75th anniversary of Clear Creek disaster honors Edwards’ legend Events set for Saturday

Published 1:13 pm Friday, March 28, 2014

Seventy-five years after the worst highway disaster in Mississippi history, friends, families and descendants of the victims and the Edwards man who became a local legend during the tragedy will gather Saturday in downtown Edwards to remember them.

The City of Edwards will host the 75th anniversary of the Clear Creek disaster in which 16 people died in the creek after the U.S. 80 bridge was swept away by high water on March 29, 1939.

“I was amazed at the things he did,” said Edwards Mayor R.L. Perkins. “I was very eager with trying to help them get something set up.”

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Daniel, who died 1969, is credited with diving into the high waters of Clear Creek after the vehicles went into the water, attaching cables to them, and helping pull them out to identify the victims.

Daniel, already a well-known Edwards resident, was awarded about $43 by the Warren County Board of Supervisors shortly after the vehicles were removed.

The event honoring Daniel and the victims was spurred by Clinton resident Joedda Gore, who has researched Daniel since first moving to Edwards in 1976.

She said she has been surprised at the response since her book, “Sugarman,” was published earlier this year, 33 years after she copyrighted the manuscript.

“I was unprepared for this. The book was just the springboard,” she said. “The stories are still coming to me. The way he expressed himself — he was a hero.”

Since its publication, relatives and locals whose parents knew Sugarman have sought out Gore to share their stories.

“I am beyond surprised,” she said. “I thought I had just finished the book and that was it. It’s been like Jack and the Bean Stalk since then.”

“The counties and (Edwards) city hall have worked so well together,” she added.

Friday night, descendants and family members of Daniel will gather for a family reunion.

Saturday’s events kick off at 9 a.m. with a motorcade of the victims’ families and Hinds, Warren County and Edwards officials heading to the bridge to place a wreath and unveil the memorial sign.

After the wreath-laying ceremony, people will head to Mt. Moriah M.B. Church where Daniel is buried.

“We hadn’t been able to locate a headstone and the church doesn’t have a plot-map,” Gore said. “They’re going to put a sign there in his honor.”

Earlier this month, Warren County supervisors approved the renaming of the stretch of U.S. 80 between Warriors Trail and the county line as Andrew “Sugarman” Daniel Memorial Highway.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Martin Pace agreed to donate a sign to be unveiled in the future at the bridge commemorating the victims and Daniel’s heroics.

After the memorial services, visitors can enjoy an antique car show, live music, a mule-drawn wagon, walking tours, a “Sugarman” look-alike contest, arts and crafts and street musicians.

Gore will also have a recording booth set up for people who knew or have relatives who recalled stories about Daniel.

The recordings, along with others gathered during her research, will be submitted to the United States National Archive.

For more information, call Edwards Town Hall 601-852-5461.