People, together, save Magnolia tre
April 1, 2001
It started as a rumor, grew into a fact. When the orange and white barrels were placed Friday to barricade parking spaces in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse, it was a sure sign the whine of a chain saw could not be far behind. It was a sure sign a decades-old Magnolia tree was about to come down.
But, much to the chagrin of politicians who authorized the action, something extraordinary happened. Word went out by radio and telephone and person to person. People were yelling from windows atop the Raymond P. Davis Courthouse Annex. Cars circled the courthouse like sharks looking for a meal.
In short, people acted.
It never quite rose to the level of civil disobedience, but it did happen very quickly. It had to there was no advance warning that supervisors had decided to cut down the tree. Their decision evidently was made during morning telephone calls among themselves and their staff.
The effort to save the tree was launched by Tax Collector Stanley Shannon and others fond of the old Magnolia, which stands in the shadow of the state flag on the courthouse grounds. As a cluster of sheriff's deputies stood by to keep the peace, Shannon and others proclaimed themselves ready to handcuff themselves to the tree's branches if necessary to save it.
But the demonstration was peaceful.
The very idea of cutting down a Magnolia tree is unpalatable to most Mississippians. It would be like killing a Mockingbird (the state bird), telling jokes during the playing of "Go, Mississippi" (the state song) or netting the spicebush swallowtail (the state butterfly). It just isn't done.
After all, the Magnolia was voted by school children in 1900 as the state flower over the cotton blossom and cape jasmine. It was declared the state tree in 1938 after beating out oak, pine and dogwood.
The sudden outcry may have reminded Lauderdale County supervisors some things are more important than political decisions, even one to cut down a Magnolia tree on the courthouse lawn in the name of beautification. It may also remind them that when it comes to children, dogs and trees, people like to be consulted first.