Talking politics with the “Good Ole Boys and Gals”

A comfortably cool evening, a stunning sunset and plenty of political surmising highlighted the most recent gathering of the “Good Ole’ Boys and Gals” at Johnny Morgan’s metal barn off Hwy. 7 just north of Oxford last Thursday night.

It was a number of judicial candidates, including Tina Scott of Vardaman who is running for chancery court judge against incumbent Glenn Alderson and Carnelia Fondren, both of Oxford, that were on the microphone pleading for votes in the Nov. 4 election. But inside the barn the talk was more legislative.

Joel McNeece

I had wonderful visits with Russell Jolly of Houston, Preston Sullivan of Okolona, Rita Parks of Kossuth, Gray Tollison of Oxford, and of course my longtime friend Jim Beckett of Bruce.

Jim’s son-in-law, Chad King, a longtime political junkie himself, accompanied him to the semi-annual cookout. Chad has always been active in Mississippi politics and has lots of good stories. His father Tom, a longtime legislator, currently serves the state as Southern District Transportation Director.

More than politics, however, Chad and I  took advantage of the rare opportunity to talk Southern Miss football. A fellow USM alum, Chad agreed it’s an odd feeling when you bleed Black and Gold to be watching the amazing success of Ole Miss and Mississippi State this season. While happy for our Rebel and Bulldog friends, we both acknowledged we’re pleased with the progress in Hattiesburg under Coach Todd Monken.

I visited a long time with fellow newspaperman David Howell of Water Valley and his friend Kagan Coughlin. Kagan, a native of Vermont, is very interesting. His wife Alexe van Beuren operates the B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery on Main Street in Water Valley, which is among several Main Street buildings Kagan renovated himself to help revitalize the downtown area. He’s also a staunch supporter of public schools and improvements needed there.

It’s always good to catch up with Judge Jimmy Maxwell, son of James and Bebe Maxwell of Derma, and Paul Moore, Jr., whom I see regularly at all our meetings around the county.

I was surprised to bump into Julio, no last name needed, long time manager of the original El Charro restaurant in Oxford. There have been a lot of Mexican restaurants to come and go over the years in Oxford, but there’s never been another like El Charro. I miss it terribly.

It was an odd Good Ole Boys due to several notable absences from area folks such as John Burt, Snooky Williams, Norman Gillespie, Ottis Crocker and my late father-in-law Gale Denley.

Calhoun City Mayor J.R. Denton and A.M. Zeidman were my chaperones on this evening. We had some good political discussions on the ride up and back, all voicing frustrations with the extremists in both parties that are killing the opportunity to elect moderate statesmen, if you can even find one to run.

Most of all we enjoyed the opportunity to get together in a casual setting with so many of our governmental leaders, talk honestly about issues of the day, and know that if nothing else is accomplished, at least we made a few new friends.

Email Joel McNeece at & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece