Laurel pays tribute to Oldest Living Former Councilman Joe H. Norman

Posted on: May 24, 2023

The City Beautiful’s oldest living former councilman, Joe H. Norman, celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday, May 19th, 2023 and was visited by Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee as part of his birthday celebrations.

Norman represented Ward 3 on the city council from 1989 to 1993. He was preceded in that position by Wayne Walters and succeeded by David Ratcliff. His term was served under Mayor Sam Lindsey, III who was mayor from 1989 to 1993 before being succeeded by Mayor Susan Vincent.

Norman’s first council meeting as a representative was a special called meeting held on Saturday, July 1st 1989 wherein he was nominated to serve as City Council President for the 1989-1990 term. He was nominated by Councilman O.O. Price and unanimously voted into the position.

Norman was born and raised in the house on 5th Avenue where he currently resides. As a young man, he began working with Exxon Mobile, which was also known as Humble and Esso. His career enabled him to travel the world. Lately, he and his long-time family friend, Kathy, have been marking all of his travels on a map of the world poster that she gave him. “We wanted to put a pin in everyplace that he had lived but we ran out of thumbtacks,” Kathy said.

While Norman was traveling the world, he lived in several countries including Australia and Saudi Arabia. Although, he said that his favorite place to live was Laurel, “London was nice, too,” he confessed.

Upon retiring from the oil company, he started his own consulting business and owned the gospel radio station, WEEZ/WAML in downtown Laurel where Texas Pitmaster BBQ is today. (Kathy’s father later bought the station from him.)

Joe Norman and his wife, Beverly, had three children. Sadly, Mr. Norman has survived Beverly and two of their children. His surviving son, Bill, is in his 70s and lives in Texas. The Normans have several grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were able to spend many years providing scholarships to students at William Carey University as part of their legacy of kindness and generosity.

“He has been a big contributor to Laurel,” Kathy said.

The surprise drop-in by Mayor Magee was planned by Norman’s caretaker Angela Milsap who explained that she wanted to see the occasion marked with something special because “Ninety-seven years is a blessing.”

For his part, Mr. Norman seemed to take the occasion in stride. “I don’t feel like I’m 97,”he said. When asked how old he did feel, he said, “Twenty-two!” and grinned.

He credited taking care of himself, working hard, and trusting in God for his longevity.

Laurel Celebrates National Nursing Home Week in Style

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The City of Laurel strives to provide a high quality of life for all citizens and seniors are no exception. From May 14th to May 20th the City recognized National Nursing Home Week and honored those who are providing services to and receiving services from our many excellent nursing care facilities.

On Monday, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee visited Comfort Care Nursing Home to greet the residents and staff and to present them with a proclamation in honor and recognition of National Nursing Home Week.

The mayor’s appearance was one of many activities staff had planned for residents to celebrate the week. Nursing Home Administrator Alex Pippen explained, “National Nursing Home Week is something we celebrate every year. It’s a celebration of our staff and our residents. The theme this year is ‘Cultivating Kindness’ and we will focus on the state of Mississippi this year.”

Each day of the week featured a theme based on an aspect of Mississippi life and history and featured special meals and activities around that theme. On Monday, staff and residents were encouraged to wear shirts or jerseys representing their favorite local sports teams for “Sports Day.” They met with Mayor Magee in the morning and had a special “sports social” that afternoon.

On Tuesday, residents celebrated “The Blues/ 1950s Day”; Wednesday was “Dress Like You are On the Farm Day”; Thursday was “Coastal Day”; and Friday was “Home Town Day”.

Tuesday featured the most events with a special musical guest, a visit from Home Town’s Ben and Erin Napier, an Elvis impersonator, and a homemade ice cream social.

The Napiers dropped in to say hello to the residents and staff and to answer questions they had about them and their show. “This place is special for us,” Ben explained as he recalled that he had performed there in a Christmas program with the Jones College choir the week that he and Erin started dating. After that, the two of them would go to Comfort Care to eat lunch with Erin’s grandmother, Ouida Walters Rasberry, who was once a resident of the facility.

Afterwards, Minister Lena Bender and saxophonist Doug Berry performed jazz and blues favorites for the residents following a quick prayer led by Bender. “It makes me happy to know that I make them happy,” she explained. “Every time I see them, we’re going to talk about love.”

National Nursing Home Week is recognized each May, often with special programming and extra involvement from members of the local community. “It means a lot to have the support of the mayor and the support of the community,” Pippen said. “We’re very thankful for the community and the community support.”

For more photos, check us out on Instagram at Laurel_MS!

The proclamation read as follows:

In Honor and Recognition of National Nursing Home Week May 14 to 20, 2023

WHEREAS, we honor and respect our elders and citizens of any age who reside in skilled nursing home centers in Laurel, Mississippi; and,

WHEREAS, the citizens of Laurel and Jones County now residing in nursing homes have contributed immeasurably to the heritage, success and growth of our community; and

WHEREAS, our nursing home residents of any age or ability are themselves living history and a precious resource that should be treasured by all Mississippians; and

WHEREAS, the staff and volunteers in nursing homes help residents live life to their fullest potential by providing a holistic approach to long term care and who sacrifice time and effort each day in doing for others; and

WHEREAS, South Central Regional Medical Center’s Comfort Care Nursing Home is holding events in observance of National Nursing Home Week, May 14 to 20, 2023, using this year’s theme of “Cultivating Kindness,” inspired by the many acts of kindness that happen in skilled nursing homes every day

NOW THEREFORE, I, Johnny Magee, Mayor of the City of Laurel, urge all citizens to visit a loved one, family member or friend residing in any care setting and offer a kind word, a personal touch, and spend time with those from all walks of life in need of our continuing love and support.


Spring sees businesses rejuvenated, growing in City Beautiful

Posted on: May 23, 2023

As the mild (and stormy) spring season draws to a close in South Mississippi and summer approaches, many business owners can say that Spring 2023 proved to be a season of rejuvenation and growth.

One such business is Holi-Daze Décor and More owned by Corbin Holifield, 21, and his mother Missy Holifield, 53. Their business, located at 3239 Old Bay Springs Road, began in February 2022.

Corbin and his parents are originally from Laurel but lived in Tennessee for many years where Missy Holifield and her husband owned and operated a body shop. They moved back home to be closer to family and Corbin began taking business classes at Jones College. “He’s a business minded person,” Missy explained.

As he learned more about running a business, Corbin decided to start his own and enlisted his mother as a business partner. The family had been reselling items online and at their own booth at The Rusty Chandelier for many years and decided to expand that effort into a store of their own. In August 2022, they opened their store in its current location and celebrated with a grand opening ribbon cutting.

In December, a series of storms caused major damage to the roof and they had to move everything out of the store and close the location while the roof could be replaced. In the months that followed, the Holifield’s spent their down time to rework their business plan and decided to put a stronger focus on supporting local artists and other local businesses. Part of that determination came from the support they themselves received from local businesses such as The Duck Blind, Grits & Some, and others who helped promote their business and provide spaces for them to operate while they waited for the repairs to their store to be completed. “They were a blessing,” Missy said of her fellow small business owners.

“That is the spirit of Jones County,” Jones County Chamber of Commerce Director Chris Tullos said during the store’s grand re-opening April 19th. To celebrate the occasion, the Jones County Chamber of Commerce and members of the community joined the Holifield family for a new ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a tour of the store and refreshments.

The store is open on the first and third Wednesday-Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and features a variety of new, antique, and vintage clothing, collectables, and home décor items.

While Holi-Daze Décor and More found rebirth in Laurel this spring; another business found growth.

Vigilant Health, a healthcare organization with offices across the south, opened its newest branch at 1104 West 1st Street. The Jones County Chamber of Commerce, members of the South Central Regional Medical Center staff, and members of the local community were on hand to celebrate the facility’s ribbon cutting at 1:30 p.m. on May 9th. Vigilant Health is an organization that partners with employers to provide healthcare services and resources to employees with chronic health conditions. Their first partner in Laurel is South Central Regional Medical Center but they expect to expand their services to other employers and employees in the area. They also accept patients on the Magnolia Health Plan, and the BCBS State and School Employee Health Care Plan. They anticipate that the services they offer will help patients manage chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes and will make other doctor’s office visits faster and more efficient.

Rising First Grader Meets Mayor Magee

Posted on: May 18, 2023

YaShea McSwain, age 5, is a rising first grader at Unlimited Dreams Christian Learning Center who was selected to provide the welcome address at her kindergarten graduation ceremony. She visited City Hall on Thursday afternoon and met with Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee. She wanted the meet Mayor Magee after learning about him at her graduation ceremony. “She is a very bright little girl and we are excited to congratulate her on being a first grader!” Mayor Magee said.

Laurel gears up for 32nd Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day

Posted on: May 9, 2023

On Friday, May 5th, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee met with local letter carriers and the directors of local food pantries to proclaim Saturday, May 13, 2023 Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day in the City of Laurel.

This year’s event marks the 32nd year for food drive hosted by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Since its inception in 1991, the annual food drive has collected and distributed more than 1.82 billion pounds of food.

Each year on Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day, residents are encouraged to place non-perishable food items in or near their mailboxes for their letter carrier to collect. All of the items collected by letter carriers are distributed to local food banks.

Items collected in Laurel will benefit the Good Samaritan Center and the Glory House Ministries’ Bread of Life Center. Both organizations provide food to people in the community and operate on a combination of support from the Mississippi Food Network, the United Way of the Pine Belt Region, and, most importantly, private donations from community members.

“Every can helps,” Beverly Odom, Director of the Good Samaritan Center said. Her organization provides 200 to 250 hot plate lunches to those in need each day Monday through Friday and expect for that number to increase as schools let out for the summer. “Drive through and we’ll hand you a plate out,” she said. “Anyone can drop in and get a good meal. We are all about nutrition. It’s not just a sandwich and a bag of chips.”

They also help provide groceries to families in the community. “The elderly depend on us to supplement what they can’t do,” she said. “It makes you feel good to know that you are contributing to help someone else.”

The Bread of Life Center, a part of Glory House Ministries, focuses on sending bagged groceries home to families in need and provides dried beans and pastas, canned foods, and fresh meat and produce to 900 to 1,000 families in 10 counties.

“These kinds of things help keep us alive,” Director Grant Staples said of community food drives including the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day.

Shareka Cooley, Vice President of the National Association of Letter Carriers, has been with the post office for four years and is looking forward to heading up what will be her first Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day. “Last year we had a good turnout, but we’re expecting more than ever this year,” she said. “It’s very important for people in the community to participate. It’s easy to do and it’s an honor to be able to help the less fortunate.”

Those wishing to participate may place non-perishable, non-expired food items including peanut butter, canned goods, rice, dried beans, pastas, powdered milk, wheat, flour, and corn meal, in or near their mailboxes on May 13th for their letter carriers to collect. Pantries can not distribute items that are past their use or sell by dates.

The proclamation read as follows:

Whereas, every year on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers across the country collect non-perishable food as part of the nation’s largest one-day food drive, distributing donations to local food banks; and,

Whereas, The Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is just one example of how letter carriers work to make a difference in the lives of those they serve, having collected and distributed more than 1.82 billion pounds of food since inception of the program in 1991; and,

Whereas, The City of Laurel wishes to recognize all letter carriers for their hard work and their commitment to their communities- but especially those in our own community whose efforts benefit those in need here in the Laurel/Jones County area; and

Whereas, We also recognize the noteworthy milestone of 32 years that the National Letter Carrier Food Drive celebrates in 2023.

Now, therefore, I, Johnny Magee, Mayor of the City of Laurel, Mississippi, do hereby proclaim Saturday, May 13, 2023 as Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day in the City of Laurel and urge all citizens to join me in supporting the food drive by placing non-perishable food items in or near our mailboxes on May 13 for pick-up by our dedicated mail carriers, so that together, we can all help to feed our hungry.

The Junior Auxiliary of Laurel Presents Scholarships to Local Seniors

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On Monday, April 10th, the Junior Auxiliary of Laurel presented fourteen scholarships to Jones County seniors at the 2022-2023 LJA Scholarship Banquet.

Each year, the Junior Auxiliary of Laurel awards scholarships to Laurel/Jones County students who are chosen through an application and interview process. Twelve recipients received Shareholder Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each and two recipients received the Humanitarian Scholarship, in the amount of $1,500 each.

The Shareholder recipients included Claire Flowers (SJH), Abby Howard (SJH), Emma Kennedy (LCS), Devin Lucas (SJH), Mary Bradley McCardle (SJH), John Brooks Milham (LCS), Laken Minchew (LCS), Chloe Mouannes (LCS), Grace Travis (LCS), Bailey Tucker (WJH), J.T. Pickering (LCS), and Amiah White (LHS).  Katye Freeman from LCS and Xavier Washington from LHS were the recipients of the Humanitarian scholarship.

Both Freeman and Washington said they were humbled and thankful to receive the scholarships.


Walmart to host Wellness Day May 6

Posted on: May 5, 2023

Walmart will be hosting a wellness day on May 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to provide free health screenings and free and low-cost immunizations, and the opportunity to talk with a local Walmart pharmacist.


The goal of Walmart Wellness Day this quarter is to help customers prepare for a healthy and safe summer with an emphasis on First Aid kits and sunscreen. Customers can also participate in free health screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, and more. Insurance is not required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, which is available at no cost, and other vaccines are covered under most major insurance plans.

Holy Economic Boom, Batman! Laurel Celebrates Another Ribbon Cutting!

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While they don’t have capes, or go on crusades, Mark and Will Davis have put a heroic effort into bringing comics to the Pine Belt. The brothers and lifelong pop culture enthusiasts started selling and trading comics and collectables a few years ago. At first, they kept their spidey-swapping online; later attending shows to sell their wares, but once they decided to commit to running a retail space, they had a few big decisions to make.

They soon went from thinking about the “Foot Clan” and started thinking about foot traffic. They decided that downtown Laurel would feature more foot traffic than anywhere else they could set up locally. “Laurel is a cozy little town and people get to get out and walk around town,” Mark explained. “It just made sense.”

After that, they had to decide on a building. They found a location that they liked but had a hard time locating the owner. They decided to keep looking, but they couldn’t find anywhere they liked as much as the storefront at 320 Oak Street. They were finally able to get the right contact info and started a two-week non-stop effort to transform the inside of the shop into the perfect hangout for collectors.

On Friday, April 28th, at 1:30 p.m. the Jones County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of that feat of strength and to congratulate the brothers on officially opening up their store, Fraction Comics.

“Downtown is filling up with things that people need and things that people want,” Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee said during the brief ceremony. “We thank you for being a part of downtown. We thank you for being a part of Laurel.”

While the store officially specializes in comics, toys, and vintage memorabilia and collectables; Mark and Will unofficially specialize in hospitality. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, they emphasized that they want to build relationships with their customers so that they can personalize their experiences. “If we find something that you are looking for, we will contact you personally,” Will explained. So, when a collector comes in looking for something very specific, they will find it in the store, or know to be on the lookout for it. However, those who just wish to browse are also welcome to check out the store. “I don’t sell used cars,” Mark joked, “You don’t have to feel obligated.”  Its just “your friendly, neighborhood” comics store!

Fraction Comics is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed on Wednesday and Thursday.

ICYMI: City of Laurel Celebrates 40th Year as a Tree City USA Member

Posted on: April 28, 2023

A Chinese proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” The City Beautiful has excelled at both and established a long-standing tradition of planting and caring for trees throughout the city. This dedication has earned the City of Laurel the recognition of the National Arbor Day Foundation who recently awarded the city its 2022 Tree City USA designation.

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, to promote municipal participation in tree management activities and in the observance of Arbor Day.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “Laurel achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: maintaining a tree board or department, having a tree care ordinance, dedicating an annual community forestry budget of at least $2.00 per capita, and hosting an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.”

The City of Laurel has received this designation every year since 1982, making this year’s award it’s 40th. According to a 2021 fact sheet from the Arbor Day Foundation, Mississippi only has 22 Tree City USA communities. These include Laurel, Ellisville, Biloxi, Cleveland, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Horn Lake, Lucedale, New Albany, Oxford, Starkville, Walnut Grove, Gulfport, Hernando, Long Beach, Meridian, Ocean Springs, Ridgeland, Tupelo, and Waveland and the campuses of Camp Shelby’s Joint Forces Training Center and Keesler Air Force Base.

The City of Laurel is the state’s longest standing tree city with Biloxi (39 years) and Tupelo (36 years) close behind.

“Tree City USA communities see the positive effects of an urban forest firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “The trees being planted and cared for by Laurel are ensuring that generations to come will enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, participation in this program brings residents together and creates a sense of civic pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”

“Over the last few years, the value and importance of trees has become increasingly clear. Cities and towns across the globe are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use. Laurel has taken steps to create a brighter, greener future,” Lambe wrote in a letter congratulating Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee on the city’s accomplishment.

To mark the event, Dionne Rhodes, Roland Dean, Devonta Moffett, and Carl McClendon of the City of Laurel Public Works Department and Sandra Bateman, Cathy Padgett, and Terri Knight of the Laurel Tree Board met with Mayor Magee on Friday, February 10th to plant a bald cypress at Euclid Park, a 4.5 acre park between 5th and 6th Avenue, and an oak tree at Mason Park, located on 7th Avenue.

Arbor Day will be celebrated on Friday, April 28, 2023.

For more information about Mississippi’s Tree Cities please visit:

For more information on the Arbor Day Foundation, please visit

National Crime Victim’s Rights Week observed April 23rd – April 29th

Posted on: April 27, 2023

On Friday, April 21st at 11 a.m. victims’ rights advocacy organizations, members of law enforcement, civic leaders, and survivors of violent crimes met at Laurel City Hall to kick off National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee signed a proclamation to mark the occasion. Since then, the Shafer Center in Laurel has been posting photos of community leaders throughout the Pine Belt wearing tee shirts in support of crime victims and providing informational graphics about sexual abuse and other forms of violent crime.

During the proclamation signing on Friday, Teressa Ellzey of the Shafer Center, thanked everyone for coming together to show their support for the victims of crime and their families. Several community members, including surviving families of individuals lost to violent crimes, shared their thoughts and appreciation for the community for their support.

Patricia Pettis shared that her grandson Xavier Davis, 32, was killed in 2021 after arguing with another young man. “We lost our grandson in 2021. It’s something you don’t get over,” she said. “We are so glad to see all of y’all,” she said pointing out that community support has provided comfort to her family as they continue to grieve the son, grandson, and father that they lost. “The community is good. It means a lot that they care.”

The proclamation read as follows:

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 23-29, 2023

WHEREAS, being a victim of crime and navigating the criminal justice system can be a frightening and confusing experience;

WHEREAS, progress in improving the treatment of crime victims has been made through the efforts of thousands of victims and survivors who have turned their own experiences into a force for positive change, ensuring that others can receive justice, meaningful assistance, and compassionate treatment before the law;

WHEREAS, since the passage of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, and through the dedicated work of advocates, lawmakers, and victim service providers, there is a growing array of services and resources available to victims and their loved ones;

WHEREAS, honoring the rights of victims—including the rights to be heard and to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect—and working to meet their needs rebuilds their trust in the criminal justice and social service systems;

WHEREAS, individuals’ trust in the compassion, understanding, and support of their communities is achieved through sustained, deep-rooted, and coordinated outreach;

WHEREAS, identifying, reaching, and serving all victims of crime—especially those from groups that often have less access to healing services and avenues to justice—is essential;

WHEREAS, our community’s continued engagement with the challenges faced by victims of crime will ensure that the progress made to date is not lost, and that new ground is broken to gain greater justice and healing for all victims.

WHEREAS, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week provides an opportunity to recommit ensuring that accessible, appropriate, and trauma-informed services are offered to all victims of crime; and

WHEREAS, The City of Laurel and Jones County advocates are hereby dedicated to supporting victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime, building trust among our clients, collaborating with other service providers, and engaging our community in response efforts.

Now, therefore, I, Johnny Magee, Mayor of the City of Laurel, do hereby proclaim the week of April 23-29, 2023, as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in the City of Laurel,  reaffirming our commitment to creating a victim service and criminal justice response that assists all victims of crime during Crime Victims’ Rights Week and throughout the year; and expressing our sincere gratitude and appreciation for those community members, victim service providers, and criminal justice professionals who are committed to improving our response to all victims of crime so that they may find relevant assistance, support, justice, and peace.