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Ward’s latest work a compendium of East Mississippi history

December 5, 2012

There is not a piece of Rufus Ward’s 1869 West Point home that is without some historical significance.
Whether it’s the living room rocker that sits below a family portrait which dates back to the U.S. Civil War, a book or a simple mantel piece, every piece that decorates the Ward home has a story to tell.
That is the nature of Ward’s writing as well.
In his latest historical piece, “The Columbus Chronicles: Tales from East Mississippi,” every nook and cranny in this portion of the state and in parts of western Alabama has a story. These are not the tales of insignificant figures either.
The History Press publication features local characters who rubbed elbows with some of the most important figures in American history, some even playing large roles in that history.
“I try to mix history with a little bit of fun stuff,” Ward said, as he thumbed through his latest book on Wednesday afternoon. “A lot of history in schools these days is boring.”
There’s certainly nothing boring about the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien’s editor was a resident of Lowndes County when he was still living. Clyde Kilby was known to hold group studies on C.S. Lewis in Columbus.
Only a small number of faithful attendees knew that he was a friend of Lewis’, and he was Tolkien’s editor.
Kilby’s journey from some of the world’s most famous writers to his life in small-town Columbus is chronicled in the chapter “Clyde Kilby: His Columbus Hobbit Hole.”
Ward’s favorite account in the book comes from a small town called Crawford, which is 20 miles south of West Point.
“In 1924, the U.S. had a Zeppelin that was flying across the country,” Ward said of the early aircraft modeled after the German Zeppelin.
Most people in small-town America had never seen anything like the craft, and Crawford was no exception.
“There was a writer for National Geographic who was documenting the flight across the country,” Ward said. “In his account, he wrote of a small town in Mississippi, and he said it was the friendliest town they saw in the entire country.”
Ward says the account tells of the citizens coming out to greet the pilots, waving white sheets into the air.
“When you read the account from Crawford, the citizens thought that they were seeing an alien spacecraft, and they had brought all of their white sheets outside, and they were waving them as white flags of surrender,” Ward said, chuckling at the differing accounts.
Ward has written somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 journal and newspaper articles since the mid-1990s.
His writing career began when he uncovered Choctaw Indian house sites on his family’s farm.
“Several people told me that I needed to submit the information to archeological journals,” Ward said.
Ward says that his first writings were scrutinized heavily by his editors, a process he says he now appreciates.
The seasoned author eventually settled into his patented conversational writing style that exists throughout “The Columbus Chronicles.”
A host of stories about Native Americans, World War I, a Prisoner of War camp that housed Germans in Aliceville, Alabama and tales that date back before the Civil War permeate the historical narrative that both entertains and informs.
Ward will be doing several book signing events in the Golden Triangle, including a December 22 event at Books-a-Million in Columbus. Ward says that there will be a signing at the Bryan Public Library in the future as well.
The Daily Times Leader will feature that information as soon as it becomes available.

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