Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Remebering Ray Lum, Mule Trader

Remembering Ray Lum: 2 films and a conversation.
Vicksburg’s Dr. William R. (Bill) Ferris will be coming home for a program
debuting the latest chapter in a quest he has been involved with for over
fifty years. The Strand Theatre will host a special event featuring two short
films about local mule trader, Ray Lum, and a conversation with the
filmmakers and guests who are connected to the films.
Daniel Boone, program presenter at the Strand explained, “there was a time
in the first half of the twentieth century when mules were essential for
transportation, agricultural, and construction work. Here in Vicksburg, Ray
Lum was a mule trader. It was his occupation and his way of life. In other
words, he lived by his wits and his words. As automobiles and tractors and
other heavy equipment became accepted in other parts of the country, the
mule remained a valued tool and partner here in the South for a number of
years. After the mule was no longer needed by many, Mr. Lum auctioned
cattle and horses at his livestock barn.”  
Ray Lum was a larger than life character; a natural storyteller which served
him well in his efforts to sell livestock. He believed it was important to
always tell the truth even if it might sometimes be necessary to “handle it
with care,” according to Ray Lum: Mule Trader, a book told in Lum’s own
words by Bill Ferris.  
In the introduction to that book Ferris states, “In the late ‘60s while a
graduate student in folklore at the University of Pennsylvania, I
rediscovered and understood better my culture as I filmed and recorded
black blues musicians, storytellers, and folk artists from the Mississippi
Delta. By 1970 I was teaching English at Jackson State College, and my
father suggested I record Lum, whom he felt was unique as a storyteller. I
took my father’s advice and in 1970 began a quest for Lum and through him
my own identity.”  
In collaboration with Judy Peiser and Bobby Taylor, Ferris, a former
chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, coeditor of the
award-winning Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and author of several
other books; made a film about Lum in 1974, also entitled Ray Lum: Mule
That eighteen minute film will be shown at the Strand along with a
new film entitled Okay, Mr. Ray which utilizes footage shot by Ferris; and
which was directed by Ashley Melzer, a young producer, filmmaker and
writer based in Durham, North Carolina, who considers Ferris to be a

Ferris and Melzer will be at the Strand to talk about their films, and will be
joined in conversation by Henry Harris, the son of Squire Harris, who is
featured in the film, and Betsy Lum Lipscomb, Ray Lum’s niece.
According to Kelle Barfield, owner of Lorolei Books, “I have stock of Ray
Lum: Mule Trader
at Lorelei Books, which I will have at the Strand on July
13 for those who would like to purchase an autographed copy. I plan to
donate profits from sales to The Strand.”
This program is being supported by the Mississippi Humanities Council
who helped fund the new film.  
The event will be Saturday, July 13 at 7 PM at the Strand Theatre located at
717 Clay Street in downtown Vicksburg. It is free and open to the public.  

Because so many seats are reserved for friends and family of the Lum family, Harris family and the Ferris family, we are over capacity already. I cannot, at this point save any more, and it is unlikely any more can be squeezed in. I apologize. I explained to Bill that in Vicksburg he is a rockstar.


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