“My name is Laverne, but when I was young some old lady called me Jim. It stuck. My relatives call me Sis Jim. I was born in Sweetwater, Alabama. My daddy was a cotton farmer. He could have sold his cotton for 90 cents a pound, but he wanted a dollar. In 1929, the stock market crashed and he ended up getting 10 cents per pound. We moved to the Delta in 1932 in an old Model T truck. I had one brother and two sisters. We rode like hillbillies on top of the furniture in the back of the truck. The roads were dirt, they didn’t even have gravel. When we got to the Delta, much of the land wasn’t cleared. There was no electricity, running water or bathrooms. We rode in the wagon to catch the school bus. When I was 15, I caught pneumonia and couldn’t go to school that year. There was no money. Nobody had anything. My cousins and I swapped clothes. Nobody had a car, so we walked everywhere. It was a hard life, and we were just existing.
When we moved to the Delta, we worked in the fields for a farmer. There were no tractors. We hoed and picked cotton by hand. Mama and daddy worked with us. My dad also made $3 a day cutting grass in the ditches for the WPA (Works Progress Administration). We worked and saved until dad bought 80 acres of land in the woods from the government for $2 an acre. Dad cleared the land a little at a time.
I met my husband in school. I didn’t like him when I met him, but he kept coming over and grew on me. I graduated from high school in May and married him in November. There wasn’t anything else to do. Few people went to college. His dad was an established farmer, so my husband was a farmer too. My family eventually farmed 1200 acres. I worked out there my whole life. You do what you have to do to keep going.
I just turned 104. My husband died 59 years ago. We were married for almost 25 years. He was a smoker and got cancer. The first sign of cancer was when he lost his voice while he was at hunting camp. He came home and went to the doctor in Greenville. They said he was beyond help. He died four weeks later. We did everything together. We even helped start our church in Darlove.
Outliving everyone is hard but I’m glad to get to know my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I look at them and see how far my family has come. My great-granddaughter is Miss Mississippi. One grandson is a doctor specializing in lungs. I have college professors, nurses and PhDs. I tell them In pride or shame, my love is the same. It’s not what you do or don’t do that makes me love you. You’re mine and I’ll never turn my back on you.
I still cook and do what I need to do. But four years ago, I fell down at church and had a concussion. I lost my equilibrium and don’t get around like I used to. Sitting down and doing nothing is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I called off celebrations after my 100 birthday celebration. They had a big party for me at church. There were more than 300 names in the guest book and people came from ten states. There were so many people they couldn’t all fit in the church. I was in awe.
Compared to other people, I’ve had a hard life, but I survived. I’m proud to say I lived in the country when we didn’t have anything. I haven’t expected much. Life is what I can do for somebody else and God keeps getting me through.
When God calls me, I’m ready. I’ve been ready. I have things that I regret and things I’m sorry I did, but that’s life. I told my children, when the Lord calls me, don’t cry for me. I’m ready and I’ll be so happy to see my husband again. I know my family will miss me, but I’ll still be meddling in their lives after I’m gone. They’ll be saying mama said this and mama said that.”