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Jesse Palmer, ex-Mississippi councilman, educator dies at 93

August 28, 2021 GMT

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A longtime educator in eastern Mississippi who also was a former Meridian City Councilman has died.

A public viewing was held Friday for Jesse Palmer, who died Tuesday, The Meridian Star reported. He was 93.

Palmer was remembered in Meridian as an inspiration to all who knew him. He started his long teaching career at his high school alma mater, T.J. Harris High School, in 1953. His last assignment was at Southeast Lauderdale High School in 1986.

During his career, Palmer also coached football, baseball, basketball and track.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for people like Jesse Palmer influencing me, guiding me and leading me in the right direction,” said Ed Mosley, one of his students.

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Mosley, the assistant superintendent for the Lauderdale County School District, said Palmer’s death is a “great personal loss” for him and others who knew him. He added that Palmer helped guide him in his career choice.

In a 2018 interview with The Meridian Star, Palmer said he learned how to treat others from his own teachers at T.J. Harris. He credited those teachers –- along with his mother -– for his decision to go to college and become a teacher.

“People may have some differences but we are more alike than some people realize,” he said. “My approach is to just treat everyone like they are people. Talk to them. Shake hands. Smile and be genuine. I was respectful to all of my students -– Black or white. And I think that helped to prevent a lot of problems.”

Palmer also became the first Black president of the city council in Meridian. He served 24 years on the council from 1989 to 2013 and was both president and vice president of the council four times.

“My life has been about service and trying to do what I could to help others,” Palmer told the newspaper in 2018. “The city council was a good fit for me. I learned a lot and I hope that I helped move the community forward. I am proud of the work that we did.”

Palmer also served two years on the Meridian Civil Service Commission.

Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas recalled serving with Palmer.

“He was always looking out for the people of Meridian and trying to make it the best city it could be,” Thomas said. “He was more than just a council member; he was a good man.”

Adrian Cross, executive director of The Meridian Freedom Project, described Palmer as “a great leader.”

“Mr. Palmer is legendary because of the imprint he left on education and politics in Meridian,” she said. “I appreciate the legacy he leaves behind.”