Bridging Hardship, 1928-1945
On December 28, 1894, Burnita Shelton Matthews was born into an educated, civic-minded family, in Copiah County, Mississippi. Although she aspired from a very young age to pursue a legal career, her father insisted that she pursue the study and teaching of music which he believed was a more ladylike profession. Following her marriage to Percy A. Matthews, she taught music for a short while in Georgia before moving to Washington, D.C. to accept a job with the Veterans Administration. She strategically chose to live and work in Washington, D.C.
Burnita Shelton was one of six children, and the only daughter, born on December 28, 1894, to Burnell Shelton and Lora Drew (Barlow) Shelton. She was part of an educated, civic-minded family. Her mother was a graduate of Whitworth College, a boarding school for young women in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and her father was a planter, cattleman, and also an elected official serving at various times as sheriff and tax collector of Copiah County and as the clerk of the chancery court.
The widespread suffering caused by the Great Depression rendered religious agencies in Mississippi unable to help those in need. As the income of workers fell by 40 to 60 percent, donations traditionally used to fund religious aid for those trapped at the bottom of society also plummeted. Most religious leaders and agencies in Mississippi called for and subsequently welcomed the various social aid programs created by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
“Dear Rev. Bishop,” wrote Kate Abraham of Greenwood in March 1933, “I lost everything I that I own the house which I live in caught a fire.” A member of the town’s small Syrian Catholic community, Abraham had exhausted every local option in her search for help. “I haven’t got nothing to eat and nobody help me, my husband have been dead eleven years,” she said. Abraham asked the bishop for “anything that you will do to help me,” and pled again, “me and my son is starving to death, my son have to go to school without breakfast and dinner.”
Three weeks before Christmas of 1903, J. R. Climer of Madison County, Mississippi, became the first resident of the Jefferson Davis Soldier Home, Beauvoir — Mississippi’s home for Confederate veterans and their wives and widows on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. Climer was a Tennessean by birth and a veteran of Company A of the Madison Light Artillery that fought in General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at some of the most famous battles of the American Civil War. When the war began, Climer was a tombstone agent in Canton.
For more than seventy-two years, the ten-man crew of a particular World War II United States Army Air Forces B-17 has held a special place in the hearts of the citizens of Lomianki, Poland. The airmen named their Flying Fortress “I’ll Be Seeing You” after the song that was made so popular during the war by the renowned singer Bing Crosby that it became an anthem for American and British servicemen who were stationed away from their loved ones. Sgt.