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Natchez change is always a sure bid

Holiday traditions seem to be all around us this time of year. Some remind us of the past; some solidify how important the present is for us; and others spark thoughts about the future.

A rare few bring together past, present and future.

One of those special traditions was last Wednesday’s Rotary Christmas auction.

The event is the Natchez Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraiser, bringing in approximately $20,000 that the club uses to donate to all sorts of charitable causes.

Club members donate the goods to be auctioned, and then spend a long lunch trying to outbid one another, all for a good cause — the men, women and children of Natchez.

The auction is usually one of the “don’t-miss” meetings of the year as it’s a great place to see lots of club members and invited guests and catch up with everyone.

Looking around the room, memories of past auctions flooded forth. Through the last half a dozen or so years so many people who were once fixtures in the club have passed away.

For years, men such as Rudy Case, Dr. Clifford Tillman, Charles Laird and many others like them were fixtures in the club. Their legacies remain firm today, despite their passing.

Current members enjoy one another’s fellowship during club activities, but as I looked around the room and talked to people in attendance, the present of the club — and of Natchez as a community — is one filled with change.

Across the room long-time Britton & Koontz Bank President and CEO Page Ogden sat at a table. Both Ogden and the bank he has led for a number of years are in a state of flux as the bank is being acquired by Lafayette, La.-based Home Bank.

The acquisition will be bittersweet for many locals as they welcome the new owners to town, they’ll also be sad to lose the long-time local bank.

As one bank changes hands, another local bank seems to be constantly on the move.

Across the room, a few bankers from United Mississippi Bank threw up their hands to bid on items, just a day after the bank officially broke ground on its new Vidalia bank location, just in front of the Vidalia Walmart.

In addition to the building projects, the UMB staff is also rapidly working to absorb the Peoples Bank of the South locations into the UMB family. UMB purchased the bank that has locations in Meadville, Bude and Gloster during the summer.

But the change isn’t all in the financial realm, Carolyn Vance Smith mentioned in the buffet line about how exciting the filming of the James Brown movie is for Natchez. Smith knows a bit about the film industry. As the founder of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, she’s had a few brushes with silver screen starts.

Smith and the NLCC will celebrate their own silver occasion in two months as the NLCC celebrates its 25th anniversary with a most fitting and important topic — “60 Years and Counting: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Other families in the club are like most families. Each passing year brings the usual changes of life — marriages, deaths and births. All of us are constantly changing, like the place that we call home, too.

That’s one of the things I love about Natchez. It never sits still. She’s always moving, growing and changing.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.