Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Dad, Ralph Pennington

-click to enlarge-

Story and photo by Shelaine Pennington Wise

In 1956 Patrolman Ralph Pennington and his wife Dottie moved to Baldwyn to fulfill Ralph’s job assignment with the Mississippi Highway Patrol. They were both natives of Tishomingo County. Ralph thought that Baldwyn would be a short assignment but not was not to be the case. The community embraced the young couple and a love affair with the town was born.

After turbulent times with the civil right movements (James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss) and a stint as Elvis’s bodyguard at the fair in Tupelo, Ralph bought the Ford dealership from Mr. Prather. He moved the dealership from its location in town (now the home of Farmers and Merchants Bank) to highway 45. He later sold the dealership to Kenneth Windham.

Ralph passed away in 1987 at the young age of 57. Up until his death he along with Simon Spight served as the voices of the Baldwyn Bearcats Football Team.

I remember when Ralph was assigned to Baldwyn. There was law enforcement on a smaller scale in the town, as we have discussed in other postings. The MHP cleverly thought this would give small communities a better access to more modern technology in crime prevention.

Ralph was issued a patrol car that would literally “outrun it’s shadow” – a 1956 Dodge Royal with police interceptor engine and suspension, and later a ’57 model Dodge with more power. No more were the Harkey boys gonna get away from Slim Weldon down US 45. Billy Frost took a cue too, and slowed his '56 Chevy convertible to a snail’s pace through town. No more was Constable Jim Strange gonna have to try to catch anyone in his smoking (literally) ’48 Chevy 4-door family sedan.

In the photo, I recall the patrolman on the left but his name escapes me. I think it was Duggar. I was going to challenge everyone to guess who the person in the center is, but Shelaine gave it away. The photo was most likely made at the Miss-Ala Fair and Dairy Show evening (not afternoon) concert in September 1956, according to the suit Elvis is wearing.

-Carl Houston


  1. I personally think my dad looks as good as Elvis!

  2. Ralph was certainly a good lookin' man. He was a tough as a rock when the time dictated him to be also.
    I remember him well, and being from Baldwyn, am enjoying seeing the folks I knew as a young girl.
    Keep up the good work, youall.

  3. Once there was a big standoff at the store on east 370 by the fish lake and the store owner was drinking and shooting at people. Slim and others had tried to get the thing under control but couldn't.
    When Ralph got there he was briefed and told to be careful. He calmly walked into the store and shortly threw the guy out the door, taking the door completely off the wall. He then told them there he is, take him to jail!
    He was fair but tough.

  4. There was another incident with a former resident of "The Rock" where Ralph supposedly had a tough time but came out on top. Carl would remember the Jumpertown resident's name.

    Ralph had great athletic ability: could put 3 pennies on top of his hand, throw the pennies up in the air and make 3 swipes to catch all 3. I could never get past 2 and usually 1.

  5. 7:59, I wouldn't have to guess too hard, Ruey Eaton, the "mayor" of Jumpertown?
    Easy one!

  6. Ralph was a by-the-book law enforcement officer by the standards in those days, but when the scenario wasn't textbook standard, he could seize the situation that wasn't written in any book and quickly bring it to a conclusion.
    And as a fellow officer and friend, he was well thought of by his peers.
    Thomas Duncan