Thursday, October 6, 2005

J.P. Woods Memorial Highway
• Portion of 309 named in honor of former supervisor

Staff Writer

Friends, family and community poured out for the opening ceremony of the J.P. Woods Memorial Highway last week at Watson.

The celebration drew about 100 who stood in cool sunny weather to hear personal stories and accolades of how the late Marshall County supervisor served his community. Highway 309 was kept up by Woods and his friends in days when gravel was dug from pits by human hands and hauled by mule teams and wagons to keep roads minimally passable.

In opening remarks, Bill Renick, executive director of Marshall County Industrial Development Authority, said J.P. Woods was “truly a great individual who thought more of his fellow man than possibly himself.”

Rev. Leon Burton in offering the invocation, gave thanks “for being able to be a part of the life of this man who did so much, built this highway and cared how it was kept up.”

Bill Minor, transportation commissioner for the Northern District, said it was the efforts of men like Woods who 30 years ago “built the roads we ride on today.”

“To Jimmy, Tommy and all your children, (I say) what he did will live on for a long time,” Minor said.

Jimmy Woods, a son of the late supervisor, traced some of the qualities that he remembered in his dad after thanking people who helped make the memorial.

“We greatly appreciate this occasion, Bill Minor and the Mississippi Department of Transportation,” he said, as he mixed humor with serious talk.

“As Tommy (Rep. Tommy Woods) will tell you, I very seldom agree with them, but on this occasion I do,” he said.

J.P. Woods exercised a dawn-to-dusk work ethic and did not ask anyone to do a task he wasn’t willing to do himself, Jimmy Woods said.

He attributed his father’s political success to work ethic. Honesty and fairness and caring for others were other attributes, Jimmy Woods remembered.

“He had care and love for his family, and his granddaughters were like his daughters,” Woods said.

Highway 309 was a road J.P. Woods traveled daily where he saw the road condition.

“This part of the road where he rode and walked daily (at Watson) was important to him,” Woods said. “Gran (Mr. J.P.) helped develop the road and during his tenure as supervisor drove the road grader.”

Woods quoted Albert Schweitzer: “Seek always to do some good serving everyman...someway everyone has to seek a way to realize his own nobility... you must give something of yourself.”

“I believe Gran did,” he said.

Rep. Tommy Woods was thankful for the ceremony and designation of a portion of Highway 309 from Watson to the Tennessee line after his dad, J.P. Woods.

He said told of how his father, uncles and others would get gravel two miles away in a pit in DeSoto county to put on the roads using pick axes to loosen the gravel and wagons to carry it to the worst spots in the road.

“They had to pull people through with tractors and mules to get their vehicles out of the mud,” he said.

When J.P. Woods was supervisor he saw that Highway 309 and Victoria road were graded twice a week, he said. He also helped drive the pilings for the bridges on the road.

J.P. Woods was born and reared in the Watson community and personally experienced the road now named as a memorial to him directly in walking, traveling on horseback, buggy, tractors and modern forms of transportation.

He was elected to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors representing District 3. He served in that capacity for 20 consecutive years, was president of the board for 12 years and served on legislative and executive committees of the Mississippi Board of Supervisors Association. In 1971, he was elected president of the Association.

Woods, a farmer, dedicated a large part of his life to public service including 37 years of tenure on the board of directors for Northcentral Mississippi Electric Power Association and 32 years’ service as president of Northcentral’s board.

Woods worked to improve what became known as Highway 309 and worked to get the state to take over maintenance for it.

J.P. Woods died in February 2004. He was preceded in death by his wife Edith T. Woods. They parented two sons, Tommy L. and Jimmy E. Woods. Woods was survived by three sisters, Laverne Carpenter, Ruby Webb and Sara Chiozza, all of Memphis, and numbers of grand, great-grand- and great-great-grandchildren.

Great-grandson Richard Woods sang a song written as a tribute to “Gran” at the Memorial Highway dedication and Jeana Benson, granddaughter, sang the National Anthem.

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