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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.