History of the MFFA

History of the Mississippi Firefighter's Association 1913 - 1949

Author Unknown

The Mississppi Firefighter's Association was first organized as the Mississippi State Firemen's Association by several municipal Fire Chiefs who annually made a trip to Memphis, Tennessee after World War I to attend the International Fire Chief's Association Convention. The organizational meeting was held in Jackson on February 15,1923 at the Central Fire Station on President Street. The Mississippi State Firemen's Relief and Benefit Fund was created at this meeting so as to provide compensation for the aged and disabled firefighter. Also, the Association's Constitution and By-Laws was adopted. Chief J.L. Lawrence of Laurel served as Temporary Chairman of the Association until the election of officers. Those in attendance of this meeting were: J.W. Wilks, T.J. Croften and Red King of Vicksburg; W.G. Worthen of Meridian; W. Hodskins of Yazoo City; E.V. Donovan of Greenville; V.B. Eaton of Hattiesburg; and L.F. McDonald, A.J. Cannon and several other firemen of Jackson. L.F. McDonald of Jackson was elected President by an unanimous vote. Also, elected were W. Hodskins as First Vice-President, J.W. Wilks as Second Vice-President, and W.G. Worthen as Third Vice-President; and A.J. Cannon as Secretary-Treasurer.

The Mississippi Fireman's Relief and Pension Fund, a modified copy of the Oklahoma State Pension Law, was enacted into law by the State in 1924. In 1930 the State Of to Mississippi made it lawful for counties to financially aid the fire departments; and, also allowed the creation of Fire Districts within the State. No date was set for the next meeting of the Association to be held in Jackson. The records show no meetings were held in the next eight years.

The Association held it's 1931 convention in Jackson and elected officers who were: L.F. McDonald of Jackson as President; Sam Bellipanni of McComb, J.E. Guido of Natchez, T.B. Henley of Belzoni and H.R. Wilson of Cleveland as Vice-Presidents; and A.J. Cannon as Secretary-Treasurer.

The convention was held in Hattiesburg in 1932. The officers who were elected: W.G. Worthen of Meridian, President; E.J. Barksdale of Hattiesburg, F.L. Boteler of Jackson, T.E. Crofton of Vicksburg, W.C. McClure of West Point, T.B. Henley of Belzoni as Vice- Presidents; and T.R. Jones of the Mississippi State Rating Bureau as Secretary-Treasurer. The State of Mississippi enacted its arson laws during the 1932 session of Legislature.

At the Great Southern Hotel in Gulfport, the 1933 convention was called into session. The officers who were elected: W.G. Worthen of Meridian, President; E.J. Barksdale of Hattiesburg, J.L. Beaty of Columbus, Sam Bellipanni of McComb, F.L. Boteler of Jackson, T.E. Crofton of Vicksburg, G.T. Haskins of Cleveland and H.N. Richards of Hattiesburg as Vice-Presidents; and T.R. Jones of the Mississippi State Ratings Bureau as Secretary-Treasurer.

The convention which was held in Meridian on September 14 and 15, 1934 at the Lamer Hotel did result in the introduction of beneficial legislation for the fire fighters of Mississippi. State Senator James F. Waddell of Meridian and Meridian Fire Chief W.F.C. Partin made a presentation on the "Two Platoon System" and the Civil Service System. The membership of the Association heralded both of the bills which created a two platoon system that reduced weekly work hours of paid fire fighters of paid municipal fire departments, and provided job security for the fire fighters. However, the smaller municipalities in the state did not approve of the two platoon system because of the economics involved. President Worthen was reelected as were Barksdale, Bellipanni, and Haskins as Vice-Presidents and Jones as Secretary-Treasurer. The newly elected Vice-Presidents were R.W. Maxwell of Clarksdale and W.C. Moore of Meridian. Due to his declining health, Secretary-Treasurer Jones resigned his office on February 2,1935. R.H. Tucker of the Mississippi State Ratings Bureau was elected by the Executive Committee to the vacant office.

The 1935 convention was held at the Robert E. Lee Hotel in Jackson. E.J. Barksdale was elected President with J.W. Cameron of Meridian, R.W. Maxwell of Clarksdale, J.W. Pressley of Tupelo, R.S. Vatorres of Moss Point, and H.C. Williams of Cleveland as Vice-Presidents; and R.H. Tucker was re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer.

Cleveland hosted the 1936 convention. The main topic of the convention was the wide spread of arson and the arson investigations which were being conducted throughout the state by the State Fire Marshall's Office. A Death Benefit Fund, not to exceed $50.00 per family, was established for the families of members of the Association. A proposal to establish a high school course on fire prevention to be taught in public schools with the text books being furnished by the State of Mississippi was approved by the membership. President-elect Barksdale charged the Association to assist in the organization and the training of volunteer fire departments throughout the state. He requested that a Fire Academy for the state to be established so that it could help in the training of all fire fighters in the state. A Fire Prevention Year Book was approved to be published, but due to some questionable tactics which were used to sell the ads for the book, it was abandoned and was not published nor was it ever mentioned again as a project of the Association. E.J. Barksdale was re-elected as President. The Vice-President elect were: J.W. Cameron of Meridian, R.W. Maxwell of Clarksdale, R.C. Meeks of Corinth, C.M. Ruett of McComb, and H.C. Williams of Cleveland. The Secretary-Treasurer elect was R.H. Tucker.

On September 24 and 25, 1937 Laurel hosted the convention. This was the first meeting in which a wide spectrum of Legislative projects was presented. Resolutions that were proposed: to establish state-wide Building and Electrical Codes; to start a Central Fire School; to have the municipalities provide liability insurance for emergency vehicle drivers; to provide for mutual-aid programs between neighboring fire departments; to request the municipalities to confer with their Fire Chief on matters concerning water mains and hydrants; to follow suit of the Federal Government and its adoption of one week in October as Fire Prevention Week; and to lobby jointly with the Municipal Officers Association, now the Mississippi Municipal Association, in common Legislative actions. Elected as officers were; H.C. Williams of Cleveland as President; C.S. Byrd of Jackson, J.W. Cameron of Meridian, A.T. Neaves of Greenwood, C.M. Ruett of McComb and C.S. Williams of Laurel as Vice-Presidents with R.H. Tucker serving as Secretary-Treasurer.

McComb was the host city for the 1938 convention which was held on September 21 and 22. The resolutions presented were the same presented the previous year with the addition of an evaluational program of the Fire Prevention courses being taught in public schools. Changes were made in the Firemen and Policemen Disability and Relief Fund so as to strengthen it because both professions were exempted from the coverage of the Old Age, Death and Disability Act (Social Security) by the Federal Government and the State of Mississippi. A.J. Cannon of Jackson was elected President and the Vice-Presidents who were elected to serve being: Sam Bellipanni of McComb, J.A. Druetta, Jr. of Natchez, O.G. Goodwin of Laurel, A.L. McClure of West Point and C.C. Thweatt of Cleveland as Vice-Presidents and R.H. Tucker as Secretary-Treasurer.

Although Biloxi offered to host the 1939 convention, it was not held. The Executive Committee did hold business meetings with President Cannon and Secretary-Treasurer Tucker present. The State Fire School was established. During the 1940 convention at Natchez it was decided by the membership to suspend the annual conventions until after World War II. Without the convention the Firemen and Policemen Disability and Relief Fund was revised by the Legislature. Also, the Legislature passed laws that allowed the counties to give financial aid to fire departments and laws that created the Fire Districts within the counties were revised. The Executive Committee did continue to make business sessions which were conducted by President O.G. Goodwin of Laurel. Those attending the business meetings were: E.J. Barksdale of Hattiesburg, Sam Bellipanni of McComb, A.J. Cannon of Jackson, F.K. Denham of Clarksdale, and R.G. Duren of Greenwood as Vice-Presidents and R.H. Tucker as Secretary-Treasurer. Vice_president Cannon died later in the year and was replaced on the Executive Committee by W.G. Worthen of Meridian. On March 24, 1944 the Civil Service Act was enacted into law when Governor Thomas L. Bailey signed the bill. An emergency session of the Executive Committee was convened when it appeared that the Legislature would kill some of the benefits that the Association had gained for the fire fighters of the state. Through the efforts of the Executive Committee the benefits were not repealed. The Executive Committee elected the officers of the Association for the membership. Those officers elected were: President R.G. Duren; Vice-Presidents Sam Bellipanni of McComb, T.B. Henley of Belzon, W.H. Hutchison of Tupelo, and Leo Korndoffer of Hattiesburg; and Secretary-Treasurer R.H. Tucker.

Meridian hosted the first post-war convention on October 7 and 8, 1946. The business conducted included the fight to maintain the present benefits of all fire fighters and to extend the benefits of fire fighters on paid fire departments. A State Fire College was proposed by Chief L.F. McDonald of Jackson and it was approved by the membership. President Duren was re-elected to office. The Vice-presidents elect were: A.A. Hinston of Vicksburg, Leo Korndoffer of Hattiesburg, T.D. Mayes of Philadelphia, J.B. Sprouse of Clarkdale, and W.G.Worthen of Meridian. R.H. Tucker was re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer.

Greenwood hosted the 1947 convention on June 27 and 28. The new business which arose from the convention were the establishment of the Ladies Auxiliary and the revision of Constitution and By-laws of the Association. Officers elected were: R.G. Duren of Greenwood as President; Sam Bellipanni of McComb, Leo Korndoffer of Hattiesburg, A.Z. Lokey of Greenville, T.D. Mayes of Philadelphia and R.L. Yarbough of Meridian as Vice-Presidents and R.H. Tucker as Secretary- Treasurer, who resigned in October due to ill health. His Successor to the office was J.F. Barksdale of the Mississippi State Ratings Bureau.

The Mississippi State Firemen's Association was chartered as an incorporation on July 20,1948 when Governor Fielding Wright signed the documents along with the proper signatures of Secretary of State Heber Ladner and Attorney General Greek L. Rice. The incorporators of the Association being President R.G. Duren, Secretary-Treasurer R.H. Tucker and Chief L.F. McDonald of Jackson. The 1948 convention was hosted by Natchez. The Association authorized the commission of a label button with the emblem of the Association to be manufactured by the C.G. Braxmar Company of New York. The State Legislature passed the mutual-aid of fire departments, or the consolidation of Fire Districts for the smaller fire departments. The officers elected were: W.J. Druetta, Sr. of Natchez as President; Ray Bryant of Hattiesburg, Sam Bellipanni of McComb, J.W. Cameron of Meridian, L.M. Garrett of Jackson, and P.A. Lawrence of Greenville as Vice-Presidents; and J.F. Barksdale as Secretary-Treasurer.

Cleveland requested and received the bid to be the host city of the 1949 convention. A newsletter "The Trumpet" began publication so that the membership throughout the state could be informed of the events which were happening in the state and what each fire department was providing for its citizens in the way of new equipment and techniques. J.H. Sullivan of Laurel was elected as President. Those elected to serve as Vice-Presidents were: Ray Bryant of Hattiesburg, Sam Bellipanni of McComb, P.A. Lawrence of Greenville, J.W. Reynolds of Meridian and B.G. Weems of Jackson. The Secretary-Treasurer, J.F. Barksdale, was re-elected.