Meridian Connection

"I've been a rebel all my life," said Katharine Esters.

Being close cousin to both Oprah Winfrey and Morgan Freeman, it would seem that success runs in Katharine Esters' family. She's no exception. Now at age 74, Esters says she has lived a life dedicated
to changing society for the better.

Throughout her life, Esters says she often worked two and three
jobs just to make ends meet. With seemingly no other option, Esters dropped out of high school to go work out of state to earn money to help pay off a family member's debt. She later went back to school
and earned her diploma.

Throughout school, Esters was an advocate against racism and injustice. While at Mary Holmes Boarding School, Esters wrote a letter to school leaders in the North, which led to the desegregation of the eating area for teachers at the school.

During that time, a run-in with a bus driver because of her refusal to adhere to the Jim Crow bus laws, also led to some changes.

"At one point the bus driver got off the bus and pulled me off behind him. But when he got back on the bus, I jumped on his back and 'piggy-backed' him onto the bus," Esters said.

After the incident Esters said she wrote a letter to officials with Trailways Bus line. She says it was her letter, which led to a change
in policy, which required the curtain separating black and white riders to only be used when riders of different races were on the bus.

In 1972 Mrs. Esters moved back to Mississippi to take care of her parents. To display a feeling of pride she placed a sign in her yard, which read, "Heritage House." Years later that has now become the name of the community.

Because the area did not have proper running water and officials said they could not afford to install water pipes, Mrs. Esters took out a personal loan for $26,000 and had the lines installed. She also opened a store in the area, which she has since converted into a community center.

One of the accomplishments Esters says she is most proud of occurred while she was serving on the state Board of Mental Health. It was during that time that she spearheaded the effort to open group homes throughout the state for people who are mentally challenged.

Two of those homes are in Kosciusko and two others are in Meridian. All four are named in Mrs. Esters' honor.

Whether a person has financial wealth or not, Esters says like her famous cousins, everyone has the ability to achieve.

"It's not about money or how much you have, but it's about how you use what you have," Esters said.