PHOTOS COURTESY OF HOL-MAC HOL-MAC Charles Belton Holder, Jr., life-long Mississippian and founder of Hol-Mac Corporation, was born in Louin in 1939. After graduating from Louin High School in 1956, Holder married his high-school love, Joyce Warren, and entered Jones County Junior College (JCJC) with a basketball scholarship in 1957. Following graduation from JCJC, Holder, with financial support from his wife, went on to attend the School of Engineering at Mississippi State University. Holder returned home to Louin in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and began his career when he took a job with Neco Electrical Products Corporation, located in Bay Springs. In 1963, Holder, along with his business partner, A.T. Land, established a local machine and welding shop that was located in a barn previously used to sell livestock. Six years later, Holder gave up his job with Neco in order to spend more time developing his and his partner’s business, which they had named Southern Welding and Machine Company. Shortly after leaving Neco, Holder bought Land’s share of the business and, with two more investors, newly incorporated the company as Hol-Mac Corporation. Today, Hol-Mac is a leading producer of steel products, machinery, and more, and has three separate facilities—two responsible for steel fabrication, and one for cylinders. Over the years, Hol- Mac has received nearly a dozen awards for its quality product and service. As a reminder of the company’s beginnings, the front wall of the old barn is displayed in its main steel fabrication plant. Regulatory Act (IGRA) which authorized casino gambling on Indian reservations. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) provided a regulatory framework and oversight body for the industry and the Mississippi Band of Choctaws entered the tourism industry on July 1, 1994, with the opening of the Silver Star Hotel & Casino, one of the largest casinos in the State of Mississippi. Another lucrative tourism draw on Choctaw lands was the award-winning Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, a 36- hole golf resort designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The progressive Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians still make sure that the tribe learns and speaks the traditional Choctaw language. Other Choctaw traditions like social dance, swamp-cane basketry, and creating and wearing tribal clothing during special events remain strong on the Reservation. Economic Transformation Points to a Bright Future Economic transformation in the East Central region involved tremendous changes to the railroad industry. The nation’s railroads were getting rid of unprofitable tracks, and this led to track closings and corporate mergers. The Illinois Central Gulf abandoned the old Meridian & Memphis line to Union. It also sold off the Meridian to Shreveport line to Midsouth Rail Corporation. The Mobile & Ohio lines to the north and south of Meridian were sold to the Gulf & Mississippi Railroad. The Gulf & Mississippi fell onto hard times and was bought by Midsouth Railroad, which controlled the former Illinois Central Gulf rails in and around Meridian. Southern Railway merged with Norfolk & Western and formed the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Meridian was commissioned on July 14, 1961. NAAS Meridian continued to grow, and by July 1968, the station became a full naval air station (NAS). Over the years, NAS Meridian has become a refuge for both aircrafts and people who have been evacuated from the coast because of hurricanes. The main base of NAS Meridian occupies more than 8,000 acres of land, with an additional 4,000 acres at Joe Williams Field and the target facility SEARAY. NAS Meridian trains Sailors and Marines in aviation and technical related fields. The total population served is approximately 2,300. Naval Air Station Meridian is home to Training Air Wing One, Training Squadron 9, Training Squadron 7, Naval Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Training Support Squadron One, and the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy. 296 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI