Jones College’s Honors Institute’s namesake, retired U.S. Federal Judge Charles Pickering challenges students and “cancel culture”

ELLISVILLE – Today’s issues are similar but different according to retired U.S. Federal Judge, Charles Pickering. He proceeded to share with Jones College students selected to be a part of the Honors Institute which bears his name, some of the issues he faced. Growing up in what he considered to be the “best decade,” the 1950s, Judge Pickering said the 1960s civil rights era was very different. After witnessing brutal acts against “young blacks” at a lunch counter, Pickering admitted to Jones College students is what led to his decision to take a stand in the civil rights debate.

The Jones County native and 1957 Jones County Junior College graduate said, “I couldn’t remain silent any longer. I had to choose sides and I didn’t consider anything else. I had to stand up for the rule of law,” said Pickering.

As the Jones County Attorney in 1963, the KKK took notice of his stand with minorities and threatened him. The KKK’s Imperial Wizard, Sam Bowers lived in Laurel and was convicted for the murder of Vernon Dahmer who led the fight for voter rights for African Americans. However, despite helping minorities fight for their rights, Judge Pickering was depicted as a racist in 2001, when President George W. Bush nominated Judge Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. He had been serving as the U.S. Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi since 1990, after being appointed by President George H. Bush. With his confirmation stalled in Congress, in January 2004, President George W. Bush recess appointed Judge Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was forced to retire in December 2004, after the Senate adjourned without confirming him to the federal bench.

“The Democrats filibustered, and I had to retire because I didn’t get confirmed. They made it a political-racist issue, despite support from the NAACP,” said Pickering.

His story caught the attention of Mike Wallace at CBS’s “60 Minutes” news program. Judge Pickering also shared details of his experiences with the “broken judicial confirmation process” in two books he authored: Supreme Chaos, The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War in 2006 and, A Price Too High, The Judiciary in Jeopardy in 2007.

While progress with racial reconciliation continues today, Judge Pickering noted this generation faces some issues he hoped would be resolved or farther along. JC student, Jordan Scott of Bay Springs said she was impressed with Judge Pickering’s persistence in standing up for what was not popular in his day. While her generation is forced to deal with discrimination via the Internet, she said she is thankful for the progress the U.S. has made over the years and acknowledges more needs to be done.

“As the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ we should be farther along in the fight for racial equality and reconciliation. These issues should not be just another box waiting to be checked on the ‘To-Do List.’ I hope that in the upcoming years we can successfully operate as a more diverse, unified country,” said Scott. “Not only should there be the acknowledgment of wrongdoings and reconciliation for African Americans, but there should also be acknowledgment and reconciliation for all minority groups.”

Living in the South has put race relations front and center, said JC sophomore, Faith Houston of Laurel. She believes forgiveness and communication will be key to improving race relations. Yet, she adds there is no such thing as “race” except the human race.

“We are One Blood, One Race. One Blood is something I get from my Christian worldview. The Bible does not use the word ‘race’ in reference to people. Instead, it describes all human beings as being of ‘one blood’ in Acts 17:6 KJV. Terms such as these emphasize that we are all related, from one family, the descendants of the first man and woman,” said Houston.

Judge Pickering declared in his presentation, “Racism is not systemic. Since the 1960s, secularists used free speech to be successful in changing the culture of our nation. Now, these secularists use free speech to change culture and silence Christians. The First Amendment is not to prohibit Christians, churches, from one thing. It prohibits the government from interfering with religion.”

After citing several examples of how the “cancel culture” can lead to the demise of the United States by stifling innovation and advances in society, Judge Pickering challenged students. He encouraged the audience to be the best they can be, take on bigger projects than themselves and then the Judge quoted Winston Churchill, Britain’s leader during WWII.

“In all things big and in all things small, never, never, never give up! Do your best to be an ambassador for freedom in our society and get involved.”

These challenges, Houston said, were ideas her parents instilled in her and they have led her to volunteer in her community and in political campaigns.

“This is also why I will continue to try to be my best self and never quit, as I finish college to continue to make a difference in my community in the health field,” said Houston.

For more information about Jones College’s Charles Pickering Honors Institute, check out the webpage,

Jones College honors Sarah Ishee, Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year  

ELLISVILLE – Jones College administrators and faculty honored American History instructor, Sarah Ishee and presented her with an acrylic award and check from the Mississippi Humanities Council for being selected as the college’s 2020-2021 Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year. As part of the celebration, Ishee’s presentation,” The Southernization of America,” was viewed “virtually” via the Jones College website, and on YouTube, for the first time, to ensure COVID-19 restrictions could be followed.

“To say this is an honor is an understatement,” said Ishee. “I really appreciate everyone’s support because I absolutely love what I do for a living. Teaching history and working with students is my calling. I take a lot of pride in my work.”

Ishee’s presentation bypassed focusing on the historical horrors of Southern history, including racism and low socio-economic issues and highlighted the positive, Southern influences across the U.S. and the rest of the world. The spread of the southern culture in the 21st century, especially through music and food was quite evident in Ishee’s research.

“While the south was often labeled as an undesirable variation of the American culture, in recent years it has become increasingly obvious that the south is just the opposite. It’s actually the heartbeat of our country in some respects. Many practices or interests that were once specific to the south are now widespread throughout America,” said Ishee.

The Ellisville native explained the integration of American sub-cultures happened partly because of the media influx, especially social media and because of the transient nature of the American population. Additionally, the invention of air conditioning made the south more appealing to more people and in effect, reshaped the culture of major metropolitan areas and the coast.

“Two out of three southerners are urban people…based on early returns of the 2020 census. The transformation of the south is to an extent a transformation of an urbanized society. Out of the 20 largest cities/metro areas in the U.S., eight are located in the south and many of the family’s income is increasing more rapidly in southern metro areas, further closing the gap in the north. In other words, southerners are on par with other areas outside the southern region,” Ishee shared.

In music, Ishee noted that country music was considered the “voice of the south” but now, you can find thousands of country music radio stations across the nation. Its stars are also diverse, speaking to the heart of the American lifestyle as the genre appeals to a more diverse audience. Also, musical influence from country cross-over stars from hip hop and rap are mostly based in the south. By the mid-2000s, Ishee noticed artists from throughout the south had begun to develop mainstream popularity, just like southern cuisine has become more popular across the world.

“There are several food staples of the south you can now find almost anywhere,” said Ishee. “Even though BBQ has been an American staple since colonial times, Southerners perfected the art of BBQ…and fried chicken is truly a southern dish. Thanks to fast-food restaurants and the transient nature of our population, we have brands that focus solely on fried chicken…across the U.S. and the world.”

Sweetened tea during brewing, Ishee discovered is truly a southern tradition. While northerners sweetened their tea, it is usually after the brewing process. Concluding her presentation, Ishee said while southern influences are apparent across the nation, the south has also changed. Quoting American sociologist, John Shelton Reed, Ishee shared his observations about the similarities between the south and the rest of the country.

“The south has no monopoly on racial and religious hate. More crosses are burned outside the south than in it and swastika painting has never gone down well in a region as patriotic as the south. Moving in the right direction, the south must admit its shortfalls in regard to racial inequality and socioeconomic issues. But so, must the rest of the U.S.,” Ishee shared in her presentation for the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Ishee has been teaching primarily American History and Western Civilization classes at Jones since 2009. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2005, she began working at Jones College in the Student Accounts and Financial Aid Offices while also working on her Master’s in History Education at William Carey University. In 2009, Ishee was promoted to Registrar and Assistant Director of Admissions & Records before becoming a full-time instructor in 2014.

Besides teaching and advising PTK students, Ishee is an advisor for the group she assisted in founding, the Jones College Historical Society. She is also a certified, Leadership Development Studies instructor for the Honors Humanities course. The 2002 Jones College graduate is also a member of the Mississippi Historical Society, Mississippi Professional Educators and Phi Theta Kappa Alumni Chapter.

Jones College’s JC Voices performing spring concert in Laurel

FILE PHOTO 2020 JC Voices by Jeannie Meyer

ELLISVILLE – The Jones College select chamber choir, JC Voices will present its annual spring concert, Invictus at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at First-Trinity Presbyterian Church in Laurel. After a year of enduring the restrictions and challenges brought on by COVID-19, from performing in empty concert halls when possible, to rehearsing through masks and face shields with reduced personnel due to quarantines, JC Voices will be performing a concert reflecting and honoring the unconquerable human spirit. The public is invited to attend this free event.

Conducted by Dr. Susan A. Smith, accompanied by Dr. Theresa Sanchez, and assisted by Mr. Gregory Wascoe, the theme of the concert, Invictus is based on a poem by Ernest Henley about the Latin term which translates to “invincible,” or “unconquerable,” which has been the motto of the ensemble this year.

“Regarding the poetry of Ernest Henley, and specifically, Invictus, Arthur Symons, a noted 19th-century poetry critic wrote, ‘Mr. Henley of all the poets of the day is the most strenuously certain that life is worth living, the most eagerly defiant of fate, [and] the mos’t heroically content with death.’ As expressed in the last lines of the poem by Henley, set for chorus by Joshua Rist, ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’  While the group has experienced many challenges this year, from school closures, COVID-19 diagnoses, quarantined members, family deaths, virtual and limited rehearsals with strict guidelines, and the uncertainty of when, or if, they would be able to perform live again, they have prepared an uplifting program of joy, faith, hope, and perseverance,” said Smith.

In addition to Invictus, accompanied by USM cellist, Alvaro Miranda, the chamber choir will sing comforting songs of “home going,” and “death” by Johann Sebastian Bach/Rhonda Sandberg and Stephen Paulus as well as uplifting selections from Paul Basler’s, Songs of Faith, accompanied by USM horn player, Robert Brandon. A variety of 20th-century pieces, from the French folk song J’entends le moulin to the contemporary favorite Light of Clear Blue Morning, sung by the JC Voices women, and the Scottish folk song, Parting Glass, sung by the JC Voices men, will warm your heart and give you hope during this time of uncertainty and isolation.  The Awakening, composed by Joseph Martin, concludes the concert with reflections of sadness, hope, celebration, and remembrance.

“Martin tragically lost his middle school choral teacher and his musical inspiration to a very violent death after a choral concert. This piece is written in honor of her and is composed in three sections, as described by Martin—the first a dream, or rather nightmare, where there is silence and despair, the second, a new day of hope and the end of silence, and the finale, a hymn of praise to the ‘Giver of Song.’ The final words of The Awakening, ‘Let Music Live,’ reflects the sentiment of musicians around the globe this year,” said Smith.

JC Voices dedicates the program tonight to all those who love, participate in, and support music.  Smith said she hopes the audience will never take it for granted and may we, like Ernest Henley, strive to be “unconquerable,” and “invincible.” For more information about how to support JC Voices or to be notified of our upcoming concerts and events, contact Dr. Susan A. Smith by email at, For more information about the Jones College Fine Arts Division call, 601-477-4203.

JC Voices 2021

Dr. Susan A. Smith Conductor

Dr. Theresa Sanchez Piano

Mr. Gregory Wascoe Vocal Assistant

Erin Biglane-South Jones High School, Ellisville

Chicago Collins-Brookhaven High School, Brookhaven

Brittney Darbonne-Northeast Jones H.S., Laurel

Michael DeCou-Jackson Parish, Jonesboro, Louisiana

Lydia Dees-South Jones High School, Ellisville

Hayden Dillistone-Laurel

Alyssa Garick-West Jones High School, Laurel

Savannah Greene-Sumrall

Peyton King-Sumrall High School, Sumrall Malorie

Monroe-Central Baptist School, Seminary

Stuyuncey Nobles-Laurel High School,

Laurel Jalen Poindexter-Murrah High School, Jackson

Anna Leigh Ragsdale-Mize Attendance Center, Mize

Janna Swanner-Taylorsville High School, Taylorsville

Michael C. Thompson-Laurel High School, Laurel

Bonner Welch-South Jones High School, Moselle

Jones College’s Concert Choir performing Easter concert in Laurel


ELLISVILLE – The Jones College Concert Choir is excited to return to the concert stage presenting a choral performance at Salem Heights Baptist Church in Laurel, on Sunday, April 18, at 6 p.m. It has been more than a year since the choir’s last concert performance at the First Baptist Church of Sharon. Although rehearsals and logistics have been challenging for the group to perform over the last year, Choral Director, Dr. Joel Dunlap said he is more than ready to let the public hear the talented 60-member group.

“We have missed performing for our community and are thrilled to be offering this concert after such a difficult year,” said Dunlap. “This recital will be an especially significant experience as we share the music of the triumphant Easter season.”

The public is invited to hear the concert featuring Easter selections such as, “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise,” a spirit-filled gospel, “Let Everything Hath Breath” and the choir’s signature selection, “Ascription of Praise.” Additionally, the performance will feature a small women’s ensemble singing a variety of choral works. Assisting the choir is rehearsal assistant, Alexandra Arnold and Dr. Victoria Johnson is the choir piano accompanist. For more information about the Jones Concert Choir and chorale department, contact Choral Director, Dr. Joel Dunlap for audition and scholarship information at 601-477-4803 or by email, or contact the JC Fine Arts Department at 601-477-4203.

JC Concert Choir

Allee, Ashley-Purvis, MS

Ball, Victoria-Laurel, MS

Beech, Cameron-Laurel, MS

Beech, Darcy- Laurel, MS

Blakeney, Alexis-Laurel, MS

Brown Jr., Vincent-Hattiesburg, MS

Byrd, Hannah-Laurel, MS

Byrd, ZiKeya-Fruitdale, AL

Carmichael, Coriana-Laurel, MS

Clark, Kyra-Hattiesburg, MS

Collins, Chicago-Brookhaven, MS

Dailey, Abby-Waynesboro

DeCou, Michael-Jonesboro, LA

Edwards, Jackson-Decatur, MS

Evans, Alisa-Ellisville, MS

Gable, Haley-Laurel, MS

Gaines, Jaquelyn-Laurel, MS

Gainey, Adisyn-Waynesboro

Garick, Alyssa-Laurel, MS

Glenn, Cameron-Ellisville, MS

Green, Abigayle-Starkville, MS

Greene, Savannah-Sumrall, MS

Henderson, Hannah-Millry, AL

Holland, Jonah-Laurel, MS

Johns, Chandon-Ellisville, MS

Johnson, Dariyel-Greene County

Johnson, Tahj-Greene County

Jones, Petara-Laurel, MS

Jordan, Kristen-Laurel, MS

Joshua, Jourdan-Laurel, MS

Lampley, Kyra-Petal, MS

Lewis, Janna-Stonewall, MS

Lott, Madeline -Waynesboro, MS

Malone, Kelsey-Richton, MS

Manning, Hannah-Quitman, MS

Marsh, Colby-Petal, MS

McClendon, Clairrease-Ellisville, MS

Mims, Kadin-Laurel, MS

Monroe, Malorie-Seminary, MS

Murray, Brandon-Laurel, MS

Nobles, Stuyuncey-Laurel, MS

Pippin, Kambri-Laurel, MS

Poindexter, Jalin-Jackson, MS

Purvis, Jennalyn-Petal, MS

Ragsdale, Annaleigh-Taylorsville, MS

Rodgers, Samuel-Petal, MS

Jones College’s Greene County Center offers new electrical technology program

ELLISVILLE –Last fall, Jones College’s Greene County Center in Leakesville began a new program, electrical technology program after seeing a steady demand for qualified electrical technicians. Greene County Center Director and electrical technology instructor, Alan Cook said he is excited about this new program because the job prospects look great for graduates.

“Students can choose the two-year technical program or the four-semester, Associate in Applied Science route to graduate in a field with lots of options and jobs,” said Cook. “Students learn every facet of the business including wiring a residence to programming controllers for a major manufacturing plant.”

The electrical technology program trains students in general electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, residential, commercial and industrial wiring, electrical motor maintenance, motor control systems, programmable logic controls, solid-state motor controls and automated electrical systems. Graduates can earn from $28,000 to $95,000 in annual salaries in this industry.

“Our students work with the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation. As they complete the program at JC, they can earn national certifications in Core Construction, Electrical Level 1and Electrical Level 2 through the National Center for Construction which is an industry standard. These graduates should have no trouble finding good, paying jobs with these credentials,” said Cook.

For more information about this or any of the academic, career and technical, workforce or adult education programs contact Menyone Barrow by email, or call 601-477-4238 or browse the webpage: