EAST CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI 295 EAST CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI 295 software, and accessories. Since then, Peavey has been inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame, International Music Products Association Hall of Fame, the Rock Walk of Fame and the Vintage Guitar Hall of Fame. A recipient of the Musikmesse International Press Association Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement award, Peavey has also received an honorary doctor of creative and performing arts degree from Mississippi State University. Walk of Fame star recipient, actor, author, and producer Sela Ward, has also received an Emmy and a Golden Globe award. But her greatest role has been to combat homelessness and child abuse. Ward founded Hope Village for Children, a state-of-the-art campus in Meridian for abused and neglected children and since its opening, the Hope Village staff, programs and volunteer programs have nurtured thousands of children. Sela’s word to her Hope Village for Children is to, “Believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to. And persevere, because when you get knocked down you have to get up again and go back out.” In an earlier interview, Sela said she believed Mississippi could be a model for the rest of the country in terms of how to revamp the foster care system. That model began in East Central Mississippi at Hope Village for Children. Choctaws Enter a New Era The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians had struggled for generations until Philip Martin, a Choctaw, left his position at the Tribal Council in 1966 to become director of the new Choctaw Community Action Program where he served until 1971. In the early 1970s, unemployment on the reservation had risen to nearly 80 percent. In 1979, Martin was elected as chief and under his direction the tribe started Chahta Enterprise, the first manufacturing company, which produced wiring for automakers and other electronic systems. Chief Martin successfully lobbied for government grants to build an eighty-acre industrial park and worked with Philadelphia officials to issue bonds to attract American Greetings Corporation to the reservation industrial park. In 1981, the 120,000 square-foot American Greetings plant provided about 250 jobs for the local community. Partnering with Oxford Speaker Company out of Chicago, Choctaw Electronics Enterprise opened as the Tribe’s first joint-venture in 1985. Also in the ’80s, the Tribe opened the Choctaw Residential Center and a community retail shopping center that employs approximately 100 people. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming A&B ELECTRIC COMPANY James D. “Jimmy” Alexander established A&B Electric Company in Meridian in 1974. Since then, the company has grown to become a two-state operation with locations in Meridian and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and serving a variety of customers across both states. A&B Electric has worked with partners to handle massive industrial, commercial, and gaming projects in both states. Some of A&B’s most prominent and successful projects in Mississippi include East Mississippi Correctional Facility, Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, Keesler Air Force Base, Horseshoe Casino and Hotel, Beau Rivage Hotel, and Louie Dreffus Commodities Barge Loading Facilities. Today, A&B Electric Company remains a family- owned-and-operated business dedicated to providing quality electrical contracting service to Mississippi and Alabama. GIPSON STEEL, INC. Following a twenty-three-year career in the steel industry, E.M. “Hoot” Gipson established Gipson Steel, Inc. in Meridian in 1976. For more than four decades, Gipson Steel has experienced great success and developed a quality reputation working for customers in California, Michigan, New York, and more, as well as for countries outside the United States including Aruba, Guatemala, Togo, and Latvia. Mr. Gipson previously served as president of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors. In 2000, Gipson and his company donated a steel sculpture to Mississippi State University’s College of Engineering in order to foster a hands- on learning approach to steel framing and connections. Today, Gipson has close to eighty employees and fabricates more than 7,000 tons of steel each year. PHOTO COURTESY OF GIPSON STEEL, INC. PHOTO COURTESY OF A&B ELECTRIC COMPANY