Local rice pioneers honored with scholarship at Delta State

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James and Jessie Simmons

Decades after revolutionizing rice drying procedures in the Mississippi Delta, James and Jessie Simmons, of Cleveland, will be recognized for their agricultural ambition and innovative spirit. A scholarship fund in honor of the couple has been established by the Delta State University Foundation, Inc.

“The James and Jessie Lee Simmons Scholarship will assist children and dependents of rice farmers in attending Delta State University. This is a fitting way to pay tribute to the couple who were so instrumental in transforming the rice industry,” said Keith Fulcher, Executive Director, Delta State University Foundation, Inc.

After returning from service as a Navy pilot in World War II, James Simmons received a degree from Mississippi State University. In 1949, he joined the staff of the Bolivar County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).

While working for the ASCS office, Simmons aided in the evolution from sack drying rice to the more lucrative method of bin drying and in turn stimulated the rising rice economy that led to farmer-owned bins rather than those purchased through ASCS loans.

After taking a position with H.O. Ward Lumber Co, Simmons managed grain bins for ten years, formed friendships with local farmers and gained a vast knowledge of the rice business.

In the early 1950’s the standard procedure for storing and drying rice included the use of bins with concrete floors and manifolds that ran the length of the bin itself. After researching the rice industries in surrounding states, Simmons began to experiment with perforated floors and the use of horse powered fans. The process involved pulling air down through the rice, inverting the rice, discharging the air under the perforated floors and forcing it up through the grain bin.

Simmons led the rice industry of the Delta in the use of scaffolding on both the interior and exterior of the bin, as well as the method of using rising ratchet jacks. By raising each ring individually, the time and cost of labor and construction was reduced by half.

Five years later, the innovative Simmons perfected the use of large 6,000-bushel grain bins and large centrifugal fans. In 1962, with the encouragement of his wife, Simmons partnered with J.C. Belk and developed the Simmons-Belk Company.

Throughout his career, Simmons’ wife, Jessie, remained the driving force behind his inspiration. She encouraged his development in the rice industry and held the position of secretary at his company. 

Though he left the company in 1970, Simmons produced $10 million of agricultural bins by 1979 and within five years averaged $8 million in sales. Simmons maintained his stake in the company until 1988, when he began the process of allowing his employees to purchase the business.  

“The Simmons’ have left a legacy in the rice industry and the scholarship in their name will allow future generations to continue to benefit from their lives,” said Fulcher. “The Delta State University Foundation invites all friends and business associates of the Simmons to make a gift in their honor.”

Gifts can be mailed to the Delta State Foundation, Box 3141, Cleveland, MS 38733. For more information, please contact the Foundation Office at (662) 846-4708 or e-mail at




Delta State takes top IHL honors

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Dr. Greg Hospodor, assistant professor of history and one of the many Delta State faculty members to participate in the University’s award-winning Faculty Technology Institute reviewed, “The institute was very interesting, as well as informative.” Delta State earned top IHL honors for its Faculty Technology Institute as part the Board-sponsored Best Practices competition.


During its most recent regular monthly meeting, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) announced the winners of the 2005 Best Practices Competition, with Delta State University earning top honors in the technology category for its Faculty Technology Institute and a second place finish in the academic affairs category for its Educational Leadership Program.

The Best Practices Competition is a Board-sponsored program designed to highlight efforts that create efficient and effective practices initiated within the System’s institutions in the categories of academics; finance, business and administration; student services; and technology. Proposals were judged by peer groups within each of the universities.

Co-sponsored through the Office of the Provost and the Office of Information Technology, Delta State’s Faculty Technology Institute is hosted by the University’s Technology Learning Center and involves ten faculty participants and three faculty facilitators. The goal of the Institute is to enable faculty to enhance courses with web-based technology. First implemented in August 2005, approximately 20 percent of Delta State’s full-time faculty have participated in the Institute and over 200 courses currently have a web-based component incorporated.

The Institute’s early success has left faculty feeling better prepared, according to early evaluations, with benefits far reaching to not only the faculty that attend the institute, but also to their students and fellow faculty members.

Delta State was also recognized for its Educational Leadership Program, which was first initiated in the summer of 1998 and has refined annually as part of a continuous improvement cycle in the College of Education. The model was implemented to provide the region with strong school leaders, while copiously supporting Delta State’s mission of positively impacting the Delta.

By utilizing a cohort model that employs full-time internship experiences and intensive problem-based class sessions, prospective principals leave the program with the knowledge, skills and values that research indicates produce effective results in schools. So much so, Delta State’s program was recently identified by Stanford University as one of the eight programs of excellence in principal preparation.

Of Delta State’s recognition from IHL, University President Dr. John M. Hilpert offered, “To be recognized by the Board as the best of the best is special. We were judged by our peer institutions and to be selected as tops is high praise. We are extremely proud of the Faculty Technology Institute and the Educational Leadership Program, as it is programs like these that allow Delta State to push closer in our goal to becoming the Best Regional University in America.”

For a complete list of the 2005 Best Practices Competition winners, please visit



Delta State dedicates Ada Swindle Mitchell Foods Laboratory

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Ada Swindle Mitchell 

Dr. Lynn House, Dean of the College of Education at Delta State University, visits with members of the Mitchell family, Irene Swindle, Ricky Mitchell and Mary Ann Stinson.

Delta State University, as part of its on-going “Year of Cleveland” celebration, recently dedicated its renovated foods laboratory in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences in memory of Ada Swindle Mitchell, a long-time employee of Viking Range Corporation. 

The Viking Range Corporation generously donated all new appliances for the foods lab, according to Dr. Jan Haynes, Chair of the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences at Delta State.

As part of the dedication ceremony held Tuesday, March 28, the program included a demonstration of “Elegant Hors d’oeuvres,” presented by Elizabeth Heiskell of the Viking Cooking School. Delta State President Dr. John M. Hilpert delivered dedicatory remarks with Dale Persons, Vice President of Public Affairs for Viking Range Corporation, offering a response, followed by a tour of the facilities.

Mitchell, an employee of Viking Range Corporation from 1988-2003, first served as administrative assistant to Fred Carl, Jr., and handled all personnel issues. She would be promoted to Viking Range’s first full-time human resources manager before earning the title Director of Human Resources. Prior to her work with Viking, she worked 19 years at WABG-TV in Greenville.

One of her most notable contributions to Viking Range was her single-handed initiation of an “education assistance program,” which allowed Viking Range employees to earn college degrees. “Ada felt very strongly about education and the value it had, not only for one’s company and career, but to the individual as a personal accomplishment,” said Viking President Fred Carl.

Mitchell pursued her own college education and was scheduled to graduate in May 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Delta State. The degree was awarded posthumously to her husband, Ricky Mitchell. She was recognized as a member of the President’s List as a result of maintaining a 4.0 GPA while at Delta State.

A member of the Society for Human Resources Management and the American Management Association, Mitchell was a Personnel Decisions, Inc., certified interviewer and a Birkman International, Inc., certified assessment user.  She was an alumna of the Walt Disney World Approach to Human Resources Management and was named by the Delta Business Journal as one of the “The Delta’s Top 75 Women in Business.”

Ada Swindle Mitchell passed Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at the age of 49. She was survived by her husband, Ricky and a son, Jared.


Delta State to present annual Cranford Memorial Lecture

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Dr. James G. Hollandsworth

Dr. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr. will present the ninth annual Sammy O. Cranford Memorial Lecture in History at Delta State University, Tuesday, April 18 at 7 p.m. in the Jobe Hall Auditorium on campus.

 A yearly event on the Delta State campus, the lecture series honors the memory of Dr. Sammy Cranford, a member of the history department for 25 years and University Archivist for 19 years before his untimely death in 1994. 

The Cranford Lecture first debuted in 1998, as then chair of the history department, Allen Dennis noted, “because our department wanted to honor Sammy’s memory in a significant way.  He valued good teaching and good writing, and it is a fitting tribute to him that we bring a historian to our campus each year who excels in both.”

Hollandsworth’s resume fits the twin bill, as his presentation, “Alfred Holt Stone:  Delta Native and Racial Theorist” will prove. The lecture topic relates to his voluntary labors compiling a carefully annotated index for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Stone Collection. 

In 1942, Greenville native Alfred Holt Stone donated to the MDAH a large collection of materials on “The Negro and Cognate Subjects,” a treasure trove of over 3,000 documents dating from 1690 to 1909.  Hollandsworth’s 600-page index was formally opened to the public at a ceremony in Jackson earlier this month.

Hollandsworth brought to his task the fruits of a remarkably varied academic career.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Davidson College in 1966, but after service as an officer in the United States Army (1966-68), his scholarly interest shifted to psychology.  He earned a master’s (1972) and doctorate (1975) degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in 1976 joined the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

He has won awards for both teaching and scholarship in the field of psychology.  Published in 1990, his second book, “The Physiology of Psychological Disorders:  Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, and Substance Abuse” appeared on the Outstanding Academic Book List of the Association of College and Research Libraries, and he won both USM’s Innovation in Teaching Award (1982) and the Mississippi Psychological Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award (1990).

In the 1990s, Hollandsworth returned to his original field of academic interest, publishing three books on Civil War and Reconstruction history.  The first, “The Louisiana Native Guards:  The Black Military Experience during the Civil War” earned a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association of State and Local History.  His most recent volume, published in 2001, is entitled “An Absolute Massacre:  The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866.”

In addition to his teaching and scholarship, he has also served as Associate Vice-president for Academic Affairs, Associate Provost, and Dean of the Graduate School at USM.  He retired in 2004.

The Cranford Lecture is sponsored by the Delta State history department, in cooperation with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.  The lecture is free and open to the public.  For more information, please call the Delta State history department at (662) 846-4170.


Noted Art Historian and Curator to highlight state’s historic architecture

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Dr. Douglas Lewis


As part of the campus’ month-long celebration, “Arts in April,” Delta State University will welcome Dr. Douglas Lewis, former curator for Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., to campus, Tuesday, April 18 at 12:15 p.m., in the art history lecture hall of Holcomb-Norwood.

Lewis will present a lecture, “Mississippi’s Surprising Architecture,” which will include a slide presentation and commentary.

His association with the National Gallery of Art in Washington lasted 40 years (1964-2004), 36 of which he served as Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in Art History from Yale University, as well as a bachelor’s and master’s in Fine Arts from Clare College of the University of Cambridge. 

A Prix-de-Rome Fellow, Lewis holds a diploma in Classical Studies from the American Academy in Rome.  The international fellowships for his doctoral research supported a three-year residence in Rome and Venice, and he has returned to Europe several times a year, ever since.  He is an expert on Renaissance, Baroque, and 19th century painting, sculpture, and decorative arts.

His principal books, among a list of some 150 publications, include “The Late Baroque Churches of Venice,” Garland Press, New York, 1979; “The Drawings of Andrea Palladio,” 1st ed. 1981, 2nd revised and enlarged ed., Martin-St. Martin, New Orleans, 2000; and “Renaissance Bronze Reliefs and Plaquettes,” vol. 1, 2006, and vol. 2, 2007 (being published by the National Gallery of Art). He was, most recently, selected as author of a forthcoming encyclopedic survey of “The Buildings of Mississippi,” a component in the 50-volume series of “The Buildings of the United States” that is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Society of Architectural Historians.

He has taught art and architectural history, and decorative arts, at a half-dozen of the country’s pre-eminent universities, including Yale (1962-1964); Bryn Mawr (1967-1968); the University of California at Berkeley, in 1969-1970, as well as in 1979-1980; The Johns Hopkins University, 1973-1977; Georgetown University (in Washington, and also at the Georgetown Villa near Florence), 1980-1993; and at the University of Maryland, Honors Program (1993-2003), where he was voted Outstanding Advisor (for his work as Coach of the Men’s Crew), and in 2000 as “Best Teacher on Campus.” 

Currently, Lewis lives on his family’s 203-year-old plantation in southern Mississippi.

The lecture will be free and open to public. For more on this event or any associated with the “Arts in April” festival, please contact Dr. Mark Butler, Chair of the Delta State Special Programs Committee, at (662) 846-4619 or