In early October of this year, I was traveling on the Henry S. Mosby Highway in Loudon County, Virginia, for a memorial service for the late conservationist, Maggie Bryant. Maggie owned Tara Wildlife, which is not too far south of Rolling Fork. During the Civil War, Henry Mosby was known as the “Gray Ghost” and he commanded a battalion in the 1st Virginia Calvary known as Mosby’s Raiders. He was later the campaign manager in Virginia for President Ulysses S. Grant. One of Henry Mosby’s great strengths was truth and honesty. Traveling on this stretch of highway reminded of my old friend, Ray Mosby, back home in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and how much they had a lot in common.
Almost one month later, on November 9, Mississippi lost a literary giant when Ray died of a short illness while in the hospital in Jackson. A graduate of Ole Miss with a degree in English, Ray began his career in journalism in the early 1980s at the Clarksdale Press Register. It spanned over 40 years.
Ray was one of Mississippi’s greatest newspapermen. After working at the Clarksdale Press Register, he purchased the Deer Creek Pilot, which has been in existence for 144 years. It serves as both a voice to and for the people of Sharkey and Issaquena counties, two of the poorest counties in the state. The great newspaperman Hal DeCell was the former editor, publisher, and owner of the Pilot, for 39 years to be exact. DeCell had taken on Governor Ross Barnett and the Citizen’s Council while he ran the paper. Ray was also the publisher and editor of the paper. He did that for 28 years except he also said he was the “chief cook and bottle washer.”
What set Ray apart from others was his unique gift of utilizing words to express his opinion. He was one of Mississippi’s strongest opinion writers. So much so, that every year when the Mississippi Press Association held its banquet to recognize the work of the state’s journalists, it seemed Ray was getting a first-place award. Three times he won the coveted J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence, the highest honor of the Mississippi Press Association. Like the Gray Ghost, Ray was a huge believer in truth and honesty, even when it went against his friends and advertisers, which took courage in a small town. He was also a passionate supporter of the first amendment and our right to free speech. These are traits that a lot in the media have lost, especially at the national level.
Ray Mosby was the best editorial and opinion writer in Mississippi. He was highly respected and trusted. Mississippi and the South Delta are better off because of Ray. I don’t have all the answers but I do know that the more people in the world with the traits of Ray Mosby, the better off we will be.
James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their website is www.wildlifemiss.org.