A private graveside service was held Saturday April 4 at Cedarlawn Cemetery in Philadelphia for revered Mississippi folklorist, essayist, poet and teacher Ovid S. Vickers of Decatur, who died March 31, 2020. He was 89.
Rev. Walton Jones, Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville, officiated. Milling Funeral Home in Union was in charge of the service.
For 40 years, from 1955-1995, his most rewarding professional achievement was expanding the minds of freshman and sophomore students as a beloved English instructor and department chair at East Central Community College in Decatur. Along with bringing to life for students such literature classics as Beowulf, Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales, Vickers also choreographed many college musicals, emceed numerous campus events, and greatly influenced the lives of thousands of college students.
Born in Gadsden, Alabama in 1930 and raised in Dodge County, Georgia, he moved to Decatur in 1953 at the young age of 23 after serving as a U.S. Army Infantry School instructor while stationed at Ft. Benning during the Korean Conflict. He spent the rest of his life in Decatur where he shared his love of “the folk” of the South, entertaining audiences at speaking engagements in local, state and regional venues, from small community civic gatherings to national conventions.
He was educated in the public schools of Dodge County, graduating from Chauncy High School in 1948. He then entered George Peabody College for Teachers (now Vanderbilt University’s School of Education), receiving his bachelor and master’s degrees there. He later returned to Peabody to earn an Education Specialist degree.
Vickers’ short stories, essays and poems have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and mainstream media publications such as Southern Living, Mississippi Magazine, The Texas Review and The Southern Quarterly. Vickers’ poetry is included in two volumes of the University Press of Mississippi’s anthologies, Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth and the companion volume, An Anthology of Mississippi Writers. His poems illustrate descriptive elements of southern living, from his depiction of young boys coming of age in the outdoors and his father’s remedy for noisy guinea hens to an expressive statement about the terrible costs of the Civil War.
His works were included 18 times in the Mississippi Folklore Register printed by the Mississippi Folklore Society, an organization which he co-founded and served for 25 years.
From 1982 to 2012, he was a newspaper columnist for the Neshoba Democrat, Union Appeal, Scott County Times, and the Times Journal-Spotlight in Eastman, Georgia, his hometown.
These anecdote-filled columns, on subjects ranging from his struggle with fixing a flat tire to surviving the heat at the Neshoba County Fair, won multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association including three “Best Column” honors for weekly newspaper writing.
In 2000, he was commissioned by 62nd Governor Ronnie Musgrove to write and read an original poem at the January inauguration. In 2003, he was recognized by the Mississippi Humanities Council with the Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Humanities, and in 2005 he was named one of Mississippi’s Ageless Heroes by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Prior to his 1995 retirement, Vickers twice served as president of the Mississippi Council of Teachers of English, and in 1990 was selected the organization’s College English Teacher of the Year. He served as an officer in the Southeastern Conference on English in the Two-Year College and was honored by SCETC in 1990 for his dedication and service. In 2004, SCETC presented Vickers with the prestigious Doster Award for his contributions to the organization and for co-authoring its history. Also, the Ovid S. Vickers Award for Excellence in the Teaching of English was created as an annual honor of the Two-Year College English Association of Mississippi to recognize an outstanding English instructor teaching fulltime in one of state's community colleges.
A few months before his retirement, ECCC named its Fine Arts Center, built in 1969, in honor of Vickers for his many contributions to the humanities and the institution.
He continued writing well into the later years of his life, and in 2013 penned "The East Central I Knew: A History of East Central Community College," a book depicting life on the campus from its 1928 beginning. In 2016, a second book was released titled “Notes in the Margin: A Collection of Columns about East Central Community College.”
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Carol Farish Vickers, and their three adult children, Nona Vickers of Birmingham, Ala.; Harriet Vickers Laird of Starkville; and Ovid Vickers III of Raymond, and six grandchildren.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ovid S. and Carol F. Vickers Scholarship through the ECCC Foundation, P. O. Box 129, Decatur, MS 39327.