Old Depot Museum celebrating Black History Month

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mayor George Flaggs talks with Lamar Roberts in the Old Depot Museum.

Mayor George Flaggs talks with Lamar Roberts in the Old Depot Museum.

The Old Depot Museum is celebrating black history month with planes, ship paintings, and a miniature statue of Mississippi’s most famous African-American aviator.

The models and artwork are part of a display celebrating Hattiesburg native Ensign Jesse LeRoy Brown, the first black U.S. naval pilot. Brown was killed in action during the Korean War.

“I think this is a great addition,” Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said during a visit to the museum Thursday.

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The model of Brown’s Corsair, the warship named in his honor and other items are permanent displays at the museum, Lamar Roberts, owner of the museum said.

“They were always here. We just grouped them together,” he said.

The USS Jesse L. Brown was the first naval ship named after an African-American. It was christened in 1972.

“There are about 100 ships named after Mississippians. We have about half of them,” Roberts said.

The Old Depot Museum plans to rotate special displays every few months.

“A museum is a living organism. It’s not dead. You’ve got to make sure it’s something alive and something people want to come back to,” Roberts said.

In 1948, Brown became the first black man to graduate naval flight school and earn his golden wings. On Dec. 4, 1950, Brown’s plane was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Lt. Thomas Hudner, a white pilot from Massachusetts, crash-landed his plane in an attempt to save Brown but was unable to rescue his fellow pilot from the wreckage.

For his actions, Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Before Brown died, Hudner promised he would return for him. In 2013, Hudner returned to North Korea, but was unable to return Brown’s remains to the U.S.

This week the Old Depot Museum also put on display models of an iconic downtown building and a modern-day towboat.

Model builder Robin Burr of Jackson donated a replica of Planters Hall, and Bob Lochart of Chester, Ill., donated a model of the MV David L. Fields.

Planters Hall originally opened as Planters Bank in 1834. It withstood the Civil War and a deadly 1953 tornado that damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in and around downtown.

The model is the seventh donated by Burr, who gained interest in model making after constructing miniature railroads.

“I decided building the buildings was alot more fun than laying track and running electricity,” he said.

The MV David L. Fields was originally built in 1974, and the 145-foot boat has a draft of 11 feet 4 inches.