Vicksburg: From sleepy southern town, to progressive and forward-thinking

Published 2:05 pm Wednesday, January 8, 2020

With the exception of noise from fireworks going off all around the neighborhood, the new year eased its way into my home.

The night’s bowl games were slowly ending and my family was slowly turning in after the usual “happy new year” greetings as the clock hit 12.

And for me, it was a milestone.

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I’m beginning my seventh decade on this earth; something that in my much younger years I just couldn’t imagine. Later this year I hit 70. To my mind and those of my friends back in our teens, that seemed ancient — it was just amazing that someone could get that old and maintain a “real life” because obviously at that age people get senile.

Now, as I hit this time in my life, things don’t seem as dire as they did when I was younger. I’m not senile (yet), and despite being in the news business I have a life.

But I’ve also realized something else. I’ve seen a lot of history.

My life, like that of other baby boomers, has spanned four wars, 12 presidents, numerous hurricanes, tropical storms and other disasters and seen a man walk on the moon.

I’ve watched my LSU tigers win three national championships in 1958, 2003 and 2007, and go through eight coaching changes. With luck, I’ll see them win a fourth Monday night. I’ve lived in three states and 10 cities, visited seven states and suffered through one of the worst mosquito and black fly infestations in the state of Vermont.

I’ve covered two presidents, spent two days aboard the USS John C. Stennis, flown with a member of the Navy’s Blue Angels and flown with hurricane hunters into Hurricane Francis in 2004.

In 2011 I came to Vicksburg, and in the years since arriving here, I’ve watched this city move from what some might call a sleepy southern town into a city that’s on the move with a progressive city government and an equally impressive and forward-thinking economic development group.

Besides The Post, two things that attracted me to the area were the Mississippi River and the Vicksburg National Military Park. Growing up on the river in Baton Rouge, I’ve always been fascinated by the Mississippi. The Military Park is a fascinating place to visit to learn what happened here during the Civil War, and I’m happy there are plans to expand its reach to help tell the full story of the Siege.

During my time here, I’ve covered the annual Mardi Gras parade and gumbo cook-off, and tragic events like the 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2019 floods. One thing I’ve learned from the floods and other disasters in Warren County is the area’s reputation for helping those in need is well deserved.

I’ve been amazed at the willingness of people to help others in their time of need, and it’s one of the most outstanding attributes the people here have. It makes up for all the other events that occur and makes me question human nature.

As I go through the first year of a new decade and face my own aging, I’ve had some people ask me when I plan to retire; I’ve told them, “When I win the Powerball.” I plan to continue writing as long as I can because there is a lot happening in Vicksburg and Warren County and I want to chronicle as much of it as I can to tell the story of an area on the move.

I’m starting my 70th year on earth, and I believe being here is the best place to be.

 

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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