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Blog: Morgan Freeman: Hollywood Great & Delta Great-Great

Last week, actor Morgan Freeman came to my hometown of Cleveland to meet our new Delta State President president, Bill LaForge. A few years ago, Morgan received an honorary degree from Delta State, and he was very appreciative.

I’ve known Morgan for a long time now, and there is far more to this Mississippi Delta resident than what you see on the big screen.

Morgan grew up in Greenwood and Charleston. In the late 1990s, after living in New York for 25 years, he moved back to the Delta and his home outside of Charleston became his permanent residence.

Morgan has lived a very unique life. In his late teens, he joined the Air Force hoping to become a pilot, but instead worked on the mechanic side. He started out at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and ended his military stint in California. He decided to stay in California after his honorable discharge and pursue acting – a passion he acquired during his teens when he visited the Saturday matinees at the old Greenwood picture show watching the cowboy films.

Morgan struggled significantly trying to earn enough money to eat, pay the rent, and at the same time launch an acting career. He bounced from California to New York during those early years before he began to get some traction. Early on, he did have some minor success and he received some impressive awards. However, it wasn’t until his role in Street Smart on the stage in New York at the age of 50 that he arrived at that next level in acting.

His role in the stage version of Driving Miss Daisy was also another great moment in his career. Some producers wanted to make this play into a film and in conducting their research they attended several of the Driving Miss Daisy performances. They finally decided to give him the role in the film version and as we all know today, that was an iconic part for Morgan. The rest is history.

While many salute Morgan for being a famous movie star, people that know him personally are more impressed with his love of his homeland and his generosity. Morgan gives freely of his time and he gives financially to an untold number of charities here in the state –– foundations, healthcare concerns, after-school programs, other educational programs as well as a variety of things here in the Mississippi Delta and the state.

But, he never seeks credit or publicity for his giving which is extremely telling. Think of the many actors in Hollywood who also give and then think about how much publicity they seek and receive from their “do gooder” deeds.

Not Morgan. He wants to make the world a better place for all, especially those in his home state. And, his giving to this region is not in the thousands of dollars, it is in the millions.

Morgan is a wonderful actor, no doubt about it. However, there is far more to this caring person than what you see on the big screen.

I’m delighted he lives here in the Delta and I’m thankful he gives generously to our region and state.

Scott Coopwood is the owner and publisher of Delta Business Journal, Delta Magazine and The Cleveland Current. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net

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