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Cofield on Oxford — The Run of the Place, Part VI


Photo 1
Oxford icon James Barr – courtesy of Jeremy Barr

As with the great old families of Oxford, each generation leaves its mark with the birth of the next.
Among the family who felt William Faulkner’s loss that day at Rowan Oak was Caroline’s niece, Molly Barr. And there, with Miss Molly, the Barrs became a celebrated Lafayette County name.
A land owner of note, Molly’s grand picnics, held on the Oxford road that bares her name, were much awaited social events. Molly announced her parties to be official with the beating of drums that echoed through the community. The black children of that day remember Miss Molly and the crop duster she had fly low and drop bags of candy to them. Lafayette County history records Miss Molly Barr among it’s greatest of old family matriarchs. She is remembered for her lively spirit mixed with a sense of community. And for her many other quiet acts of kindness for those in need. And there were whispers of New Orleans’ magic in the Oxford air. But, beyond the Falkner boys and beyond Lafayette County lore, her children stepped to the front lines and into American history. Molly Barr sent three sons into WWII.
James, Johnny and Wilson Barr left Oxford heading for Camp Shelby, and all points east. And while Molly Barr prayed to see her boys again, James made that prayer come true for an untold number of American mothers. While under fight, Pvt. James Barr shouldered his rifle, stood his ground, and fired continuously on an oncoming German fighter plane until it crashed and exploded nearby. James and Wilson made it back to Oxford and the arms of their mother. But Molly had laid the ultimate sacrifice at the alter of freedom. Pfc. John W. Barr died on August 10, 1943.
Photo 2
Caroline “Mammy Callie” Barr and Dean “Deanie” Falkner in the front yard of the Falkner home – Dean F. Wells (c) The Cofield Collection

James Barr did not live the American dream, but he lived to see to it that his ten children had their chance to go there. And go there they have. But before they went, before they were born, James needed a job. The war was over and so was any separate but unequal chance of his getting any further education. James could not read or write. But he had one thing: Molly had taught him to count money. So with that, he eased down the hill by Neilson’s and up to the dock at the old Ice House and asked Ross Brown for a job. And the rest is Oxford history. But not really, not just yet.
There is a great old photograph of “Mammy Callie” Barr and the fourth Falkner boy, seven-year-old Dean “Deanie” Falkner, sitting in the sun in the Falkner’s yard on University Avenue in 1914, shelling black-eyed peas into a basket.
So now, beyond William Faulkner, Lafayette lore and war heroes, Molly’s grandchildren have stepped across that old line and are living the American dream. On his salary at the Ice House, James educated all ten. The Barrs have built Lafayette county homes, churches, schools and families. And in 2014, on the other end of University Avenue, Molly’s great-grandson, KPMG Scholar and AICPA Fellow, Dereck Barr, received his degree as a Doctor of Philosophy in Accountancy from The University of Mississippi. And the rest will be Lafayette County history, and its future.
Photo 3
Barr Family celebrate at Dereck Barr’s 2014 graduation party – Courtesy Donnell Barr.

Courtesy of John Cofield, a hottytoddy.com writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, “Col.” J. R. Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at johnbcofield@gmail.com.

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