Lunch honors Mississippi’s mother of conservation

Published 1:01 am Thursday, February 15, 2018


Natchez — Mississippi’s pioneer woman conservationist is coming to Natchez at noon this Saturday in a theatrical portrayal at the Rolling River Bistro.

Tickets are $25 each for an all inclusive lunch theater that includes stuffed chicken breast or shrimp and grits.

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Dr. Cathy Shropshire, wildlife biologist who served for 10 years as the director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, will portray the late Fannye A. Cook.

Jayne Buttross, conservation advocate and Natchez native, said Cook is the mother of the conservation movement in Mississippi and created the most comprehensive catalogue of Mississippi’s flora and fauna, including some research done in Adams County.

“Miss Cook is significant on multiple fronts. When Mississippi was the only state without a Game and Fish Commission (now the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks), she fought tooth and nail to create one,” Buttross said.

“As a woman born in 1889, it is remarkable, what she did. … We’re so excited to be doing this here in Natchez. … Miss Cook worked all over the state, and Natchez was one of her sites.”

Libby Hartfield, co-editor of “Fannye Cook: Mississippi’s Pioneering Conservationist” with Marion Barnwell, said Shropshire does a very entertaining portrayal of Cook in her performance.

“There’s a lot of humor in it,” Hartfield said. “For Cook’s day, she was a very well known scientist. … For almost 50 years, people forgot about her. Hopefully this will revive interest.”

She said Cook came in contact with many biologists across the nation and brought her knowledge home to Mississippi. People supported game laws, which prevented the harmful hunting practices that led to scarcity of wild game.

Cook’s role as an educator against these practices and her exposure to the Smithsonian led her to create the Mississippi Natural Science Museum.

Hartfield said Cook’s team collected more than one million specimens from all over the state.

The author of “Fannye Cook: Mississippi’s Pioneering Conservationist,” Dorothy Shawhan, passed away in 2014. Hartfield said she and Barnwell worked in the Mississippi Natural Science Museum for 30 years and had access to Cook’s letters, notes, and research during that time.

Hartfield worked with Shawhan as director of the Mississippi Wildlife Commission and she and Barnwell received permission from Shawhan’s family to finish the book, which was published last November.

A book signing will be held at Saturday’s event, and copies from Turning Pages books will be available for purchase at $20 each.

Call 601-660-7300 for tickets.

“Visitors will get a really fun … performance,” said Buttross. “Anyone who likes theater, history, conservation or good food, this event will be entertaining and inspiring for them. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t find an interest in it.”