Newman remembered as principled man, devoted to family, community

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, December 3, 2019


NATCHEZ — Spike Newman was a principled man with a big heart who commanded a great deal of respect in business and life.

But Newman’s relationship with his wife Ginger may be the most remarkable thing about the local businessman to family and friends.

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Benjamin Garland “Spike” Newman Jr. died Sunday at the age of 80.

“His faithfulness to her was really something admirable,” Newman’s son B.G. “Chip” Newman III said Monday.

Chip said his father was devoted to his mother, being by her side for most of their life together. Spike’s focus was always providing for the needs of his wife, especially after she developed Alzheimer’s a decade ago, Chip said.

“They probably spent maybe less than a week in 59 years of their marriage apart,” Chip said. “They were inseparable.”

Natchez Coffee Company owner Sharon Brown said for nearly 15 years, Spike would bring Ginger to her coffee shop every afternoon for ice cream.

“They would come in the back door, get their ice cream and walk out the front door and go back to their house,” Brown said. “You could just tell how much he loved and cared for her.”

Spike’s first cousin, Peggy McCall, who manages properties for Newman Properties, said Spike’s marriage to Ginger was unique.

“It was one of those marriages you envy,” McCall said. “They were devoted to each other.”

Married for nearly 60 years, Ginger died on Nov. 22, nine days before Spike.

“He waited until he knew she was OK, and he said goodbye,” Brown said about Spike.

Chip agreed.

“It was almost like his job had been done,” Chip said about his father. “It is a true love story.”

Outside of his marriage, Spike was also known as a successful businessman, an avid sports fan and a staunch supporter of his hometown and home state.

“He loved Natchez,” Chip said about his father. “He loved Mississippi and defended Mississippi to anybody who had something bad to say about the state.”

Spike graduated from Natchez High School in 1957 and was the all-time leading basketball scorer in school history. He attended Southwest Junior College on a basketball scholarship and later transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi, where he met his wife.

Spike was a devoted USM sports follower and was a long-time member of the USM Circle of Champions.

“He was an avid sports fan. He loved the New Orleans Saints, and he loved USM,” McCall said.

When he moved back to Natchez with Ginger, Spike was an Allstate Insurance agent for many years. At one point, Spike was so successful that he was named the Allstate Agent of the Year for the State of Mississippi, Chip said.

With his good friend Ron Riches, Spike formed Newman-Riches Property Management, managing apartment complexes and other properties in Natchez and the surrounding area.

“He was very successful, had a big heart and employed a lot of people that had a great deal of respect for him,” McCall said.

Chip said his father was an extremely principled man.

“If he told you something, you could believe it,” Chip said. “For him, there was right, and there was wrong. There was no gray.”

Chip said his father liked genuine people.

“He didn’t care much for fakeness. That was something he couldn’t tolerate,” Chip said. “He didn’t have much patience for people who came into town that tried to be a big fish in a small pond.”

In the last 10 or 12 years, Spike was a regular morning customer at the Natchez Coffee Company, Brown said.

Brown said Spike joined a table of his breakfast buddies each morning, where they discussed the various topics of the day.

Although some people might describe his attitude as grumpy, Spike was lovable, Brown said.

“It was that kind of grumpy that made you want to hug him,” Brown said. “He was sweet and wonderful. I will miss him. I will miss him terribly.”

Above all, Chip said his father was a role model in marriage, in business and in life.

“He was emotionally strong. He kept it all in check,” Chip said. “He never at any point in my life did anything I was ashamed of. I will miss him a lot.”

Services for Spike will be at noon Wednesday at Laird Funeral Home. Burial will follow at the Natchez City Cemetery. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until service time Wednesday at the funeral home.