From September 6, 2000

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Artist William Tolliver, Vicksburg native, dies at 48

William Tolliver, a Vicksburg-born, self-taught artist whose paintings have fetched thousands of dollars from collectors around the world, died Friday, Sept. 1, 2000, at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. He was 48.

“He was like my brother,” said longtime friend and North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who grew up with Tolliver on Denman’s Alley, near Openwood Street.

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Young helped organize an exhibit in December 1998 of Tolliver’s paintings at the Vicksburg Convention Center. It was the artist’s first show in his hometown, which Tolliver left at age 14 after dropping out of junior high school.

“I went to Los Angeles by myself,” Tolliver said in a 1998 interview with The Vicksburg Post. “I just wanted to go somewhere else, and they had more opportunities and stuff in California.”

Before leaving Vicksburg, the second-oldest son of Ella Mae Tolliver and the late William Tolliver Sr. practiced his art by copying pictures from comic books and the New Testament. He also honed his craft on paint-by-number kits.

Young recalled that her friend was always painting as a child, and first cousin Charlie Tolliver remembers that as well. “His mom would have him doing that kind of thing in the evening,” he said. “He was fun-loving, a typical boy. We played in the woods. We played basketball. We had a good time growing up.”

Charlie Tolliver said his cousin is a good role model for Vicksburg youths, “especially when you think you haven’t made it. … He had that will to want to do.'”

William Tolliver joined the Job Corps and supported his family, including wife Debrah and three children, by working construction jobs. His talent was discovered by a gallery owner in Lafayette, La., in the early 1980s.

“He stayed there until he became famous, if you will,” Charlie Tolliver said. “Then he moved to Atlanta.”

There, William Tolliver operated a gallery in the exclusive Buckhead community. Meanwhile, his paintings began to be sought after by collectors such as Cicely Tyson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shari Belafonte and Richard Pryor.

“He’s an internationally famous painter,” Young said.

Tolliver’s work has been shown around the country, including the Rotunda of the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian. In 1996, he was one of three artists commissioned to paint an official Atlanta Olympics poster. “I guess I must be pretty good,” he said at the time.

His colorful style, painted in watercolors and oils, has been likened to Picasso. Many of his subjects are jazz or blues musicians. “I love that, from Mississippi,” the artist said. “I also paint landscapes, and I do portraits.”

Tolliver was preceded in death by his wife, Debrah. Survivors include a daughter, Deanna Tolliver of Stone Mountain, Ga.; two sons, Richard T. Tolliver and William Demetris Tolliver, both of Stone Mountain; his mother, Ella Mae Tolliver of Lafayette; eight sisters, Anna Tolliver Dillard of Gulfport, Carolyn Tolliver of Vicksburg, Linda Tolliver, Debra Tolliver, Patricia Tolliver, Laura Kees, Cheryl Tolliver and Valerie Tolliver, all of Lafayette; five half-brothers, David Humphrey, Kennith Humphrey, Willie Peaches and Eric Jones, all of Vicksburg, and George Lewis of California; and a half-sister, Willaette Jones of Vicksburg.

W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home has charge of arrangements. After a memorial service in Atlanta, local services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Vicksburg Auditorium.


Memorial services for Annie Ree Bries Brown will be at 6 p.m. Friday at Robbins Funeral Home with her daughter, Dora Gardner, officiating.

Mrs. Brown died Friday, Sept. 1, 2000, at Vicksburg Medical Center.

She was 59.

A lifelong resident of Vicksburg, she was a domestic worker. She was a member of the Church of Christ and Eastern Star.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Lawyer and Louise Bries; her husband, Eddie Brown Sr.; and a daughter, Brenda Younger.

She is survived by four daughters, Gwendolyn Richardson of Edwards and Sharon Goss, Dora L. Thomas and Marilyn Brown, all of Vicksburg; two sons, Calvin Bries of Bloomington, Minn., and Arthur Brown of Vicksburg; five grandchildren, including Mason Thomas III; and other relatives, including Willie Kemp of Vicksburg.


Jessie R. Burrell died Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2000, at her home.

She was 44.

Mrs. Burrell was born in Claiborne County. She was employed with Eden Point Apartment Complex. She was a member of Montro Grove Baptist Church in Hermanville.

She was preceded in death by her father, W.B. Burrell Sr.

Survivors include two sons, Tony Burrell of Vicksburg and Kenneth Burrell of Newellton; her mother, Willie A. Burrell of Hermanville; grandmother, Allie White of Hermanville; seven brothers, W.B. Burrell Jr. of New Orleans, W.B. Burrell III of Port Gibson, Jimmy Burrell Sr. of Utica and James Burrell Sr., Nathaniel White and John Burrell, all of Hermanville, and Ray Burrell of Harvey, La.; five sisters, Robin Bishop and Martha Francis, both of Hermanville, Ada Graham of Port Gibson, Willie McAfee of Memphis and Mary Green of Louisiana; four grandchildren; and other relatives and friends.

Services were Sunday at Montro Grove Baptist Church in Hermanville with the Rev. Frand Curtis officiating. Burial followed at Burrell Cemetery in Hermanville.