Most Intriguing Jacksonians 2007 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Most Intriguing Jacksonians 2007

<b>Josh Hailey</b>

If Ron Chane is the king of Fondren, then photographer/ceramicist Josh Hailey, 26, has got to be its crown prince. An avid supporter of Fondren (his studio is located in the Fondren Corner building), Hailey's work can be seen in homes and businesses all over town. His photography has graced the pages of the Jackson Free Press throughout the years, including his crazy, quirky Halloween shots in the premier Fly issue. Hailey has a unique style, often donning costume-like dress to ARTmixes (we recently saw him wearing a blue and red-sequined bolero cape, a black matador's hat and larger-than-life brown sunglasses, and he wore skintight gold lamé to the Best of Jackson party last year), and once you meet him, it's easy to become quick friends—chances are, you're friends in the Facebook realm already.

Sollie Norwood
Often calm and silent, resting his head on his index and middle fingers, Jackson Public Schools board member Sollie Norwood (right) ruminates over ideas before shocking attendees with them. He certainly has made the regular board meetings lively this year. Arguing in favor of corporal punishment and re-introducing prayer into the meetings, he has pitted himself against fellow board members Jonathan Larkin and H. Ann Jones. "I think we can find a law to substantiate or support whatever we want to do," Norwood told the board in a Sept. 24 meeting. Who knows what Norwood will throw at us in 2008?

Sheriff-Chief Malcolm McMillin
Photo by Jaro Vacek

When Malcolm McMillin enters the room, he carries with him a plodding air of steadiness, like that cool uncle who always offers you advice, but never loans you money. He'll need that steadiness to stabilize the tumbling Jackson Police Department. McMillin's effectiveness in running the county sheriff's department and affable interaction with residents has helped seal his favor with voters, despite the county's growing preference for black politicians.

McMillin is headstrong and probably knows when to keep obnoxious bumbling politicians out of police business. In a fit of cronyism, Melton promoted his bodyguard Michael Recio to assistant chief, despite outcry. Days after Melton nominated McMillin, the bodyguard found himself back as the mayor's footstool.

Maybe it's a sign of things to come.

Jonathan Larkin
Photo by Matt Saldaña

Jackson Public Schools board member Jonathan Larkin is not the kind of personality that grabs at a spotlight. But the light keeps training on him, despite his attempts to shuffle out of its beam. Last year, JPS staff told Jackson council members that the mayor's chief of staff had warned Larkin that the mayor would not re-nominate him for the board if he did not swing a $150 million contractor vote to one of the mayor's friends. Larkin risked his nomination and voted for the other guys, and the mayor followed through with his threat, sending out a letter asking council members to ignore his nomination letter endorsing Larkin sent prior to the vote.

So far, the council isn't touching Larkin's now-tainted nomination vote, and Larkin retains his seat, months after his term has expired.

Juan Cloy
Photo by Adam Lynch

Det. Juan Cloy of the police union had high aspirations for the Melton administration. Cloy told the JFP months after Melton's election that the department needed "cleaning up," and offered no criticism against Melton firing police officers months into his term. Later on, however, Cloy and the Jackson Police Association were calling Melton a meddler, claiming the mayor was acting as police chief, interfering in crime-scene investigations and killing morale. Cloy and company offered heated criticism regarding Melton's decision to promote his bodyguards, Marcus Wright and Michael Recio, to sergeant and assistant chief respectively, despite their lack of training.

Cloy has little trust in the media. His decision to go public with his complaints did not come easy, and helped seal Melton's bad reputation.

Robbie Bell
Robbie Bell, once a matriarch of the Jackson business world, is currently awaiting trial for charges connected to her son's alleged murder of his girlfriend on Sept. 11. Charged with being an accessory after the fact, Bell allegedly did not seek help for Heather Spencer after George Bell III raped and beat Spencer with a flashlight.

Bell was with her son when he surrendered to police after a four-hour standoff at a Jackson gas station the next morning. Spencer's body was in her house, which was also the scene of the crime. Authorities charged George Bell III with first-degree murder, rape and assault, the last charge stemming from a beating he gave Spencer in June. Both Bells pleaded not guilty to the respective charges.

Bell is the former vice president of business development for the Mississippi Business Journal, a post she filled until Spencer's murder; her name no longer appears on the Journal's Web site. In that role, she organized many high-profile business events in the city, including the Integrity Awards and the Mississippi Leading Business Women awards.

Kathy Nester
Federal defense attorney Kathy Nester was fascinating to watch during the James Ford Seale trial in Jackson as she defended with all her might the man accused of the 1964 kidnapping of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in Meadville. Watching Nester, a known progressive, stand up for an avowed white supremacist was mesmerizing, and a reminder that everyone, absolutely everyone, in this country deserves a good defense. Then when they're found guilty, we can feel confident that justice has been done.

Kim Campbell
Campbell is the new representative of House District 72, after replacing incumbent Erik Fleming. Campbell, a former policy analyst for the city of Jackson, was an early casualty of the Melton administration when she made the mistake of giving advice that contradicted the advice of City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans. Campbell had warned the council against a potentially unlawful decision by Melton regarding the council's pick for legal ads. O'Reilly-Evans threatened to report Campbell to the bar for acting as council's legal adviser, so Campbell left. The city later lost a suit lodged by local weekly The Mississippi Link for not following Campbell's advice.

Lea Barton
Award-winning Mississippi artist Lea Barton has pieces hanging across the U.S.—from New Orleans to Portland, Ore., to Washington, D.C.—in such prestigious locations as art museums and the Library of Congress. In February, her show "South" will be on display in Manhattan's Bibro Fine Art, on W. 20th St. Barton, born in Yazoo City in 1956, discovered her "calling" in her 30s, subsequent to completing a Millsaps College enrichment art program. She went on to complete her bachelor's degree at Millsaps in '96 and her master's at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Today, Barton works from her studio in Flora, creating mixed-media art that celebrates and reveals the unique quality of the South, and themes of womanhood, loss, struggle and vulnerability. Barton also directs the art program for Operation Shoestring, a Jackson non-profit serving families in the inner-city.

Robert Shuler Smith
Photo by Cheree Franco

One of the more puzzling figures to make news in 2007 was new District Attorney Robert Smith, a successful (and well-paid) defense attorney who has defended many of the young criminals associated in some way with Mayor Frank Melton (not to mention one of his bodyguards in the duplex demolition case). Smith comes from a family rich with civil-rights history, but his main proponent for district attorney was former District Attorney Ed Peters, a longtime protégé of Melton and his personal attorney, Dale Danks. During the campaign, Smith tried to distance himself somewhat from Peters, although in recent weeks Peters has been trying to get the city to pay Smith and another attorney for the defense of Melton's bodyguards. The question of 2008 may well be: Just how close are Smith and Melton? Melton introduced him to the JFP at his home in 2006 as "one of mine" and then took over the mic at Smith's victory party, sending a message that he and Smith would work closely together. Soon afterward, Melton appointed two JPD officers as Smith's new bodyguards, raising eyebrows even further.

Shirlene Anderson
Photo by Adam Lynch

Former Police Chief Shirlene Anderson may be the most enigmatic person in Jackson right now. Seemingly appointed to do Melton's bidding, Anderson was a shy, aloof chief from day one who didn't like to be questioned or hold press briefings to talk to the public about her actions. Her favorite phrase seemed to be "that's a personnel issue." Police who have known her for a long time say she was a good narcotics officer, and is a loving person from the Delta, but she made her mark in Jackson as a police chief who didn't know how to say 'no' to Melton. Ironically, she supposedly stepped down because she wouldn't sign off on Melton's promotions of his bodyguards. Good for her, even if too little, too late.

Fredrica Brunson
In 2007, Fredrica Brunson emerged as a symbol of the questions surrounding Melton's mentorship of young men. Brunson, who is also known as Jermaine Butler, became the head of the Wood Street Lawn Crew, seemingly doing what Melton told him to do. Even as some members of the City Council—those not in Melton's back pocket—questioned how contracts were being given to the lawn crew, Brunson complained to the JFP that his bills were not paid on time. An interview with Brunson—along with reports of his alleged criminal behavior—revealed that he was certainly a young man in need of help and guidance, but emerging details showed that it was probably not the kind he was getting from a mayor who likes to play favorites with the young men of Jackson.

Angel Eaves
In an election year when state Democrats did such a pitiful job of defining themselves as anything other than wannabe Republicans, few Democrats stood above the fray—not even the challenger of Gov. Haley Barbour, John Arthur Eaves, who started his campaign pointing out that Republicans don't own family values. But he took it too far, appearing more right wing than Barbour with his over-the-top calls for prayer to be returned to the schools. Meantime, his model-beautiful young wife, Angel, intrigued us much more than the candidate, especially after Barbour indirectly disparaged her at the Neshoba County Fair for being a "trophy wife." When asked for a response by the AP, she made the best remark of the whole campaign: "I can't and still be a lady."

Adrienne Wooten
The District 71 winner carried a 200-vote edge over her Republican opponent John Reeves in the November election, and then beat him again in a December re-vote. But the fight may not yet be over. The Hinds County Election Committee agreed with Reeves regarding poll irregularities, and decided to hold a December re-vote for some District 71 precincts. But after Wooten won a second time, Reeves said he may take the argument to the House, which could decide the winner for itself at the beginning of the January session. A tally of the largely Democratic House may not bode well for Reeves, however.

Dunn Lampton
U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton has been working well with the city and county to net federal funding for drug interdiction units and other vital crime-fighting endeavors. Lampton is also a leading figure in the controversial prosecution of Democratic-leaning Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz and convicted Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor.

Both Diaz and Minor claim the investigation, which Lampton initiated, pointedly targeted Democrats in an attempt to undermine Democratic funding. Lampton himself admitted that charges against Diaz for selling judgments to campaign donors was thin because Diaz did not preside over any of the donors' cases. A U.S. House Judicial subcommittee is investigating Diaz and Minor's claim.

Lampton also jump-started the Dee/Moore murder investigation during a JFP-CBC investigation in 2005. Accused killer Seale went to prison in 2007.

Charlotte Reeves
Photo by Adam Lynch

There's no reading some people. Reeves takes a poker face wherever she goes, hiding it behind the kind of expression you see beaming over a tray of mint juleps. Reeves is co-owner of A-1 Pallet Company—targeted by Mayor Melton for demolition.

Reeves and her husband, Monte Reeves, wouldn't be surprised by anything after Melton and his posse tore down a duplex on Ridgeway Street. They filed a restraining order against the city, specifically to keep Melton from arriving with the next truck of sledgehammers.

Reeves and her husband have become unwitting champions against the mayor's outrageous schemes, in the same vein as Larry Flynt's crusade for freedom of speech. Not everyone loves them, but they're victims of Melton, nonetheless.

Jim Hood
Photo by Kate Medley

In 2007, soft-spoken Attorney General Jim Hood emerged as arguably the strongest Democrat in the state. He was the only Democrat left standing in statewide elections—and probably because he didn't stoop to the sort of negative, deceptive campaign tactics resorted to by most candidates of both parties. As a result, he's become the punching boy for state (and national) Republicans. But he doesn't seem to care, continuing to focus on necessary efforts such as strengthening anti-domestic-violence and cyberstalking initiatives.

Michael Recio
Photo by Brian Johnson

Without Frank Melton's ascension to the mayor's office, Michael Recio would probably just be another cop. But in 2006 and 2007, his notoriety grew in spades—both as one of Melton's bodyguards with a submachine gun slung across him and then as a defendant in the trial for the demolition of a Ridgeway Street duplex. Melton's attempt to promote him to assistant chief in late 2007 was the tipping point for the mayor's lagging support. It was as if the cops protesting at City Hall provided the last straw for many hanging on to threads of hope for the mayor.

2007 Timeline

Previous Comments


I can't beleive I didn't make this list. Whenever you do a list like this, invariously and unavoidably someone is missed. If there is anyone else out there who knows they're intrguing too, just as I know, because your mother, aunt, girlfriend, boyfriend or somebody else told you you were a long time ago or recently, please comment or add your name so you can be recognized too.

Ray Carter

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