By the Way

Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae: The best of Mississippi


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Ryan Seacrest, from left, La’Porsha Renae, and Trent Harmon onstage at the “American Idol” farewell season finale Thursday in Los Angeles.
Ryan Seacrest, from left, La’Porsha Renae, and Trent Harmon onstage at the “American Idol” farewell season finale Thursday in Los Angeles. Associated Press

For the first time, a Mississippian has won the coveted “American Idol” crown. This is historically significant on a couple of levels as Amory native Trent Harmon is the first “Idol” from the Magnolia State and he will be the last as the show has called it quits after 15 seasons. Trent Harmon is simultaneously a first and last “Idol.”

Congratulations to Trent and his family and to everyone in Amory, Miss. and my native Monroe County. This award is as much for y’all as it is Trent.

It’s been a few years since I left Amory, but my mama is still there and so is my sister and her family, as well as the numerous friends and acquaintances I have made over the years. My ties to Amory and Monroe County run deep. I was born in Amory, lived in Aberdeen and moved back to Amory where I worked for the Monroe Journal.

Thursday night was the kick off night for the Amory Railroad Festival, one of the largest festivals in North Mississippi. The first night usually has a big concert in Frisco Park with acts such as Marty Stuart, Restless Heart and Little River Band.

But last night, it looked like all of North Mississippi was in Frisco Park to watch the “American Idol” finale. I saw a photo posted by the Amory Police Department and the crowd looked massive. I like to imagine the crowd cheering wildly when Trent was announced as the winner and then magic confetti falling from the sky as everyone danced to Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” as it played over the speakers.

I’m not claiming any stake in Trent’s victory. I know who he is -- we follow one another on Twitter -- and knew of him when I lived in Amory. I know who his parents are because they own the Longhorn Fish and Steakhouse, which is near my sister’s house. They have great food and some very unique bread that comes with the meals.

I enjoyed keeping up with Trent’s progress on Facebook through posts by my former editor and mentor Chris Wilson and friends like Brad and Candy Blalock. I also looked forward to the calls from my mama regarding Trent and his progress.

Amory has a long history of supporting the arts, especially music. Sam Haskell, the former head of Worldwide TV at the William Morris Agency, and his wife Mary Donnelly Haskell have been supporting the arts in Amory for years. Sam, who gave the green light for “Lost,” brought Dolly Parton to Amory several years ago for a concert on the football field. The town threw her a big parade and everyone showed up. It was the same kind of vibe when Trent returned home a few weeks ago for his own concert on the high school’s football field.

Sam is also the man who introduced me to the lovely Sela Ward, the actress and former homecoming queen at the University of Alabama. Roll Tide.

Thursday’s “Idol” announcement was going to be great for the state regardless, as Trent was up against La’Porsha Renae form McComb. Mississippi was going to come out a winner either way.

And this could not have come at a better time. Trent and La’Porsha gave the people of the state a reason to unite as the fallout from the passage of the anti-LBGT bill continues to make national news.

Trent and La’Porsha are a much better representation of the people of this state than the discriminatory HB 1523.

We are a diverse people with a rich culture and heritage in music and the performing arts. Most of us never asked for HB 1523 as we don’t think it represents the people of the “Hospitality State.”

Trent and La’Porsha are the state at its best. The legalization of discriminating against others is Miss. at its worst, plain and simple.

But the “Idol” finalists gave us something to believe in at a time when we needed it the most.

Jeff Clark is a proud native of Monroe County and a staff writer for the Sun Herald.