Johnny Cash Memorial and museum is success

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Marcy and Tommy Cash prepare for the first concert to kick of Dyess Days on Friday evening.

Six months of hard worked paid off for the City of Dyess, as a $20,000 profit from the three day celebration of Dyess Days, on July 7-9, was realized.

The Dyess Days celebration was a city-wide effort to raise money to establish a Dyess-Johnny Cash Memorial and museum.

Dyess Mayor Larry Sims and his memorial committee welcomed home two favorite sons and a host of musical talent during Dyess Days. Tommy Cash and Buddy Jewell were the entertainment headliners for Friday and Saturday nights, and were joined by several talented singers, groups and bands during the musical weekend.

"Tommy Cash performed on Friday night, in the old Dyess High School gymnasium," Sims said. "Tommy was born and raised at Dyess and former classmates and fans came out to watch him perform. He was very well received and stayed to sign autographs and visit with old friends. He has been one of the biggest supporters of the Dyess Days effort, and has not only given his performance time but special donations as well."

The Cash siblings who lived in Dyess included Roy, Louise (Garrett), Jack, Johnny, Reba (Hancock), Joann (Yates) and Tommy. Tommy and Joann are the only remaining members of the family, and both make their home in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Big River Country and Angie Penny were also in concert on Friday night.

Nashville Star Buddy Jewell, Big River Country and Barbara Warhurst entertained on Saturday night.

Sunday afternoon and evening shows included Penny, Warhurst, Bo McDowell, White Lightning Band, Rob Coburn, Rockerz Dawgs Band and Blue Diamond.

"Tommy has worked with our committee in formulating plans for the Dyess celebration from the beginning," said Sims. "He keeps coming up with something to give to the city that was reminiscent of Johnny's career. The week before his concert he called and offered us a big sign which reads "House of Cash." It has stood outside the entrance to Johnny and June Carter Cash's home for years, and was taken down when Barry Gibb (of the B-Gees) bought the home last year.

"Jerald Burns and I drove to Hendersonville on June 29 and brought the sign back to Dyess," Sims said. "We hope to erect it in Dyess somewhere, or repaint it to fit into the plans for the memorial and museum. Hopefully we can purchase the old Dyess Colony administration building with funds made this weekend, and house city hall and the museum there.

"Tommy has a lot of memories from his days spent here in Dyess and wants to give something back to honor his brother Johnny and the Cash family."

"My parents moved from Kingsland, Ark., in 1935 when President Roosevelt's administration created Dyess Colony," Tommy Cash said. "With no money down they homesteaded 20 acres of land. The house where I was born and grew up is still standing on Mississippi County Road W924, just west of the city of Dyess.

"We had a happy childhood in Dyess. All of us had agriculture in common, and being a part of Dyess Colony. The circle uptown had everything we needed, a movie house, the Pop Shop, a place to gather and spend time with our friends.

"I was a projectionist at the theatre from age 14-16. I was glad to get the job. I got to see all the latest movies and visit with my friends, while making money to spend."

Johnny Cash grew up and became an accomplished song writer and entertainer, and often wrote about the days growing up in cotton country at Dyess. His family withstood the devastating floods of 1937, when the Mississippi River broke through its levees and flooded the southern area of Mississippi County. Johnny's father took a door off the house and floated the children to high ground and safety. Cash memorialized the flood evacuation by writing "Five Feet High and Rising," in 1959.

A new bridge across the Tyronza River was opened a week before Dyess Days, just in time for the celebration.

Tommy Cash performed a tribute to his brother, Johnny, in the same gymnasium, where they both attended school. Johnny graduated there in 1950, and his school composite photo hangs at city hall.

"We have worked hard to get the gym in shape," Sims said. "We removed the old wood floor and refinished the concrete floor underneath. We built a stage and got it air conditioned. People all over town have pitched in to help clean up the old school. Classrooms have been turned into lodging quarters for some band members. An all-out Dyess city reunion for former residents and classmates was held on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m."

Frances Wallace has served as reunion chairman for over 20 years. Hundreds of classmates and residents were in attendance.

"We think the reunion added to the Dyess Days fundraiser this weekend," Wallace said. "We had food available inside and out, old antique cars, tractors, and also a fire truck and movie star mule called Emery.

"We were especially proud to have Buddy Jewell, a top Nashville recording artist, to be in concert. He had a sell-out crowd and put on a fantastic show."

"Dyess is special to me," Jewell said. "My parents were raised here and I lived in Dyess as a child."

Jewell was born in Lepanto, one of three children born to Buddy and Eva (Harris) Jewell. He has a sister Pam Shirley, who lives in Caraway, and a brother Danny, who lives in Marion.

"We actually lived in the old administration building, in Dyess," Jewell said. "That is going to make a nice museum, as it sits in the center of town and is the hub of the city."

Jewell's family moved to Osceola before he started school and he went on to graduate from high school there.

"This memorial to Dyess Colony and Johnny Cash is going to be a fantastic thing," Jewell said. "Johnny Cash has touched everyone with his music. I can trace my musical roots back to him. My parents grew up living close to his parents in Dyess and can attest to the family's music ability.

"My grandparents, Andrew and Johnnie Marie Jewell, lived in Dyess, as well as my mother's parents C.S. and Loreda Harris. Coming back to Dyess was always special to me, as we had such happy memories here. Dad came from a family of 12, and Mom from a family of seven. Needless to say, I have a lot of relatives around here. This was like a big homecoming.

"When Tommy Cash called me about the memorial, I told him I wanted to do what I could to help. My wife (Tene) was unable to attend, as she needed to stay home with our son Buddy. Lacey (12) and Joshua (5) were here and didn't miss anything. They were surrounded by family and friends, and had a great time."

Jewell's father, Buddy Jewell Sr., died in April. His mother Eva Holiman lives in Monette and sat on the front row along with all her Dyess classmates.

"We wanted to do everything possible to make the fundraiser a success," Jewell said. "It is important for Dyess to have a Johnny Cash memorial, as Johnny was always proud of where he came from. He wrote many songs about living here. He always called Dyess home."

Cindy Cash, one of Johnny Cash's four daughters, came to Dyess Days on Saturday, July 8, along with her husband John Brock. She visited at the gymnasium and then went to the Dyess circle to use her metal detector and look for old treasures. She took time to tour city hall and the antique car exhibit. Jerald Burns gave her a tour of the movie site, where a portion of "I Walk the Line," was filmed. Even though she had not seen the movie, she thanked Burns for the tour.

The City of Dyess established a webpage for information about the memorial and plans for other upcoming events, as well as a recap of the first Dyess Days. It is:

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