Meridian Star

Meridian and its Neighbors

July 20, 2006

Meridianites Picnic comes home every five years

Every five years, thousands of people from across the country and abroad convene in Meridian for a family reunion of Meridianites.

The National Council of Meridianites Inc. Convention and Picnic is an annual gathering of alumni from the now-defunct T.J. Harris High School. They meet each year in one of five cities the United States — so, every five years, the homecoming is in Meridian.

The picnic tradition started 40 years ago, when Meridian natives living in Cleveland (Curtis Cole, Lessie Hill Cole and Clarice May Thomas) and Detroit (Lucille Kennedy Jackson, Steve Jackson, Annie B. Kennedy Horton) attended a classmate’s funeral.

After the funeral, the group met at a local park to reminisce. The following year, they met again, beginning a tradition that continues today.

“Others became involved,” said C.E. Oatis, Southern Region president and a former national president of the Council of Meridianites.

“New cities were added, until the whole United States had been divided into five regions — Northern, Eastern, Western, Mid-West and Southern, the home chapter sponsored by the Council of Organizations Inc. — which host the picnic on a rotating basis every five years.”

More than 5,000 people attended the first picnic, held in Meridian in 1974. The event was featured in Ebony magazine.

Over the years, the picnic has evolved into more than just a social gathering. Highlights include an awards program, a luncheon during which students from each of the five regions receive $1,000 scholarships, a memorial service, hospitality night, annual picnic and grand ball.


The last time Meridian hosted the National Council of Meridianites Inc. Convention and Picnic was in 2004 — the 38th such gathering since the tradition began in 1974. The 2006 Meridianites Picnic was held June 21-25 in Detroit. Next year’s gathering will be in Minneapolis.

For more information, call C.E. Oatis Jr., (601) 485-6440.

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