Long-time official dies after lengthy illness

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 28, 2002

Long-time Lincoln County Supervisor Cliff Givens died of heartfailure Saturday morning at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson aftera lengthy illness.

Funeral services for Jessie Clifton Givens are 2 p.m., Monday,Oct. 28, at First Baptist Church with burial in Bethel TemplePentecostal Church cemetery. Visitation is today from 9 a.m. until9 p.m., and Monday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., at Brookhaven FuneralHome.

Givens, 76, was in his sixth term as supervisor of District 1.He was a member of Bethel Temple United Pentecostal Church.

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Former Chancery Clerk J. Ronny Smith remembered Givens for hisquiet but determined leadership. The two men went into officetogether in 1980.

“In 20 years, we saw a lot,” said Smith, who retired in 2000after five terms in office.

During negotiations with Wal-Mart to put a distribution centerhere, Givens had to guarantee that supervisors would approve taxbreak incentives for the company to come, Smith said. During a tripto Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., board presidentGivens made the guarantee that led to the locating of the county’slargest employer.

“He made a fairly bold decision at that time,” Smith said. “Thatwas just one example of his leadership and taking a stand in thatkind of situation.”

Former Brookhaven Mayor Harold Samuels was part of the groupthat went to Arkansas during the Wal-Mart negotiations. Heindicated that experience was an example of the teamwork betweenthe city, county and chamber of commerce during his time inoffice.

“He was a wonderful person and a family man,” Samuels said ofGivens. “Brookhaven and Lincoln County will miss him dearly.”

Smith also remembered Givens persuading the district attorney toconvene a grand jury session to condemn the county’s old welfarebuilding. The county was working on a grant for a new building, nowlocated across from the government complex, and Givens thought thecondemnation would help the county’s chances for funding.

“It was just his way of doing things,” Smith said. “He was goingto do whatever he could to see that whatever he was working on wasaccomplished.”

When the county health department was looking for a new locationseveral years ago, Givens was instrumental in finding a spot. Withthe county not wanting to spend money unless necessary, Smith saidGivens contacted a property owner about donating land for a newbuilding on Industrial Park Road.

“Once he got a project on his mind, he wouldn’t rest,” Smithsaid.

That was evident in Givens’ pursuit of federal funds to build anoverpass for Industrial Park Road. Givens worked with CountyEngineer Carl Ray Furr to secure over $2 million in federal moneyfor the project, although some other officials at the time did notthink it was possible.

“The more they said that, the more determined he got,” Smithsaid.

Following its completion, supervisors voted to named theoverpass in Givens’ honor. Mentioning a meeting many years ago thatsparked the idea for the overpass, Samuels added that he was gladto see the bridge completed while Givens was in office.

Smith said Givens knew when to compromise and when to take anaggressive stand. Smith mentioned the supervisor’s stance duringsolid waste fee negotiations and his efforts to keep fees from notgoing up more quickly.

“He was tough as a negotiator,” Smith said. “He was alwayslooking out for the county’s good in those situations.”

Givens was elected supervisor after earlier working off shorefor an oil company. He later founded the Penguin and Star Drive-Insin Brookhaven and the Star Drive-Ins in Summit and Magnolia.

An interesting fact about Givens was that he represented amajority black district throughout his career. Smith said that wasevidence of the way Givens dealt with people, regardless ofcolor.

“He treated people right. He helped people,” Smith said.

Smith said Givens helped people of lower means just as quicklyas those who may have been better off. While residents of District1 got most of his attention, Givens was eager to help others acrossthe county.

“You wouldn’t believe the calls he got from other districts,”Smith said.

After each election, Smith said he and Givens dealt with amajority new board of supervisors. While some new board members maynot have been receptive to Givens’ ideas, Smith said he graduallywon them over.

“That was a positive sign of his wisdom and perception ofthings,” Smith said.

Preceding Givens in death were his parents, Wash Givens andMadie Martin Givens; his brothers, Walter Givens Sr., and BuddyGivens; and his sister, Marie Thomas.

Survivors include his wife, Vedia Grace Hall Givens ofBrookhaven; his son and daughter-in-law, Jessie Earl and JuneGivens of Brookhaven; his daughters and sons-in-law, Hilda Ray andEddie Floyd, Darlene and Delynn Allen, and Lisa Michell Givens, allof Brookhaven, Linda Ruth and Earl Oliver of McComb, Carolyn andBobby Richardson of Bogue Chitto, and Beatrice and John Teasley ofMadison; his brothers, Merris Givens of Brookhaven and Louis Givensof Monticello; his sisters, Daisy Matthews of California, MattieHayes of Brookhaven and Maude Sykes of West Monroe, La.; and 24grandchildren; and 29 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Bethel TempleUnited Pentecostal Church building fund.