- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Linda Allen Ledford and her brother Larry Nelson Allen gave a little of their childhood to Vicksburg two weeks ago.

The siblings donated a total of 53 photographs from the Dec. 5, 1953 Vicksburg tornado to the Old Court House Museum. Their father, Elmo Simpson Allen Jr., shot the photos in the aftermath of the storm.

The family was visiting Vicksburg that day for a funeral.

“We were in Vicksburg because his father’s funeral was that day,” Ledford said of her dad who was 30 years old at the time.

The tornado struck after the service was over, but the family was still in town and managed to escape harm. Ledford and her brother were very young at the time.

“Our mother (Bertha Elizabeth Nelson Allen) was a nurse so he took her to the hospital to see if she could help anybody,” Ledford said. “And he went out to where the tornado had hit, and he tried to help the rescue too, but he also started taking photos.”

Ledford and her brother found the photographs recently while going through boxes of their father’s things. Elmo died two years ago.

She said her dad had a deep love for his hometown of Vicksburg and the museum.

“I just really think that he would have wanted us to donate those photographs so that’s why we decided to do that,” Ledford said.

She said after her parents were married around 1950 they moved away from Vicksburg and never lived there again, but the family would often visit and Elmo always had certain spots he like to visit.

The siblings visited those places, like the house he grew up in at 1116 Main St., along with the locations in the tornado pictures while they were in Vicksburg last week before the pictures were dropped off at the museum.

George “Bubba” Bolm, curator and director at the Old Court House Museum, said some of the photos will be displayed and some will go in the archives.

“We will scan them, or digitize them, and add them to our tornado collection,” Bolm said.

He said often times people come to the museum for research, and the photos would be available for those needing to see a visual of the devastation from that day.

The tornado took 38 lives, and he said it did more destruction to the city than the Civil War.

“The tornado of 1953 was an extremely devastating storm and it changed the face of Vicksburg,” Bolm said.

A bit of a new perspective is given in the photos through images of the back of the Saenger Theater as opposed to the front of the building as many have already seen.

“These came out of a private collection so these are images really that haven’t been seen before,” Bolm said.

He commended families who donate historical items to the museum to be shared with the public.

“We are thankful to the Allen family for their donation,” Bolm said. “We always welcome donations. We love to preserve Vicksburg history.”

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com


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