Fundraising efforts on for 1927 Flood Mural

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2008

The push is on to raise $16,500 for a riverfront mural depicting the historic 1927 flood and honoring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

About $2,000 has been raised for the 1927 Flood Mural, Riverfront Murals Committee chairman Nellie Caldwell said. The fundraising deadline is Oct. 1.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Crear has been making the rounds at Corps and engineer-related gatherings in Vicksburg, asking for support and donations. On Aug. 29, he was the featured guest at a luncheon meeting of Vicksburg’s Steel Magnolias, a group of women who have either retired from the Corps or are connected to it through family.

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“The 1927 flood mural will be funded by employees, retirees and friends of the Corps,” said Ethel Pickens, a founding  member of the Steel Magnolias. “And, if you were born and raised and grew up in Vicksburg, you are definitely a friend of the Corps.”

Crear fits that description and more. “I was fortunate to have been born and raised here and to be the product of the public school system in Vicksburg,” he told the Steel Magnolias. In addition, Crear is the only Vicksburg native to serve as commander of the Corps’ Vicksburg District and Mississippi Valley Division, and as president of the Mississippi River Commission.

“If it wasn’t for the Corps of Engineers the (flood)wall would not be here,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the 1927 flood, the Corps of Engineers would not be here.”

The Corps maintains three entities in Vicksburg. The Vicksburg District, with offices on East Clay Street, is one of six regional river districts. The Mississippi Valley Division-Mississippi River Commission, headquartered downtown, oversees operations for the entire length of the river. Finally, the Engineer Research and Development Center is the largest of the Corps’ three Vicksburg operations, with facilities on Halls Ferry Road.

To donate

• Make check payable to Riverfront Murals.

• Note that donation is for 1927 Flood Mural; donations are tax deductible and can be made in memory or in honor of someone.

• Mail to: Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, 2020 Mission 66, Vicksburg, MS 39180.

• For information, call Nellie Caldwell at 601-529-7187

The 1927 flood was directly responsible for the Corps’ importance to Vicksburg, Crear said. President Coolidge moved the headquarters of the Mississippi River Commission from St. Louis to Vicksburg as a direct result of the flood and, recognizing the need for experimental models, also established Waterways Experiment Station, now operating within ERDC.

Remembering the flood and honoring the Corps with a mural on the floodwall is appropriate in fulfilling the mural project’s mission to tell the story of Vicksburg, Crear said. “The space is blank, and time is running out.”

Twenty-seven of 32 planned riverfront murals have been completed. Artist Robert Dafford and his crew are scheduled to resume work in October, Caldwell said, finishing a mural depicting Koestler’s Bakery and beginning others including the 1927 flood, Jitney Jungle and the Old Glass Kitchen, Gov. Kirk Fordice and LeTourneau. Funds are still needed for the Fordice mural, Caldwell added.

“We’re anxious to get the money so we can keep his (Dafford’s) schedule,” said Pickens. “The only problem we have is getting the information out.” Corps regulations prohibit releasing names of retirees or e-mail addresses for such purposes, so they have been relying on word of mouth. Inviting Crear to the Steel Magnolias meeting is part of that effort.

The 1927 Flood Mural Committee includes Crear, Caldwell, Pickens, Nancy Bell, Gwen Edris, David Haworth, Julie Marcy and Cindy Mathes.

The ’27 flood actually began in the summer of 1926, when heavy rains hit the central basin of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi broke out of its levee system in 145 places and flooded 27,000 square miles, causing more than $400 million in damages and killing 246 people in seven states.