T. & Dave, Corey & Wendy, Peter Christian
Best Local Columnist: Orley Hood
For the third straight year, the Clarion-Ledger's Southern Style writer Orley Hood has won or tied for Best Local Columnist. Orley has grabbed Metro Jackson's attention, no doubt, and continues to hold it over an expansive range of sundry subjects. Just this past month, Orley has spoken his mind on tsunami relief, justice in Neshoba County, the bittersweetness of age milestones and the enviable life of dogs.
What else should we say now about Orley and his columns that we haven't said before? We could call him folksy, an acquired taste, a writer who truly cares about people in his community, but we're already on record with that. Well, we could tip our hats to Orley's oft-referenced family. After all, how would you like it if every time you comment to your columnist spouse/parent/sibling, you risk winding up quoted in the most-read space in Southern Style? Orley, after all these years, is it time for the C-L to give the rest of the Hoods a chance to publish their response?
But if the Hood tribe doesn't want to call Orley to task, the second place vote-getter, our own Donna Ladd, will do so—particularly if the topic involves what steps might reduce crime here inside the Jackson bubble. By the way, y'all aren't the only ones who think our editor's special—she gained national attention last year by winning recognition for her columns in two award categories from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.
Kudos also go to third-place finisher Eric Stringfellow, whose C-L writing tends to jumpstart the dialogue from all sides about important, and often thorny, community issues. And in this category we can't stop without saying "Good Show!" to the JFP's own Casey Parks, who, over this past year, has taken on tough and timely topics (like religion, politics and sexuality) with intelligence, wit, humor and grace—and has quickly gained her own devoted following.
Second place: Donna Ladd
Third place: Eric Stringfellow
Good showing: Casey Parks
Best High School Band: Murrah
As I walked by Lanier High School Saturday, Jan. 15, on my way to observe Jackson's Martin Luther King Jr. parade, I serendipitously heard the musical sounds of Jackson's Best High School Band—the Murrah Mustangs.
The group, with 100-plus members in the marching band, also encompasses the Murrah Misses Dance Team and Flag Squad. This is the second year Murrah placed first in the JFP Best of category. These young, dedicated and disciplined musicians perform field shows and concerts for competition. Competition is never a breeze, so this group works hard to maintain its excellence.
— Thabi Moyo
Second place: Callaway High School
Third place: Madison Central High School
Best Spoken Word Poet: C.A. Webb
The headline could read "C. A. Webb Hosts Neosoul Poetry at Santiago's," or "C. A. Webb's 'Reflections' Coming to Smith Robertson." Better yet, it could read "C. A. Webb, Jackson's Best Spoken Word Poet, 2005." You get the picture—C.A. Webb is one busy, creative guy. Jacksonians, take advantage of the numerous regular chances you have to hear Jackson's numero uno spoken-word poet, whether it's Thursday's Lyric Lounge at Santiago's—he often joins the list of poets who show up to share their wares—or Sunday nights when he hosts the aforementioned Neosoul Poetry. And that "Reflections" event this coming Saturday is just one of the many Webb has hosted in the past few months. You see, besides making sure his own creativity has an outlet, Webb strives to afford the same for other Jackson creative individuals. It's all about allowing people the chance to find themselves, just what Webb's spoken word has done for him.
— Lynette Hanson
Second place: June Hardwick
Third place: Jolivette Anderson and Dr. Fish (tie)
Best Church Choir: First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church in downtown Jackson is one of the biggest churches in the metro area. This is the second year FBCJ Sanctuary Choir was voted best. This past year was a momentous one for the 362-member Sanctuary Choir. Minister of Music Larry Black retired on Dec. 31 after serving 35 years at the church. The results of his work and leadership are a music department made up of several choirs, including the Junior and Senior High Choirs, College Choir, Sanctuary Choir, Senior Adult Choir and Children's Choir. If you have a love for choirs filled with great talent, FBCJ is a great church to visit for an awesome spiritual encounter through their music ministry.
Second place: Wells United Methodist Church
Third place: St. James Episcopal Church and Anderson United Methodist Church (tie)
Best Educator: Cleta Ellington
Conspicuous both for her enthusiasm for the subject and in her compassion for her students, Cleta Ellington teaches English and creative writing at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Madison. Ellington's imaginative approach challenges her classes to apply all their communicative talents and sensory perceptions in exploring works of literature, whether classical or contemporary. Class after class experiences firsthand the vitality and timelessness of Shakespeare's plays in live productions she organizes, with many pupils taking the stage. All five senses should engage, she believes, when they read the novels of Richard Wright and Eudora Welty.
For Ellington, creativity equals variety. Patrons of Fondren Traders are well aware that she is an accomplished and prolific painter who sells her work there (and she painted the delightful mural outside). She has also authored an extensive history of the Catholic Church in Mississippi.
Second place: Bob Moses
Third place: Marsha Hobbs
Best Play of 2004: "Don't Dress for Dinner"
Jacksonians are among those citizens blessed with a healthy local community theater. Three of New Stage Theatre's productions from 2004 won this entire Best of category, hands down. First place went to "Don't Dress for Dinner," an absolutely delightful romp through the chaos created by mistaken identities. From the stylish set to the fast-paced delivery, six actors delivered slightly risqué entertainment to an audience packed with people of all ages. Second place was the age-old, some would rather call it the classic, production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Many area families make attending the play a part of their holiday tradition. Third place went to last spring's production of "Ain't Misbehavin'" a delicious tribute to the music of Thomas "Fats" Waller. In this case, five multi-talented actors sang and dance their way into the hearts of the audience, along with the lively music provided by the six-piece jazz band.
Second place: "A Christmas Carol"
Third place: "Ain't Misbehavin"
Best Community Activist: Malcolm White
It's hard to think of a worthwhile, interesting, and/or fun community event in Jackson that Malcolm White hasn't been a part of, over the last 30 or so years. Why, he INVENTED most of them. His very own St. Paddy's Day parade is now one of the top parades in the entire USA, mind you. Jubilee Jam, Zoo Blues, the Convention Center-to-be—Malcolm has played a major part in making these things happen, and those are just a few of his contributions to our capital city.
As a citizen, an entrepreneur, an arts patron, an entertainment producer, the host of countless charity events, a promoter extraordinaire and as a human being, Malcolm White represents the best of Jackson, the best of Mississippi. His good work helps us celebrate our state's finest traditions—our rich musical heritage, our love of being face-to-face, up-close-and-personal with friends. And his good heart helps make Jackson a place that open-minded, charitable, high-spirited folks can love.
Perhaps most important, Jackson's Best Activist is an inspiration for younger Jacksonians who simply need to look toward Malcolm White to get ideas on how to help their city.
—Joanne Prichard Morris
Second place: Frank Melton
Third place: Rims Barber
Good showing: Donna Ladd
Best Local Scandal: Madison Mayor's Husband
This year Jackson has had its share of scandals. One person who is constantly at the heart of upheavals in Jackson is everyone's favorite councilman, Kenneth Stokes of Ward 3. All by himself, he placed second in the JFP's Best Local Scandal category. However, his confrontation with fellow councilman Ben Allen probably holds greater weight in most people's minds. At a city council meeting, Stokes said that Allen got in his space. Stokes responded by saying "I will slap you if you don't get out of my face!" Allen said in a JFP interview over the summer that that slap incident is "five minute ugliness."
Despite the juiciness of two city officials in a possible brawl, there was one incident in 2004 that outweighs that scandal for JFP readers—the Madison Mayor's husband's land fraud scheme. James Butler, husband of Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, was arrested in October on a five-count indictment, accused of trying to dupe an elderly Texas woman out of the true value of her land. Charges were dropped on Jan. 24, 2005.
— Ayana Taylor
Second place: Councilman Kenneth Stokes
Third place: Stokes-Allen slap threat
Best Local Web Site: Jackson Free Press
Maybe this category wasn't fair being that a huge percentage of our readers voted from Jacksonfreepress.com. But we've done what we could to make it a valuable resource for Jacksonians and Jacksonians-at-heart. We hope it continues to be that, and we'll keep (sometimes slowly) making improvements to make it a central hub for both your discussions and decision-making. We've recently added forums and a restaurant guide with more features to come. And you have responded: we're averaging over 2,000 visits a day and above 150,000 page views a month.
OK, enough about us.
The North Jackson Digital Confederation ended up with a lot of fans, and it was something I didn't know about until we were tallying the votes. Proving that low tech is better than no-tech, the North Jackson Digital Confederation is a free message board hosted by Boardhost.com where local JA and Prep dropouts (OK ... some of them may have graduated) hang out and discuss everything from a Dewey Decimal System piece on ETV to the latest basketball action. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes blindingly naive, the North Jackson Digital Confederation probably, at the very least, wishes they hadn't voted for themselves so much in the Best of Jackson poll. Nerds.
Drew Snyder's Blogger site—the Snyder News Network—is a bit Oxford focused, but offers some fun reading. I LOL'ed at the "Proof the World Has Gone Mad—They Gave William Shatner an Award for Acting."
Second place: North Jackson Digital Confederation
Third place: Snyder News Network
how many submissions were there?
As a bald man (intentionally but with some genetic help on the roof), I can't help but giggle that Bert Case placed second in Best Hair!
OK... I didn't giggle; I laughed hysterically and spit coffee across my desk when I read it! That's comedy...
Have to admit, his "do" is a bit unforgettable especially when tagged with his signature "Berrrrrrrrrrrrt Case" during reports!
I'm disappointed in not seeing 90.1 WMPR making a showing there. I mean I do like to listen to NPR sometimes, but since finding WMPR have never looked back. It's the most amazing/unique thing i've ever witnessed on the radio dial.
- Matt Kilgore
I agree with you, Matt. I especially love the bedroom blues.