- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) - William Faulkner’s big, giant head now looks over his hometown.

The Nobel Prize-winning author was born in New Albany on Sept. 25, 1897, and as of this week, his visage graces a water tower at Mississippi Highway 15 and Bankhead Street.

With help from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the water tower went up about a year ago. The engineering company offered to provide a bulldog logo, since that’s New Albany High School’s mascot.

“It was a snarling dog,” said Sean Johnson, the city’s director of marketing and tourism. “I know it’s our high school logo, but you don’t really welcome people into your town with a snarling dog.”

Some thought a bicycle would be a good fit because it tied in nicely with Tanglefoot Trail, a new bike trail.

And there were specific objections to Faulkner. Some didn’t know who he was, while others thought they knew him too well.

“From a tourism standpoint, it’s a no-brainer,” Johnson said, “but some people in town didn’t like Faulkner. They considered him crazy. They knew his family and they thought they were crazy.”

Eventually, a compromise was reached.

“We’ll have a bulldog a different bulldog facing east toward the high school,” Johnson said, “and Faulkner faces west toward Oxford and his fabled Yoknapatawpha.”

The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture stepped in to provide an image the town could use.

Rather than paint the face on the tank, a decal was made and applied.

“If you look at it up close, it looks like a bunch of dots, but as you step back from it, you see the picture,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of like Faulkner and the South. You do have to step away sometimes to get perspective on them.”

Some in his hometown might not know who Faulkner is, but fans around the world know and love his work.

The visage is a potential draw for tourists, as is the planned creation of a William Faulkner Scenic Byway. The Mississippi Department of Transportation recently approved the byway, which would follow nearly 16 miles of Mississippi Highway 30 between Oxford and New Albany.

Johnson said he’d like to see other towns copy the water tower idea. Tennessee Williams could smile down on his hometown of Columbus, and Robert Johnson could keep watch over Hazlehurst.

“Mississippi is so full of cultural icons,” he said. “We need to be reminded of it.”

Faulkner, a native of New Albany, bought Rowan Oak in Oxford in 1930 and it became his home until his death in 1962. The University of Mississippi operates Rowan Oak as a historic house museum.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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