As remembered by Sheila
April 12, 2013
Joe & Nancy Ellin came to Hattiesburg in 1964: He, to teach in the Freedom Schools, she, to establish a library for children, as Hattiesburg had none for children of color. They were young marrieds, holding hands everywhere, as they walked. She was tall, fair, slender, shy & very sharp. He was dark, short, bounced with energy & was very, very funny. They were beloved by almost everyone on the Hattiesburg project. Even though they were very funny, & could devastate with their ad libs, they irritated no one that I knew. Their letters home were quoted in "Letters From Mississippi" and they collected Mississippi memorabilia, which they later donated to USM, at Hattiesburg, when Bobs Tusa was the archivist.
Joe headed the Philosophy Department at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, in 1962, when he was a new hire, it was not a University & there was no department. Eventually he built one, became a Professor & then Emeritus.
Nancy headed Kalamazoo's Democratic Party for decades, was instrumental in Michigan textbook reform & was on ACLU & Planned Parenthood boards.
I kept in touch with them over the years, but I had not actually seen them in decades when we had a Hattiesburg reunion in 1999, for the initiation of a show of Herbert Randall's portraits of Hattiesburg, that became "Faces of Freedom Summer." She may have had a stroke, & Joe was very tender & attentive. Nancy had kept the faith, but Joe had become a very right wing Republican.. Apparently he again saw the light — or saw the Dixiecrat ruination of the Republican Party — and returned to the arms of Liberalism. His obituary presents that picture of him. Over the years, he never breathed a word to me of a change of heart, but I am glad to see it.
S h e i l a