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Vicksburg in Warren County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

1953 Tornado Memorial

 
 
1953 Tornado Memorial Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2016
1. 1953 Tornado Memorial Marker
Inscription.  December 5, 1953 --- the day began in a normal way. It was warm and blustery, which we all know isn’t all that uncommon down South during the holiday season.

Christmas wreaths and decorations had been placed downtown, and shoppers filled the family-owned mom and pop stores on Washington Street. Many locals were busy planning for the Leo Puckett benefit game, in which Carr Central and Redwood schools would battle against the best from Culkin and Jett. Meanwhile, at The Saenger Theater, a crowd of children were enjoying a Saturday afternoon matinee --- having no idea what they soon would face.

Reports claimed that throughout the day it would rain and then the sun would suddenly shine again. A little after 5 p.m., the clouds became darker and rain fell intermittently. Shoppers began to go home and most store owners prepared to close. Suddenly, at 5:35 p.m., out of the southwest, tornadic winds roared through the downtown area creating destruction unlike anything seen since the Siege of Vicksburg 90 years earlier.

The tornado cut a path of complete ruin from the Mississippi River, near the mouth of the Yazoo Diversion Canal across
1953 Tornado Memorial image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2016
2. 1953 Tornado Memorial
the main business district, leveling blocks of residential areas and then disappearing into the National Military Park and the reaches beyond.

The aftermath was unbelievable --- hospitals overflowed with those injured, locals were lifted from their homes, motorists were killed as they rode through the streets, debris buried victims, phone and power lines were down and the Saturday afternoon matinee ended abruptly with children being trapped by a massive roof collapsing. Its toll --- 38 dead, over 200 injured, 1,200 or more left homeless, and a city that would have to work hard to heal the pain caused by such a disastrous beast.

For Vicksburg, the tornado not only became a painful and distressing memory in the minds of all those who experienced its wrath, but it became a benchmark and part of Vicksburg's rich history. After the tragedy, people began to refer to events as "before the tornado" and "after the tornado." The Vicksburg Post even won a Pulitzer Prize for its outstanding coverage of the tragedy. The tornado's destruction completely changed the face of the downtown area, and those store owners who worked hard to create a life for themselves and their families were forced to adapt the best way they could.

Before the tornado, many of the businesses and buildings in the downtown area were several stories high. However, after the tornado, many of these floors
1953 Tornado Memorial image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2016
3. 1953 Tornado Memorial
(marker on left • newspaper article reproduction on right)
were completely leveled or blown away. The look of downtown changed --- the business district emerged from the rubble with a modern look. New store fronts were added, and the upper stories of the businesses that were destroyed by the winds --- many of which served as living quarters --- were never rebuilt. Brick replaced wood, walls were reinforced with steel and interiors were renovated.

For residents and business owners, the process of rebuilding was monumental, yet not as monumental as trying to forget the horrible tragedy that took the lives of loved ones and destroyed the dreams of many business owners. The look of today's downtown shopping area is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of those business leaders who worked to rebuild their lives after the tornado. This Memorial is dedicated to the memory of those men, women and children who became victims on that sad December day and who will forever live in the storybooks of Vicksburg's history.

Harlan L. Fried age 3 • Robert Stanley Glatt age 9 • Brenda K. Thornell age 7 • Joyce Lee Barfield age 7 • Lawrence Paul Paine age 30 • Nicholas F. Cassino, Sr. age 59 • Mrs. Callie Townsend Tingle age 76 • Ples G. Hester age 34 • Silver Powell age 7 • Abraham Smith age 77 • Rosa Lee Bentley age 54 • Nathaniel Brown age 23 • Claudia Mae Varnado age 55 • Squire Harris age 64 • Nellie Nelson age unknown • David Ford
A Pulitzer-Worthy Paper image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2016
4. A Pulitzer-Worthy Paper
Tornado Disaster Hits City
The Sunday Post~Herald
Vicksburg, Mississippi, Sunday, December 6, 1953

At Least 15 Killed, Injured Mounts Into Hundreds; Hits From River, Moves Through Heart Of Business District

Trapped Children Dug From Theater Debris Last Night

Bill Logan Tells Of Escape From Miss. Hardware

Negro Porter Helped From Palermo’s Where One Person’s Missing
age 35 • Jack Tohill, Sr. age 57 • Roosevelt Brown age 35 • G.E. Lowery age 53 • Lindsey Groves age 2 • Alvin E. Harwood age 9 • C. Lorraine Thornell age 5 • Jack Palermo age 18 • L.M. Langran age 48 • Mrs. W.L. Ingle age 51 • Kay Warren age 17 • Exo C. Evans age 39 • Susie Hebron age 80 • Harry Dillard age 74 • Agnes Martin age 23 • Alonzo Wright age 56 • Joseph Winn age 22 • Emma Pearl Johnson age 6 • Louis Williams age 72 • Herbert Bloch age 79 • Regine Jacob age 88 • Letitia Walls age 66 • David Martin age 53
 
Topics. This historical marker memorial is listed in these topic lists: CommunicationsDisasters.
 
Location. 32° 20.952′ N, 90° 52.928′ W. Marker is in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in Warren County. Marker is on Crawford Street just east of Washington Street (Business U.S. 61), on the left when traveling east. Marker is mounted at eye-level, near the northeast corner of the intersection, facing Crawford Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Vicksburg MS 39180, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mercantile Explosion (here, next to this marker); Missing Angels (within shouting distance of this marker); Sky Parlor Hill (within shouting distance of this marker); C. S. Vaiden (Mississippi) Battery; (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line);
1953 Tornado Memorial dedication image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2016
5. 1953 Tornado Memorial dedication
This memorial was made possible by the generosity of the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County through the Leadership Class of 2003.

Julie Alberts • Christopher Barnett • Katrina Carpenter • Victor Grey-Lewis • Matthew Hannam • Debra Hullum • Susan Ivins • Audrey Jackson • Annette Kirklin • Sara Leach • Jeff Richardson • Stacey Springfield • Patty Shropshire • Beverly Steward • Judy Ward
The Red Tops (about 400 feet away); Banks and Bottles (about 400 feet away); The Blue Room (about 500 feet away); Willie Dixon (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Vicksburg.
 
Also see . . .
1. 1953 Vicksburg, Mississippi tornado (Wikipedia). A total of 38 people were killed, 270 others were injured, and damages were estimated at $25 million. It remains the fifth-deadliest tornado to affect the U.S. state of Mississippi, behind the 1840 Great Natchez Tornado, the 1936 tornado in Tupelo, the 1971 tornado in Cary, and the 1966 tornado in Jackson. It is one of just four F5 tornadoes recorded in Mississippi since 1950. (Submitted on December 21, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. December 5, 1953 Vicksburg Tornado (National Weather Service). The lack of communication infrastructure forced reporters to walk around downtown and to the police station and hospitals to gather the details of the situation. When they returned, they made notes and wrote by candlelight, according to city editor Charles Faulk. A gas outage required employees to gather charcoal to fire press plates to print the paper. There was
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also no running water to develop film, which required a reporter to fill pails with rain water. These efforts paid off, and Sunday morning edition was successfully printed. For their efforts, the paper was rewarded with a Pulitzer prize in May 1954. (Submitted on December 21, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

3. Siblings Donate Tornado Photos. Linda Allen Ledford and her brother Larry Nelson Allen gave a little of their childhood to Vicksburg. The siblings donated a total of 53 photographs from the Dec. 5, 1953 Vicksburg tornado to the Old Court House Museum. Their father, Elmo Simpson Allen Jr., shot the photos in the aftermath of the storm. (Submitted on December 21, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 21, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 20, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 47 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on December 21, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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Mar. 8, 2021