Harrison County

‘She was no lady.’ A history of powerful Hurricane Camille that struck Coast 50 years ago

Hurricane Camille was thought to be the worst storm that could ever come ashore when the Category 5 storm devastated South Mississippi on Aug. 17, 1969.

That was 50 years ago, and although Hurricane Katrina caused even more damage, Camille will get her due in a 6-month retrospective - “Camille at 50. She was no Lady.”

The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in East Biloxi presents the event that kicks off Monday, June 3, with an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. The event continues through the end of hurricane season in November, with most of the events at the Seafood Museum.

A new documentary, “Camille: The Original Monster Storm,” will debut at Premiere Cinemas at the Edgewater Mall on Aug. 16.

A hurricane party will follow on Aug. 17, the actual anniversary of the storm. It’s well-documented that Coast residents died when they stayed and partied instead of evacuating as Camille approached.

“It’s appropriate for us to give people a place to remember,” said Corey Christy, outreach program coordinator at the Seafood Museum. “We really are the history preserver of the Coast,” he said, not just for maritime and seafood, but for military, tourism and events like Camille that impact the whole Coast, he said.

Telling the story

With words, pictures, newspaper accounts and even old rotary dial telephones, the story of Camille will be retold. The telephones recreate the phone banks after Camille, when people waited in line for hours to call their families. These phones in the exhibit dial up stories of survival from people who lived through the storm and recorded their stories with the Harrison County Library System, Christy said.

Historian Charles Sullivan sent 500 Camille photos to choose from, Christy said, and they are displayed by city. “It didn’t affect the east part of the Coast as much,” Christy said.

Wade Guice, who was Harrison County Civil Defense director at the time, and his wife, Julia Guice, Biloxi’s Civil Defense director are featured among the heroes of Camille. The couple warned people to evacuate the Coast, and many did. But 259 people died during the storm, including some of those who stayed to party.

Christy also assembled a “Before and After” display of pre- and post-Camille photos.

Every week another story

To keep the community engaged in the Camille anniversary, a Friday lunch series will feature people who lived through Camille or have something to offer about the power of hurricanes. They start June 7 and continue through November.

First up is Roland Weeks, former publisher of the Daily Herald and now the Sun Herald. Weeks rode out the storm as Camille battered the newspaper office in downtown Gulfport. The paper never missed an issue but the office had to be demolished.

A stack of 1969 newspapers were donated by someone who had kept them for years, said Christy, and several were framed to become part of the exhibit.


June 3: Opening reception at Seafood Museum with refreshments, cash bar and a second liner parade around the museum led by Blackwater Brass. - Admission is $10 for the public and free for members of the museum. Will have r

June 7: R U Ready hurricane preparedness event presented by the Biloxi first responders from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

Friday lunch series from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Admission is $10 and lunch is available.

  • June 14 — U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunters, based at Keesler AFB in Biloxi
  • June 21 — Bobby Eleuterius, former Harrison County Supervisor
  • June 28 — Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich
  • Additional speakers for July-November will be announced.

Aug. 16: Documentary “Camille: The Original Monster Storm” by Rex Jones of Oxfored will be presented in three showings at Premier Cinema at Edgewater Mall. \u0009 \u0009 \u0009 \u0009

Aug. 17: Hurricane party on 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille

Ongoing: Camille at 50 exhibit at Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10, $8 for seniors age 60 and older along with the military and AAA members, and $6 for students age 5-15. Phone 228-435-6320

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.