Local Music

Published on June 26th, 2019 | by TLV News


Planned Gift Benefits Pride of the South: Major Donation Supports University of Mississippi Band Practice Field Renovation

The late Cora Mitchell was part of student-led efforts to bring the Pride of the South Marching Band back to the University of Mississippi during World War II. Now, a planned gift she established pays tribute to her involvement in the band.

Mitchell’s gift of $100,000 established the Cora T. Mitchell Fund that will benefit the Pride of the South’s practice field. The contribution will support efforts to renovate and maintain the band practice field, where upon completion, Mitchell’s name will be featured on the sideline.

“She never left a game at halftime,” said Pat Thomasson, Mitchell’s niece. “She wanted to be there to watch the band.”

A devoted sports fan, Mitchell was known to attend high school games on Fridays, Ole Miss games on Saturdays and then make it to New Orleans for a Saints game on Sunday.

She loved to watch the band during halftime because of her deep connection to it. Likewise, watching the UM band grow was her passion since her college days.

“We greatly appreciate Cora’s vision in including the band in her gift,” said David Willson, director of bands. “Her contribution will have a remarkable impact on the development of the marching band practice field.”

Many student organizations were dissolved during the war because of decreasing enrollment. However, student demand brought the marching band back to campus.

Mitchell and her brother, Hugh Thomasson, were part of a key group of students who were instrumental in reuniting the band. After a meeting with administrators, the students were granted permission to go forward with their plans.

“While not all students could play instruments, some simply marched along with their fellow bandmates,” said Thomasson, reminiscing on family stories of the band. “My father marched but didn’t play an instrument. Aunt Knootsie was a student who marched and played.”

Affectionately referred to as “Knootsie” by family and friends, Mitchell was born in DeKalb, where her mother, a teacher, emphasized the importance of hard work and education. Mitchell graduated from Ole Miss in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, she worked two decades as a math teacher in the Kemper County school system before teaching business at East Mississippi Community College for another 20 years.

An active member of her community and highly invested in each of her pupils, Mitchell was known to attend all her students’ class reunions. She regularly received cards from students, expressing her positive influence on their lives.

Mitchell also served as a vital member of the DeKalb historical group, which works to preserve the history of the town and its residents.

Thomasson recalls: “Cora was happiest when celebrating her Ole Miss Rebels with family.”

Mitchell’s estate gift awards her posthumous membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university opened to its first students. The society recognizes generous alumni and friends who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

The Cora T. Mitchell Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks, with the fund noted in the memo line, can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at https://give.olemiss.edu/.

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The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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