USA Famous People of Mississippi

Mississippi Biographies

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Willie Morris writer, Jackson William Weaks "Willie" Morris (November 29, 1934 — August 2, 1999), was an American writer and editor born in Jackson, Mississippi, though his family later moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi, which he immortalized in his works of prose. Morris' trademark was his lyrical prose style and reflections on the American South, particularly the Mississippi Delta. In 1967 he became the youngest editor of Harper's Magazine. He wrote several works of fiction and non-fiction, including his seminal book North Toward Home, as well as My Dog Skip. Morris' parents moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi when he was just six months old. Yazoo City figures prominently in much of Morris' writing. After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, Morris traveled to Austin to attend the University of Texas at Austin. He became a member of Delta Tau Delta international fraternity, where he has a room named after him in the chapter house. His senior year in college, Morris was elected editor of the university's student newspaper, the award-winning The Daily Texan. His scathing editorials against segregation, censorship and state officials' collusion with oil and gas interests soon earned him the enmity of university administrators, particularly from the university's Board of Regents. As an example of the animosity, Morris wrote in North Toward Home that the university did not acknowledge his award of a Rhodes Scholarship with even as much as a letter of congratulation. His contribution to the university continues to go unrecognized. • Willie Morris Books
Brandy Norwood singer, actress, McComb Brandy Rayana Norwood (born February 11, 1979), known professionally as Brandy, is an American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, television entertainer, actress, and film producer. In 2009, she introduced her rap alter-ego Bran'Nu.

Born into a musical family in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Carson, California, Norwood first appeared in a supporting role on the short-lived ABC sitcom Thea in 1993. Her engagement led to her own star vehicle, successful UPN sitcom Moesha in 1996, and resulted into roles in the 1998 horror sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and the TV films Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997) and Double Platinum (1999), two of television's best rated special programs.

In 1993, she signed a recording contract with Atlantic, releasing her self-titled debut album a year after. Following a major success with Grammy Award-winning "The Boy Is Mine", a duet with singer Monica, and her second album Never Say Never in 1998, a series of successful records established her as one of the most successful of the new breed of urban R&B female vocalists to emerge during the mid-to late 1990s. Her latest studio album, Human (2008), was her first effort to be released on the Epic label after a label change in 2005.

The RIAA ranks Norwood as one of the best-selling female artists in American music history, having sold over 10.5 million copies of her five studio albums in the United States and over 25 million albums worldwide, to date. Additionally, she has won over 100 awards as a recording artist. • Brandy Norwood Books • Brandy Norwood Movies • Brandy Norwood Discography

Walter Payton football player, Columbia - It's a testament to Payton's greatness as a man that nearly half his autobiography can be devoted to what he achieved after his career. "Sweetness" may hold the NFL's career rushing record, and he may have been one of the toughest, hardest-working players ever, but he was also devoted to keeping spirits high around him, even when facing the end of his own life, and committed to helping needy children. He was so important to others that many immediately took up the latter task when he was dyingAand tens of thousands more sent him their prayers and sympathy. (Payton died of liver cancer in November 1999.)

With a protagonist like this, Payton's book isn't your standard sports bio. Nor is it traditional in structure. Because Payton died before his autobiography was completed, his interviews have been supplemented by the stories and thoughts of family and friends, with sports biographer Yaeger providing the connective tissue. More an oral history than an autobiography, the book sometimes suffers for it. Payton's career is dealt with summarily; frequently, stories are repeated, if from different perspectives, and Payton's many remarkable qualities are each noted many times over. The five eulogies from his funeral all elaborate on the same points: his skills and his humility. Payton had an abundance of each. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. • Walter Payton Books

Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) Popular rock-and-roll singer; born in East Tupelo. “Journalist Tracy takes a remarkably even-handed approach in this narrative of what happened to the kid from Tupelo, Mississippi who seemed to drop in from another planet in 1956. She details the deals with Colonel Tom Parker, which Presley entered into largely out of fear over what Parker would do with salacious recordings, the familial relationships, the concerts, the tours, the awards, the movies, the hits, the flops, the gluttony and the wretched stumbling to the pharmacy and back. Although intended for the general readership, Tracy is honest about what killed Presley and why, showing how his fears of exposure of youthful indiscretions and basic insecurity as a performer and a person combined with the liberality of the time.”–Reference & Research Book News • All Elvis Presley Books • Elvis Presley Films • Elvis Presley Discography
Leontyne Price soprano, Laurel - Mary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi in the United States) is an American operatic soprano. She was best known for the title role of Verdi's Aida. Born in the segregated Deep South, she rose to international fame during a period of racial change in the 1950s and 60s, and was the first African-American to become a leading prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera.

Price's voice was noted for its brilliant upper register, "smoky" middle and lower registers, flowing phrasing, and wide dynamic range. A lirico spinto (Italian for "pushed lyric", or middleweight), she was well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her voice ranged from A flat below Middle C to the E above High C. (She said she reached high Fs "in the shower.")

After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she gave recitals for another dozen years. Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, including a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts. • Leontyne Price Books • Leontyne Price Discography

Charley Pride country singer, Sledge

As one of country's first black superstars, Pride faced a lot of hardship in starting his career. However, this is not the focus of his autobiography. Listeners will instead hear about Pride's childhood in Mississippi, his attempts at a career in Major League baseball (and how this failed dream led to his singing career). In addition, Pride discusses business ventures that succeeded and those that failed, as well as his bouts with manic depression. He tells his story with no bitterness but lots of homespun advice and humor. Pride as reader is a bit uneven, yet he speaks from his heart; when he chuckles after a funny story, for instance, listeners will find it hard to keep from chuckling along with him. This enjoyable book will find a home with libraries that have strong music collections, African American studies collections, or good general biography sections. Danna C. Bell-Russel, District of Columbia P.L. • Charley Pride Books • Charley Pride Discography

William Raspberry columnist, Oklaona • William Raspberry Books
Hiram R. Revels (1822 - 1901) Clergyman, first African American to sit in the U.S. Senate (1870 - 1871).  • Hiram R. Revels Books
Jerry Rice (1962 - ) Football player, , Starkville. Considered the greatest wide receiver ever to play in the NFL; born and raised in Crawford. In Go Long! Jerry Rice shares the inspirational lessons and empowering practices that have helped him attain success, both on the football field and off. Through the ups and downs of Rice’s life and incomparable career, we discover how self-motivation, determination, and humility are the keys to achievement and true fulfillment. It’s been a long journey for Jerry Rice, from his childhood as a bricklayer’s son in Crawford, Mississippi, to a berth in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Along the way, Rice has been fueled by tireless effort and a belief in a few simple principles, among them that achievement is a voyage, not a destination; that modesty and perseverance, not talent, are what determine how far you will go; and that everyone should strive to be a role model. Rice even demonstrates these rules in action, breaking down the greatest games from his stellar career. • Jerry Rice Books
LeAnn Rimes country music,

Jackson Genuine talent. If two words could describe LeAnn Rimes after reading this book, they are it. Clearly, she has that "special something". If you are a LeAnn Rimes fan, do yourself a favor and read about her charmed life. You will definitely come away with a deeper appreciation of her talent and of LeAnn herself. She had the good fortune of having two supportive parents who nutured her as a daughter, as well as her talent. She certainly has a recipe for success and we can only hope that it will continue in the years to come. On an interesting note, LeAnn signed copies of DREAM COME TRUE at last year's Fan Fair!

Rimes made her breakthrough into country music in 1996. Her debut album, Blue, reached Number 1 on the Top Country Albums chart and was certified "multi-platinum" in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album's lead single of the same name (originally intended to be recorded by Patsy Cline in the early 1960s) became a Top 10 hit • LeAnn Rimes Books •

Shepard Smith (born David Shepard Smith, Jr.; January 14, 1964) is an American television news anchor. He is host of Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Studio B weekdays on Fox News Channel. In addition, he anchors the 5:00 p.m. ET weekday news update on Fox News Radio, also titled the Fox Report. Smith was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the son of Dora Ellen (née Anderson) and David Shepard Smith, Sr. He attended Marshall Academy, a K–12 private school in Holly Springs. Smith went on to attend the University of Mississippi. He majored in journalism, but did not graduate. He frequently returns to the university during college football season and delivered the university's annual commencement address on May 10, 2008

According to a 2003 profile published in People magazine, Smith was married to Virginia Donald, a University of Mississippi classmate, from 1987 until circa 1993.• Shepard Smith Books

William Grant Still composer, Woodville (May 11, 1895 - December 3, 1978) was an African-American classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. He is often referred to as "the dean" of African-American composers.

William Grant Still was born in Woodville, Mississippi. He was the son of two teachers, Carrie Lena Fambro Still (1872-1927) and William Grant Still (1871-1895), who was also a partner in a grocery store and performed as a local bandleader in his free time. They were of mixed origin: African-American, Native American, Spanish and Anglo. His father, William Grant Still Sr., died when William was 3 months old and his mother, Carrie Lena Fambro Still, took him to Little Rock, Arkansas where she married Charles B. Shepperson and taught high school English for 33 years. Shepperson, his stepfather, nurtured his musical interests by taking him to operettas and buying Red Seal recordings of classical music which the boy greatly enjoyed. The two attended a number of performances by musicians on tour. William Still grew up in Little Rock, and there William started violin lessons at age 14. The youth also taught himself how to play the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, double bass, cello and viola, and showed a great interest in music. His maternal grandmother introduced him to African American spirituals by singing them to him. At age 16 he graduated from M. W. Gibbs High School in Little Rock. • William Grant Still Books • William Grant Still Discography

Conway Twitty country music, Friars Point

Harold Jenkins had never been to Conway, Arkansas or Twitty, Texas when he picked the show business name that has served him so well. Trivia like that must suffice in a biography of a country celebrity who says, "I don't have many stories to tell because I'm not the social type." Besides standard background information, the book reveals the singer-songwriter to be an image-conscious workaholic who prefers to be known through his music. That may be great for his audiences, but it doesn't make for a very probing life story. Nonetheless, Twitty's legion of fans should appreciate this inside account of a "regular guy" who shucked rock'n'roll stardom for the country music he really wanted to perform. Will Hepfer , SUNY at Buffalo Libs.  • Conway Twitty Books • Conway Twitty Discography

Sela Ward - Sela Ann Ward (born July 11, 1956) is an American movie and television actress, perhaps best known for her television roles as the free-spirited "Teddy Reed" on the American TV series Sisters (1991-96) and the single mother Lily Manning on Once and Again (1999-2002). Star of the 1990's sitcom hits Sisters and Once & Again; born in Meridian

While working in New York City as a storyboard artist for multimedia presentations, the 5'7" (170 cm) Ward began modeling to supplement her income. She was recruited by the Wilhelmina agency and was soon featured in television commercials promoting Maybelline cosmetics. Ward eventually moved to California to pursue acting and landed her first film role in the Burt Reynolds vehicle, The Man Who Loved Women, released in 1983. Her first regular role in a television drama series (as a beautiful socialite on Emerald Point, NAS) followed in the same year. Ward subsequently played variations on the same character in films and television guest spots throughout the 1980s, most notably opposite Tom Hanks in 1986's Nothing in Common. This pattern persisted until she aggressively pursued and won the role of the bohemian alcoholic Teddy Reed on Sisters, for which she received her first Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1994. • Sela Ward Books • Sela Ward Films

Muddy Waters singer, guitarist, Rolling Fork - After arriving in Chicago from Mississippi in 1943, Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield) became the first successful blues man to play electric guitar while performing in the style of his heroes Robert Johnson and Son House. Gordon (It Came from Memphis) treats Muddy with the same dignity that he seemed to exude in real life. The story opens with Alan Lomax's "discovery" of Waters during one of his famous field recording expeditions for the Library of Congress. Not long after, Waters reached legendary status as the premier artist on Chicago's Chess Records. Lean times then struck in the 1950s and 1960s as rock'n'roll pushed aside the blues, but in the 1970s Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones (named after one of Muddy's songs) turned on a whole generation of white youth to their musical idol.

Gordon reveals Muddy's family life to be almost as rocky: he left several illegitimate children in his wake. Rather than judge his subject, however, Gordon lets the music do the talking. With vivid prose ("The rhythm evokes the banging of a tattered suitcase being pulled down a bumpy road"), he shows that Muddy didn't have to put on an act; he was the Hootchie Coochie Man, and he did have his mojo working. Likely to become the leading biography of this legendary artist, the book is recommended for all popular, blues, and ethnomusicology collections. Also available, though unseen by the reviewer, is Sandra B. Tooze's Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man. Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. • Muddy Waters Books • Muddy Waters Discography

Eudora Welty author, Jackson • Eudora Welty Books
Tennessee Williams (1911 - 1983) Playwright, He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. In addition, The Glass Menagerie (1945) and The Night of the Iguana (1961) received New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards. His 1952 play The Rose Tattoo received the Tony Award for best play. In 1980 he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. He was born in Columbus.

In this first complete, critical biography of one of America's finest playwrights, Donald Spoto reveals the intimate connections between Williams' personal dramas and his remarkably autobiographical art. From his birth into a genteel Southern family, through his success, celebrity, and wealth, Tennessee Williams lived a life as gripping as his plays. The Kindness of Strangers is "a work of honest reverence."--San Francisco Chronicle. 34 photos. • Tennessee Williams Films

Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ) Talk-show host; born in Kosciusko.

I've read quite a few Oprah Biographies and this is one of my favorites. It focuses on all the main events that made Oprah who she is today and gives interesting details about her childhood. I especially enjoyed reading about how she spoke in churches at a very young age and how she managed to convince her mother to buy her new glasses. He antics were quite humorous and definitely got her mom's attention. As you read this book you can truly get a sense of what it was like for Oprah to make it through a difficult childhood. In a way she was given ever-increasing challenges to develop her character as an adult. At one point she had to take three buses just to get to school. • Oprah Winfrey Films

Richard Wright author, Natchez • Richard Wright Books
Tammy Wynette country music star, Tupelo Country singer Tammy Wynette died in 1998 after a lifetime of medical problems and an addiction to painkillers. Now Daly, Wynette's second-oldest daughter, has written an account of the singer's troubled life from the perspective of a young woman who helplessly watched her mother fall apart. The memoir begins with the confusing, surreal days following Wynette's death. Daly then backs up, giving voice to the resentment she felt growing up, overlooked by a busy, famous mother who had little time for child rearing.

Daly pays scant attention to Wynette's relationship to Nashville's country music establishment and scoots over the singer's rise to fame, choosing instead to focus on the personal problems that plagued Wynette's life and eventually ended it. An over-romantic dependence on men led Wynette to a string of loveless marriages and an increasing lack of control over her career. Recurring abdominal problems, compounded by multiple operations and a demanding performance schedule, left her dependent on feeding tubes and catheters.

Most debilitating was her addiction to prescription painkillers (such as the opiate Demerol) that persisted despite several attempts at treatment and intervention. Daly, a loyal daughter, holds her mother's doctor and last husband responsible for not stemming her descent. This book captures the complicated relationship of a daughter to a mother who needed more parenting and guidance than her children did. Unfortunately, the writing is weak, and the tone of desperation that closes the book makes it feel more like a tabloid interview than a memoir. Photos not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. • Tammy Wynette Books • Tammy Wynette Discography

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