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Letter to the editor: Gene, we will miss you, but you still live within us

I wanted to submit a comment about Gene Presley that you all failed to report. I remember Gene when I was 17 years old and finishing high school and before going into the U.S. Army.

When Gene opened the truck stop, he was known to take blacks, like myself, and my uncle, Percy Hall, and help us with jobs. Gene was an all-around person and was well-liked by the black community in Vicksburg and Warren County.

My parents were poor, and coming out of high school, they could not send us to college. Gene and Don, mostly Gene, gave me a job at his truck stop. Gene was there every day and interacted with all his employees. He taught me a lot. I first learned how to drive an 18 wheeler because Gene and Paul Barrett’s brother taught me. They hired my uncle, Percy Hall, to run their towing business and then taught me how to drive and tow cars. My uncle, who has now passed away, learned the business from Gene and appreciated everything Gene taught him.

If you were around during that time, the dining room at other truck stops, like Klondyke, had separate areas for blacks and whites. The truck stop on Washington street (Gulf Truck Stop), had the same separate dining room and restroom separation. But when Gene opened his truck stop, he did not have those restrictions. Blacks and whites ate in the same dining room, used the same restrooms and had the best race relationships in the entire state of Mississippi. To say that Gene opened doors in regards to race relationships in Vicksburg is an understatement. Gene was a shining star with blacks during his time and his entire life. He did not look at the color of your skin and make judgments from that, Gene looked at you as a whole person, and would teach you how to be the best at what you can do.

I live in Florida now, and will be turning 65 this year. I cried when I heard that Gene had passed. He will remain in my heart for the rest of my life. Gene had an effect on all people around him, black or white. David McDonald also learned from him, and I also worked for David. Gene taught David about race relationships and made David a better person who went on to become a Warren County Supervisor.

In the black community, Gene opened the doors to equality in Vicksburg, and others followed his lead. He made Vicksburg a better place to live, and he helped blacks in Warren County to become better people.

I will miss Gene, and I am sure that everyone else from my generation that lived in Vicksburg would agree with my comments. Gene was regarded as a super person and an all-around person that was loved by the Black community, and looked up to and respected.

Gene, we will miss you, but you still live within us.

 

Anthony L Hester

Stuart, Fla.