Starkville resident Bill Poe has spent a lifetime giving back to our community by promoting and preserving our local history. In recognition of his efforts, Bill received the second annual Ava Moore Historical Leadership Award at the Denim & Diamonds dinner, a fundraising event for the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.
The Ava Moore Award was created last year to honor Ava Moore, who was president of the Friends of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum when she passed away in 2014. It recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in preserving and promoting local history in Oktibbeha County. That description fits Bill Poe perfectly.
He is a former president of the Board of Trustees of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum. Among other things, he curated the museum’s exhibit on Cool Papa Bell, the Starkville native and Negro Leagues standout who is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Bill is responsible for the mannequin depicting Cool Papa Bell at our local museum.
Bill also created the permanent exhibit for basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell. In fact, he and I first worked together behind the scenes to have a street on campus named for the legendary MSU great. Bill was instrumental in the effort to rename Coliseum Drive as Bailey Howell Drive.
He received the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s Military Award for a project recognizing over 45 local World War II veterans. They were interviewed about their experiences, and honored at a special ceremony at the MSU Student Union.
Bill has been an advocate for local contributions to the history of aviation. He coordinated a roundtable discussion about the impact of aviation advances in the Golden Triangle area. The Heritage Museum has copies of the video available for purchase.
A resident of the Cotton District for 50 years, Bill has hosted numerous parties in his home to celebrate the historical accomplishments of others. For example, he hosted an event for Stuart Vance upon the publication of his book, “Aviation in the Golden Triangle.” He also hosted a farewell party for Chester McKee, who had been a longtime supporter of the museum.
Bill has served as the primary museum liaison with Dr. Cory Gallo and the MSU landscape architecture students who designed the award-winning rain garden and pavilion in front of the museum. This design has been selected for exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City next month. Since 2010, the museum pavilion, rain garden and MSU faculty involved have received eight national and regional awards for teaching, collaborative practice and design.
Bill also served as a historical consultant for the Cooley Building’s transformation into the Cotton Mill Conference Center. Fittingly, Bill has already received the T.E. Veitch Award for community service and the Maroon Volunteer Award.
In short, recent accomplishments related to promoting and celebrating our local history have Bill Poe’s fingerprints all over them. The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum, inside and out, reflects the hard work and dedication of Bill Poe. I know our departed friend Ava Moore would be proud to see him honored in her name for his outstanding achievements.