Profile 2013: Diverse residents make up average area population
By Justin Whitmore & Rod Guajardo
The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — Every weekday morning, Doris Drake rises from the bed in her Natchez house, puts on her uniform and readies herself for another hard day at school.
But Drake does not head to McLaurin Elementary School to sit in class and learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, the Natchez native, who is in her mid-60s, heads to work as a school custodian.
Her job brings a modest salary, Drake said, but she takes pride in her work and is glad to have the opportunity to touch the lives of children every day.
“Well first, I am just blessed to have a job during these times,” she said. “With the way the market is going up and down, I am blessed to have a decent job, and I just love being around the kids.”
Drake is just one of the thousands of local residents who make up the diverse fabric of the Miss-Lou.
She and 53,118 other people living in Adams County and Concordia Parish collectively are the face of the community.
Black and white, male and female, these residents get up everyday and push the community forward.
Many other residents such as Drake each exist with their own unique families, houses and jobs.
But when all Miss-Lou residents are combined and compared on paper the result is more consistent than perhaps expected.
Of the 53,119 residents living in the Miss-Lou, 25,800, or 48.6 percent of the total population, are black.
The total population of white residents in the Miss-Lou is 25,752 or 48.5 percent.
Asian residents make up .3 percent of the total population with 176 people in the Miss-Lou.
Drake, who is black, is also one of the 26,516 female residents living in the area.
The majority of residents — 21 percent — in all gender and race categories fit into the age group between 50 and 64 years old.
But despite falling into a certain category of U.S. Census data, Drake and all the other residents don’t necessarily consider themselves average at all.
Too blessed to be stressed
Drake was born and raised in Natchez, and her father, Elijah Johnson, was a sheriff’s deputy. She graduated from Sadie V. Thompson High School before the travel bug bit her and she headed north.
Drake said she sees herself as an extension of the teachers at McLaurin and tries to teach the children lessons through her work.
“I think it’s very important that kids learn the importance of keeping things neat and clean,” she said. “I consider the custodial job to be part of the educational system, and keeping a clean environment allows the teacher to be more productive teaching the kids.”
Drake made stops in Washington D.C., Baltimore and New Jersey, but after a few years away from home, she started missing the South, she said.
“I always wanted to see the city, and for a number of years I did,” she said. “I like living in the city because there were so many places to go and things to do. But I missed the feel of home and people are much more friendly here, and I’m a country girl at heart.”
Drake has four children who are all in their 40s, as well as four grandchildren. She said one of her grandchildren, Michael Jr., attended McLaurin during her time as a custodian, and he got some special attention during those years.
“I kept him in my sights,” she said. “He knew that grandma was on the premises, so he was going to do what his teachers say.”
Drake said she loves her job and the people with whom she works, but she is looking forward to retiring in a few years and spending more time enjoying hobbies such as reading, writing poetry and going to rodeos (her father was one of the pioneers of the Natchez rodeo scene). Drake said she also hopes to travel.
“Maybe I can go somewhere like the Bahamas,” she said. “I love the beach and the water. I’m a nature lover.”
Living the Mayberry dream
If the Miss-Lou is nearly 50-50 black-white and 50-50 male-female, Vidalia resident Travis Floyd Sr. represents the other side of the 50-50 average Miss-Lou resident.
Floyd, 63, retired from the construction business years ago but still wanted to keep active. He enjoys working with people, and he decided to take a part-time job as a meal site assistant in August for the Concordia Parish Council on Aging.
“I liked helping out with things at church, and this was a different chance for me,” he said. “I like helping the elderly. I just like helping people.”
Floyd is among the 25,752 white residents and the 26,603 male residents living in the Miss-Lou.
The average Miss-Lou resident also earn approximately $26,000 to $28,000 in annual income, have graduated high school and likely own their home.
Floyd assists elderly members of the community with their daily lunches, and receives compensation for his part-time work as well as his Social Security checks for his disability. He and his wife, Connie, own a home in Vidalia.
“This is a great town,” he said. “I call it ‘Mayberry.’”
Floyd, the son of a military man, is originally from Fort Hood, Texas. He moved from Fort Hood to Natchez and then hopped the river to Vidalia in the early 90s.
Floyd and his wife have five grown children, and they now spend most of their time volunteering with their church.
Miss-Lou melting pot
While the next U.S. Census is still seven years away, Miss-Lou residents likely won’t need to wait for any data to show them that their community is expanding.
And that expansion, Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said, is something that should be welcomed every step of the way.
“Diversity is what has made, and continues to make, this community so great,” Grennell said. “A lot of people who have transplanted themselves here have done so because they’ve felt welcome by the diverse groups, and I think that will continue to happen as we move forward.
“Natchez, Adams County and Concordia Parish are such a great communities because of the diversity of its people.”