One free on bail in Walmart theft

Published 10:14 am Thursday, October 8, 2015

There’s been a lot of talk this week on this page of the paper about the power of the press and how newspapers shape and reflect the community.

An often-overlooked aspect of journalism is how stories affect the men and women dedicated to providing an objective look at reality. Often we are learning right alongside our readers.

I’ve learned a lot in my almost four years in Vicksburg, and here are some of my favorite lessons.

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• There is literally no length retired Vicksburg police Sgt. Doug Arp won’t go to on his crusade to raise awareness for National Night Out. Despite numerous health ailments — including what’s believed to be a nasty spider bite this year — Arp is truly dedicated. It’s been a pleasure to get to work with him on a number of stories over the years. The most memorable to me is from 2013 when I have the privilege of telling how Doug fell in love with National Night Out and that only his caring for his dying wife had ever slowed him down.

• Vicksburg and Warren County are full of heroes. The men and women who serve this community in law enforcement and the fire service are some of the best around. This community is truly blessed. Some I’ve gotten to know better than others but the story that always sticks out to me is that of former fireman Jimmy Gibbs who died in May 2012. Gibbs was the sole survivor of Vicksburg Fire Department’s deadliest day and was severely injured trying to save the lives of his fellow firefighters.

• The 150th anniversary of the Vicksburg Campaign was a huge event for this city, drawing tourists from around the globe. I was fortunate to see every single event by every ranger in Vicksburg National Military Park during the sesquicentennial and to attend a number of events at the Old Court House Museum. It might be a surprise to some of my regular readers, but I knew virtually nothing of the siege before I moved here. I can now almost recount it in my sleep thanks to the wonderful job this community does at interpretation.

• In Warren County, love will find a way, and usually somehow the Rev. Johnny Williams is involved. Williams has performed more documented weddings than anyone else in Warren County. I talked to him Wednesday and he had passed the 370 wedding mark.

• The struggle for true freedom was grueling for black residents of Vicksburg. In 1964, someone whose identity is still unknown tossed a stick of dynamite into the Freedom House, which was the home to one family and a number of civil rights workers. The massive amount of books in the house’s library absorbed the blast. Had the attack been successful, Vicksburg rather than Philadelphia would have been known internationally for the slaying of civil rights workers. Henry Hunter was inside the home when the blast happened. He and John Ferguson both shared with me vivid memories of being shot at for registering black voters. I’m privileged they allowed me to tell their stories.

It’s been a good time here in Vicksburg. Thanks, each and every one of you for all the memories.

Josh Edwards has been a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post for the last four years. He has accepted an editing job at a newspaper in his native Texas. Today is his last day at The Post.