Some say that the number three should be my lucky number. I have not yet
found this to be true. Why should three be my omen? I am Samuel Earl Wilson,
III born June 3, 1933, the sixth month, at 3:00 in the morning, at 506 East
Sixth Street in Mississippi’s third largest city – Hattiesburg. I am the
third child born to a mother and father, both of whom only had two other
brothers adding up to three siblings in each of their families. This is
where the sovereign ends. One of my grand aunts gave birth to 23 babies
while her sister eclipsed her by having 26 babies. “Nuf” said.
My parents were educators. My father, Samuel the second was a principal
and my mother a teacher. They were unique in that they pursued college
degrees outside the state of Mississippi; my father at Morehouse College, in
Atlanta, Georgia where he graduated with honors in 1929. My mother, Myrtle
Lee only finished two years of college before marrying my father, therefore
putting her education on hold for the time. This placed her in a higher
category than most Black school teachers in the state of Mississippi, some
of whom barely finished high school.
I graduated from Springfield High School, Route 5, Hattiesburg,
Mississippi as class valedictorian, in 1950. I must have lost some of my
brilliancy while attending Morehouse College, because it took me five years
to earn my degree. Nevertheless, I graduated. I returned home in 1955 to
accept a teaching position in Richton, MS, where I introduced the game of
basketball. Two years ago Richton won a State Championship. In 1956 to 1958,
I did my duty to my country by serving in the armed forces. Upon my
honorable discharge from the United States Army, I returned to my teaching
and coaching job in Richton. On June 3, 1959, I married the beautiful Ruby
Jewel Burkett, a Piney Woods School and Tougaloo College graduate.
After 13 years, five championships, three coach of the year awards and
serving as president of the Perry County Teachers Association, I departed
Richton to become elementary principal of a school in Collins, MS, where I
stayed exactly one year.
While working in Collins I pursued and obtained my masters degree in
earth science from the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg. I
was the first Afro-American to receive a masters degree for USM in science
in 1970, and also the second Black to receive a masters, period.
I left Collins for Rockland County, New York, and taught until I retired
in 1994, and returned to Hattiesburg to live full time. You see, I never
left Hattiesburg. We would spend ten months during the school term in New
York and two months in the summer in Hattiesburg. We know the meaning of
cold winters and hot summers.