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.