Sam Carr honored with Governor’s Award

Blues drummer cited for contributions to Mississippi’s heritage

By Panny Flautt Mayfield

JACKSON – Inside a white frame church beneath the Mississippi River levee in February of 2004, Sam Carr cried while receiving an extraordinary award for a blues musician; an engraved plaque and an invitation to perform music not normally welcomed by preachers.

Thompson Chapel honored him for his contributions during Black History Month and for honorably representing Lula, Moon Lake, and the Mississippi Delta in capitals around the world.

Inside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral of Jackson three years later, he was cited for his contributions to Mississippi’s heritage and invited to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

“Sam’s going to cry,” predicted Doris Carr, his wife of 60 years.


Beneath the 100-year-old cathedral’s soaring gothic arches and brilliant stained glass windows Friday morning, Sam Carr stood tall and elegant atop a marble pedestal and carved bronze pulpit.

“I thank everybody for coming,” he said simply after shaking hands with Gov. and Marsha Barbour.

Before cheering crowds and flashing cameras, Sam’s drumsticks spoke eloquently for him the night before while playing on stage with Bo Diddley and Raphael Sims at the Mississippi Arts Commission reception.

Earlier at an elite gathering at the Governor’s Mansion, Sam was swarmed by fans.

He and the governor reminisced about Conway Twitty’s Club on Moon Lake when Barbour was a college student and Sam and the Jelly Roll Kings were the house band.

During Friday’s award ceremony, Gov. Barbour praised the arts for benefiting education and economic development.

“Here are great artists we are proud of: Bo Diddley and Sam Carr are 80 years old and are examples of what’s great about our state,” he said.

Master of ceremonies Bill Dunlap cited the Mississippi Arts Commission for fostering the arts for the past 39 years.

Praise for the state as a great quarterback factory, he said, pales in comparison to the scale of artists Mississippi provides and sends out into the world.

In addition to Carr and Bo Diddley, other award recipients were abstract artist Sam Gilliam, a native of Tupelo now living in Washington, D.C., where his acrylic-soaked canvases are suspended and hung like sculptures in space; the Viking Range Corporation of Greenwood that has filled the Alluvian Hotel with works by Delta artists; and the Nora Davis Magnet School of Laurel that has filled art in its curriculum from math and English to science and social studies.

The Mississippi Arts Commission funds many programs across the state including the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival and the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale.

Past Governor’s Award recipients from north Mississippi include Marshall Bouldin, Shelby Foote, Charlie Musselwhite, Boogaloo Ames, Little Milton, Willie Morris, Malcolm Norwood, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Levingston, William Eggleston, James “Super Chikan” Johnson, and Johnnie Billington.

During a small reception at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday evening, Governor Haley Barbour and Sam Carr share a laugh about their experiences at Conway Twitty’s Club on Moon Lake when the governor was a college student and Sam and the Jelly Roll Kings were the house band.

Sam Carr is presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts during Friday’s ceremony at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson by Gov. Haley Barbour and first lady Marsha Barbour. The award is a glass sculpture designed by Ian Whitt in Moselle, Miss.

Wearing his signature short-brimmed hat, drummer Sam Carr plays with Bo Diddley and Raphael Sims’ band during the Thursday night reception before cheering fans and flashing cameras at the Capitol Inn. The reception was sponsored by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Speaking before hundreds filling the historic 100-year-old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Sam Carr thanks the audience for attending and for recognition he received.

Sam Carr enjoys an elaborate buffet and elite reception for honorees and special guests at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday evening.