Meridian Star

February 6, 2013

James Adair Pigford

The Meridian Star


    The stage lights are dim at the Meridian Little Theatre because James Adair (Jimmy) Pigford, 80, died on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Throughout the past 50 years, he has been director and mentor to many actors and friends.

    Services will be held Thursday, at 3 p.m., at Robert Barham Family Funeral Home with Dr. Tom Sikes officiating. Visitation will be today, at 4 p.m., and two hours before the service on Thursday. Burial will be at Magnolia Cemetery immediately following the service with Robert Barham Family Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

    Mr. Pigford was born on Sept. 2, 1932, to J. A. and Matalara Pigford. He was educated in the Meridian Public School System and graduated Ole Miss University in 1956. After college, he went to Hollywood, Calif., with a friend who was interested in getting a screen test. When meeting Jimmy, they asked him to give a screen test, also, and he was accepted. Mr. Pigford began a notable stage and screen career. He appeared in 30 television shows including “The Millionaire”, “Burns and Allen”, “Father Knows Best” and “West Point Story”. Jimmy’s movie roles include performances in “The Rebel”, “Tea and Sympathy” and “Shake, Rattle and Rock”. During this time he was selected to represent Mississippi and the United States at the World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium in 1958. This was one of the highlights of his life. Returning to Meridian due to his mother’s failing health, Jimmy re-activated his formative years with MLT in 1960. He worked as a volunteer, casting, director, Board President, and ultimately was hired as Meridian Little Theatre’s full time Resident Director in 1965. He directed over 200 plays. One of his earliest efforts to advance MLT was his formation of the “First Nighters” patron group. It was also under his leadership and guidance that the Ladies Guild was organized in 1968. In 1969, Jimmy and Mrs. Roland Kimbrell organized the Youth Division of MLT. His career-long commitment to young people proved the inspiration in 1996 for the inauguration of an annual Summer Youth Workshop for children. He has served as President of the Mississippi Community Theatre Association and as Chairman of the 1968-69 MS State Theatre Convention. Jimmy was named to the Governor’s Advisory Panel for the Performing Arts in Mississippi in 1970. The Meridian Council for the Arts, in 1994, bestowed upon Jimmy its prestigious “Excellence in Arts” award. He received the Daughters of the American Revolution Award for Community Involvement of outstanding contributions in the world of art and entertainment, and in 2012 he received The Meridian Star Award for “Man of the Year”. MLT was honored in 2006 and 2007 by Mississippi Magazine polls as “Best Live Theatre in Mississippi”, thanks in a large measure to the talent and dedication of Jimmy Pigford.

    One of Jimmy’s biggest challenges came with the devastating fire that completely destroyed the 52nd Street Playhouse on Dec. 16, 1972. He insisted that MLT not miss a single production, holding performances in various host auditoriums until a new playhouse was constructed. This was accomplished for the 1976-77 season with a state of the art 400 seat facility, which bears the distinctive imprint of Director Jimmy Pigford. This auditorium is named in his honor. The accomplishments of his 50+ years of outstanding service to his community and to the arts are most worthy of recognition.

    Pallbearers will be Scott Merrill, Colton Tinsley, Keith Evans, Shannon Culpepper, Campbell Helveston and Allen Yesh.

    Honorary pallbearers are Tommy Dulaney, Eddie Partridge, Greg Snowden, Al Veach, Earl Aycock Jr. and Frank Coleman.

    Following the services at Magnolia Cemetery, a celebration of Jimmy’s life will be held at the Meridian Little Theatre, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to come.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Meridian Little Theatre.

    Family and friends may sign the online guest book at