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County Board Votes to Keep Segregationist Fountains, Add Plaque

August 8, 1989 GMT

ELLISVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ The county supervisors have voted not to replace courthouse water fountains labeled ″colored″ and ″white,″ but to give them a historical plaque.

The decision Monday by the Jones County board of supervisors rejected an offer by the state Department of Archives and History to move the fountains to the state history museum in Jackson and build replicas that would not remind visitors of past segregation laws.

″The NAACP is not satisfied with the decision that the board of supervisors made. It was just a sign to let the whole state of Mississippi know that racism is alive in Laurel and Jones County,″ said Manuel Jones, president of the Laurel-Jones County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

″It is a very strong possibility that we will be out marching at the Ellisville Courthouse this week or the first of next week. I am prepared to wear out three pairs of shoes,″ he said Tuesday.

Under pressure from the NAACP, county officials in April daubed plaster over the labels. But rain quickly rinsed the plaster away. Vandals also sprayed the white fountain with black paint.

County Supervisor Jerome Wyatt, the only black member of the board, was the lone voice Monday for accepting the state’s offer.

″This situation has apparently reached an unappropriate level of racial overtones. It is the wording that makes the difference on the fountains,″ Wyatt said.

County Supervisor Calvin Holifield proposed instead that the fountains be cleaned of the plaster and marked by a plaque explaining their historical significance.

The motion passed with only Wyatt objecting and County Supervisor Thurmond Dykes abstaining.

″I don’t think this is going to solve it,″ Dykes said.

The state Department of Archives and History must approve any alterations to the fountains because the 82-year-old courthouse is a state historic landmark.