274 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI The Home Front During World War II The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the morning of December 7, 1941, united the East Central region. In Clarke County, the newspaper pleaded for citizens to buy War Bonds. Sugar was rationed and scrap iron recycled. The Stonewall Mill started producing khaki and tenting, and the military became its biggest customer. Added to the facility were new, modern buildings and machinery. Workers saw improvements in their living conditions, such as city water and a sewage disposal system. Along with those improvements came increased wages, employee benefits, and paid vacations. Lauderdale County schools conducted air raid drills and placed large bins on site for scrap paper, metal, and rubber. African American and white schools competed on collecting the most usable scrap each month. U. S. Army guards were placed at vital locations in the city, such as railroad, rail, and highway bridges. There was a freeze on vehicular tires and a rationing of sugar. To raise money for the war, many purchased war bonds and stamps. Flintkote of Meridian announced that anyone drafted or volunteering under the new military service act would be re-employed after the war. Professor T. J. Harris urged all African American citizens, “to be present and contribute as liberally as possible, manifesting the same spirit of loyalty, devotion, and patriotism to the country that has so nobly characterized the Negro in past wars and crises through which our country has passed.” The Meridian Civilian Defense Council and Harris sponsored an African American town meeting in the city Hall’s auditorium where attendees filled out volunteer blanks to be assigned to various groups that would participate in the city’s defense work. Patriotism in the African American community was evident when they filled their quota goal for the Red Cross before the white community. They also managed to organize their own recreation center and USO for African American soldiers. The wives of African American soldiers also organized the Soldiers-Civilian Busy Housewives Victory Club. During the war, various interracial events were held to unify the races in the East Central region. Reverends Dr. N. H. Jeltz and E. A. Mays, who were African Americans, and Reverends Dr. T. M. Brownless, Alfred Mathes, and William L. Compete, Sr. from the white community, attended an event at the Meridian City Hall. Another good-will unity service was held at First Presbyterian Church on February 13, 1943. Race Relation Sunday was held on Valentine’s Day at Central Methodist Church, sponsored by the Lauderdale County Ministerial Association and the Negro Ministers’Alliance. Also, at First Baptist Church, Charles A. Wells gave a series of lectures called “Religious and Racial Persecution at Home and Abroad” comparing American prejudice to the Nazi horror. There was little change, however, in race relations in the area. Ollie Clark from Kemper County was twenty-five years old when he enlisted in the army and went through basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. A jeep driver in the 4th Division, Company H of the 8th Infantry Regiment, Clark earned a Bronze Star for taking food to isolated units during the enemy’s winter offensive. An enemy shell struck near him while he was on watch and he remained in army hospitals until 1947. Lt. Robert E. Lee of Philadelphia commanded an American tank that busted through the gates of Santo Tomas prison and set free prisoners who had been held captive since May 1942. Reported “missing in action” on May 4, 1942, Lt. Jean Kennedy, an army nurse, had been captured and held prisoner by the Japanese at Santo Tomas Internment Camp near Manila in the Philippine Islands for almost three years. She made it home to Philadelphia in March 1945. Postwar Period Sees the Rise of the Civil Rights Movement Those in the East Central region who survived the Great Depression and World War II concentrated on building back the economy. W.A. “Ancle” Cleveland, returned to his Newton hometown, finished two years of trade school, and became a woodworker making window and door components. His brother Ruben later joined him in the business. The small homegrown venture evolved into Tri-C Wood Products, a producer of furniture components, novelty items, point-of-purchase displays, architectural moldings and flooring. In 1945, The Holeproof Company, which later became Quitman Knitting Mill, made plans to come to Clarke Those in the East Central region who survived the Great Depression and World War II concentrated on building back the economy.