A few weeks back, I contacted Wesley Eure, the actor and singer, about this month’s feature story. Wesley, who spent his formative years in Hattiesburg, was quick to respond and was gracious with his time, and the story of his life – especially his years in the Hub City – is a charming one.
Wesley spent less than 10 years in our state, but that time changed him forever and instilled in him a strong value system. He told me that his religion is the Golden Rule and that his sense of southern hospitality, learned from his grandmother, guides his life on a daily basis.
Those Mississippi-learned values are hard to lose. I think the summer heat bakes them into our DNA, and Wesley is a great example of my hypothesis. He has been away from the Magnolia State for nearly 60 years, but he still knows and practices the values he learned here as a child.
Wesley’s story is a powerful testament to the many positive attributes of our state and its people. We are often ranked at the top of polls for the nation’s friendliest and most charitable state, and our southern hospitality always impresses outsiders. It is one of the things I love most about Mississippi.
I am a native Mississippian, born and raised in Lincoln County, which is located in the southwest corner of the state. My tiny community, East Lincoln, is about 15 minutes away from the small city of Brookhaven. I grew up surrounded by pine trees and good people who embodied the Golden Rule and southern hospitality.
Like Wesley, I was blessed with many good influences in my life. My parents were both public servants, my mom a social worker and my dad a police officer, and I knew and adored both sets of grandparents. I was close to my church family, and there was never a shortage of people to admire and emulate.
In 2010, I moved to Hattiesburg – “the big city” – to attend William Carey University. To me, this was a major life change; in my eyes, the Hub City was a sprawling metropolis and a drastic change from my community of around a thousand people. It was a culture shock, even though home was an hour and 15 minutes away.
I quickly noticed that southern hospitality did indeed extend beyond East Lincoln. I was welcomed to Hattiesburg with open arms by some great people like Dr. Tommy King, the Carey president, and his executive assistant, Barbara Hamilton. Their southern hospitality is unmatched, and it helped me quickly transition into being a Hattiesburger.
Fast forward 10 years, and I love being a Hattiesburger more than ever. I love our close-knit communities and how we come together in times of crisis. I love our diversity and cultural richness. I love how our students bring a powerful vibrancy to the area, and I love our great destinations and eateries. Most of all, I love how southern hospitality flows freely here.
I am excited to tell our stories in my new role as managing editor of Signature Magazine and its newspaper counterpart, The PineBelt NEWS. I encourage you to read our work, buy advertising to support us and to write us with your ideas. We want to tell the great stories of our area, and we cannot do that without your support.
I hope you enjoy this edition and the feature on Wesley, and I hope to hear from you. Until then, keep being kind and unique, Hattiesburg.