Thursday, March 10, 2011
Profile 2011: Marshall County Faces and Places
By SUE WATSON
Willie Flemon was born the son of a sharecropper but much of his life has pointed toward helping others and public service.
He served as constable 12 years, and he is in his 16th year as a Marshall County supervisor.
Flemon was born in Lafayette County west of Abbeville, the son of the late Willie and Myrtle Flemon. He was one of three children who moved with their parents north of the Tallahatchie River in or around 1940.
“My mother’s sister already lived here and we came to visit her sister to stay a week and my father loaded the truck and we moved on the William Knapp place,” he said. “He and Harvey McCrosky ran a feed store on the west side of Holly Springs.”
The Flemons loved Mr. Knapp’s place where the family sharecropped and Myrtle cleaned house for a lady on East College Avenue.
“Daddy raised cotton, corn and gardens and tended to Knapps’ livestock,” he said.
Willie Flemon attended Rosenwald School, located at what today is the middle school in Holly Springs. But he had to miss a lot of school to help in the fields, so Flemon said he didn’t get all the education he wanted.
“Mr. Knapp would make my daddy pull me out of school to harrow off the rows,” he said. “I drug the (clods off the) rows off with a two-mule log so they could plant cotton and corn.
“We were dirt poor and didn’t have decent clothes to wear, but I got all the education I could get. Times were hard then.”
After high school, Flemon married Ida Mae Lawson of Holly Springs in 1952 and went to work for Buford Furniture the same year. They had two girls, Elizabeth Ann Isom and Betty Ann Flemon, and a son, Willie James Flemon. The Flemons lost a baby girl at birth whom they named Beauty B. Flemon.
Flemon remained with Buford for 33 and a half years as a furniture delivery man and hauler. He began in July 1952, the year after a fire swept the square burning Bufords in 1951. His wife, Ida, would get on cotton trucks and go to the fields to pick cotton. She left the children with babysitters. It was tough financial times.
In 1983, Flemon ran for constable of the Southern District and took office in 1984. He continued as constable until 1996 when he was sworn in as supervisor for District 1.
As constable, Flemon served warrants and court summons and subpoenas for justice court. As constable he saw the county’s needs for better roads and infrastructure. His main goal when he ran for supervisor was to try to do something about the road conditions - most of which were gravel roads.
When he completes his fourth term as supervisor this year, he will retire from public service. Flemon said he decided not to run for office again mostly due to health problems.
“People have been wonderful to me to elect me seven times,” he said. “I will now give it up to a younger person to try to do a good job for the county.”
Flemon lives in the Meadows on North Randall Drive on the lot where he and his wife first settled. They bought their first house from Fred Swaney. That house burned in 1993 and the Flemons rebuilt.
Flemon lost his wife, Ida, to breast cancer in 1985 and he has lived the life of a widower since.
In Flemon’s first term as supervisor he served with Milton McClure, L.E. Malone, Edward Overall and Robert Lee Sims.
He has found his biggest responsibility as supervisor is to make house calls and talk to people face-to-face in his district. Then he takes their concerns to the board or invites his constituents to come to the board to discuss their issues.
He sees his job as supervisor falling into two main responsibilities – to maintain and improve roads and infrastructure and to bring jobs to Marshall County.
Flemons loves his job.
“Being supervisor has been a joy to me because I have learned a lot and travelled to seminars,” he said. “It was enjoyable and on trips I got to see things and to learn. So learning was important and provided an opportunity to understand the law a person needs to know to be a supervisor out there.”
As constable, Flemon said he also learned lessons about helping a person when they are in trouble.
“You try to talk to them with dignity and most of the time you don’t have any trouble,” he said. “You don’t let the gun and badge and your mouth go the wrong way.”
As constable, Flemon also worked security at different places at night. He also went on calls with the late Sheriff Osborne Bell and with Sheriff Jimmye Dale Green. When he was concerned about a situation, the sheriff’s department sent deputies as a backup.
In retrospect, Flemon said some things stick out in his mind as a supervisor.
Supervisors have to make tough decisions, especially concerning land use and zoning, he said.
“Sometimes you have to rule against someone because you have to follow the law,” he said. “It is a hard pill to swallow, sometimes, but it has to be done within the law. Lots of people don’t understand that the law is just the law. You can’t bend the law and you can’t break the law. And you don’t want to have to worry about going out in handcuffs. You have the state auditor and you walk a straight line.”
Flemon is a member of True Vine, where he serves as a deacon.
His daughter Elizabeth said as a child of a public servant, she is proud of her dad.
“You already respect your mother and your father,” she said. “I am happy for him because he didn’t finish school, but the Lord brought him a long way. He always says his word is his bond.”
Conway Moore, Marshall County zoning administrator, believes in Flemon and she said she is sad he is not running for another term.
“I told him he needs to run for one more term and he said, ‘I need to go to the house,’ ” she said.
Flemon is a person she has known and respected long before he was elected supervisor and a man with an impeccable reputation.
“He is one of the best men I know,” she said. “I do love him. I know if I call him, he’s coming. He’s really a wonderful man. When he’s your friend, he’s your friend in good times and bad. And he knows you wherever he sees you.”
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