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Delta State University
by Thomas Givens



I first arrived on the campus of Delta State College in November 1956 after spending my freshman year and part of a semester at Sunflower Junior College. I had had enough, so I talked my daddy into letting me transfer to DSC.

The transfer was a mess. DSC was on the quarter system, so to transfer my credits from SJC I had to take exams in all the courses I was taking over there, got by that all right, but one professor would not give me full credit for his course so I came out with less hours than I should have.

Coming from Sunflower Junior College to Delta State College was like going from hell to heaven.

Since I was a sophomore, I was put up in Stadium Dorm with all the upperclassmen, of which I was one, having somewhat passed the tests. Now I want to tell you, I had been exposed to some big city boys from Greenwood and Greenville at SJC, but we got into it bigtime at DSC. What fun we had. The nights at Leonards, the VFW, all the places on the "Strip."

We'd get in whichever car was convenient and go to Ling's and get a quart of beer and cruise around quaffing them suds. The beer was enclosed in a paper sack, of course. All those big city boys accepted me, and made me one of their own, even the Cleveland bunch, although I was from Linn and an honorary Rulevillian.

Delta State back then (I was in the class of 1959) was very small with a total enrollment of less than 600, so it was more like high school . . . or a fraternity. All of us knew each other and have remained close through the years.

We did all kinds of stuff. I forget who our big rival was back then, but for the big game we'd start piling up all kinds of wood for a huge pep rally bonfire. Well, I'm not one to rat out my friends, but after the wood was piled up, some spoilsports would sneak out there and set it on fire well before homecoming. Spencer Williams, a very close friend of mine and President of the Honor Council, questioned me closely on several occasions about that and several other happenings about the campus, but I told him, "I'm right there in the dorm with you -- how could I be doing all that stuff?"

H.L. Nowell, God rest his soul, lived in stadium. I guess you might call him our housemother. What a job. We called him "Homer Lee"; he was a prince. He patrolled stadium trying to keep us straight, even though we were not there most of the time.

When we got back off the "strip" -- that was when things started happening. H.L. had a thing about card playing. I never gambled or played cards -- to me it was boring. But a bunch of the guys in the dorm played the Cajun card game called "bouree"(sp), and for high stakes at that time. H.L. caught a bunch in a high stakes game and banished them from the dorm. One of the guys was my roommate. They had to move into the Hotel Grover which was livable at the time.

Now we didn't appreciate H.L. doing that, and even if it was cutting off our noses to spite our faces, we took the TV out of the lounge and hid it. H.L. went crazy. We let him stew for a while and returned it under cover of darkness.

I really loved "Homer Lee" -- we all did. But every now and then we got upset with him for what we considered unjust acccusations. I remember one night I came in and all hell was breaking loose. H.L.' s apartment was on the first floor down the hall to the left of the lobby. I heard the commotion and walked into a big mess.

Don't know what set the boys off, but they were upset with H.L. and were throwing bottles and beer cans down the hall. Well, I stepped in the middle of it, being overserved myself, and walked up to H.L.'s door, knocked, and when he answered, I assured him I was not a part of the havoc around us. To his credit he believed me as we both dodged bottles and cans.

There are other universities around the state of Mississippi, of course. Each has its supportive alumni/alumnae.

In fact, the late Frank Everett Jr. who was a Circuit Judge for many years from Sunflower County had this to say about Ole Miss: "There is a valid distinction between the University and Ole Miss even though the separate threads are closely interwoven....The University is buildings, trees, and people. Ole Miss is mood, emotion, and personality. One is physical and the other is spiritual. One is tangible and the other intangible....The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss."

That is magnificent. Just substitute Delta State for Ole Miss in those beautiful comments . . . and thank God for H. L. Nowell, Gladys Castle and Sue Thweatt King -- all mainstays on that campus for years.

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Judge Tom Givens is a native Mississippi Deltan who now hangs his hat in Tennessee.
His memoirs are favorites at USADEEPSOUTH. Here are a few:

The Halfway Store
The Delta Theater
Memphis and the Delta
Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs




Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.

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