Michele Coats, president of Main Street Pascagoula this year, got the idea when she saw it done in Laurel — huge pictures on banner displays in town of famous people who were born or raised in Laurel.
“There was Leontyne Price, Ray Walston and Tom Lester, who played Eb on ‘Green Acres’,” she said.
“Ray Walston?” someone asked.
“Well you’d know him if you saw him,” Coats said. “That’s the point. You see their faces. You recognize them.” (Walston played the Martian on “My Favorite Martian,” a 1960s television show.)
So she brought the idea back home, and the Main Street team went to work on it. Laurel had their banners printed in Las Vegas. That was too expensive, she said.
Main Street found a local printer — Goodgames — that did Pascagoula’s first round of beloved sons and daughters for a reasonable price.
Now, when you drive Delmas Avenue near the courthouse, on what had been a blank wall at the former Brumfield’s site, you’ll see an 18-foot Jimmy Buffett, Trent Lott, Sarah Bailey Thomas and Dr. Calvin Huey. The images are black and white, and they make an impression.
“Don’t you love them?” Coats asked. “We have really cool people from Pascagoula.”
This is just round one of the faces. Coats said, “We want to plaster Pascagoula with famous people.”
These are people who put Pascagoula on the map, she said.
Main Street got permission from each of the stars. Each selected the photo they wanted and composed the identifying information beneath it.
▪ Jimmy Buffett — singer, song writer, author
▪ Trent Lott — U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, leader of the Senate
▪ Sarah Bailey Thomas — first full-time female official for the NFL
▪ Dr. Calvin Huey — first African-American U.S. Naval Academy, retired Naval Intelligence officer, IBM
The banners are mesh with grommets so they can be moved. All four went up before Hurricane Nate and came through fine, Coats said. They went up the week of Cruisin’ The Coast, to impress the visitors.
“We thought this is just great public art for a blank wall in the heart of downtown,” she said.
Under Buffett’s portrait are the words: “Honoring our heritage. We are Pascagoula.”
Coats sees Main Street ordering more banners of the famous in smaller versions to install along Delmas Avenue and on other major streets in town.
Main Street has a capital campaign under way for just this sort of thing, but also to improve the downtown district as a whole with flowers, public seating and lighting.
At least two more murals are in the works.
But as for the big four, are these considered the city’s most famous?
“No,” Coats said. “And they are by no means the only ones on the list.”
It was four the committee could agree on, however, so that says a lot.
Coats said they don’t have an end number in mind.
She said, “We’ll just keep going until we run out of famous people.”