EAST CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI 287 Willie Morris wrote about this friendship in his book, The Courting of Marcus Dupree, first published in 1983. “I like him and he likes me,” Marcus had said. “It’s not hard to understand. I don’t know his father. I only met him once or twice.” By the 1990s, there was a new racial atmosphere in the East Central region. African American citizens of Shubuta held the positions of librarian, chief of police, postmaster, and bank officer. Clyde Brown became Shubuta’s first African American mayor and was the longest serving mayor in the town’s history. In the 2009 Neshoba County Democratic primary for mayor, James Young, an African American Pentecostal preacher and former county supervisor beat three-term incumbent Rayburn Waddell by forty-six votes. Four years later, Young was reelected for a second term. Percy Bland became Meridian’s first African American mayor in 2013 after defeating incumbent Mayor Cheri Barry, Meridian’s first female mayor. A Native Son and National Leader Probably no other politician in the East Central region produced more harmony among politicians and everyday citizens, or accomplished more for Mississippi and American veterans, than G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery. Born in Meridian August 5, 1920, he graduated from Mississippi State College in 1943 and immediately joined the U. S. Army to serve in the European Theater, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, Legion of Merit, and Combat Infantry Badge. Montgomery served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1956 to 1966, and as a U.S. representative from 1967 to 1997. In 1984, Montgomery revamped the original GI Bill enacted on June 22, 1944. The Montgomery GI Bill ensured educational benefits to all who served in the military. In 1990, Congressman Montgomery negotiated with the North Korean government to bring home the first set of remains of U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War. Montgomery received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Service in 1995, the highest civilian award given by the Pentagon. He also earned the Congressional Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Distinguished Service Award from the American Legion, the Silver Helmet Congressional Award from AMVETS of World War II and the National Guard’s highest honor, the Harry S. Truman Award. Montgomery was instrumental in saving Naval Air Station—Meridian, which encompasses more than 8,000 acres of land. Williams Field and the target facility SEARAY add an additional 4,000 acres. More than 4,700 military, civilians, and dependents work and live at the air station. Montgomery is one of three individuals in American history to have a military aircraft named for them. A C-17 Globemaster aircraft was named the “Spirit of G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery. On November 10, 2005, at a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush awarded Montgomery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Congressman Montgomery died May 12, 2006. A huge throng of friends and admirers including former President George H.W. Bush and former First lady Barbara Bush, attended his funeral at the Temple Theater in Meridian. Arts and Entertainment Arts and entertainment are vibrant in the East Central region. In the 1950s, Meridian’s movie theater entrepreneur Lloyd Royal became the first producer of full-length films in Mississippi. Bass Brothers Store in Enterprise was the site of a western movie filmed by the Royal Family. Parts of the movie were set in the town in which there were local and Hollywood actors. Jesse James’Women (1954) starred Don “Red” Barry and Peggie Castle. Frontier Woman (1956) starred Royal’s wife, Ann Kelly, Cindy Carson and Lance Fuller and was filmed at Dunn’s Falls in Lauderdale County. The baby in Frontier Woman, Ron Howard, grew up to be an award- winning actor and producer. In 1960, Natchez Trace starred Zachary Taylor, William Campbell, Irene James, and Ann Kelly. Another