For 50 years James Adaire Pigford, who was affectionately known as 'Jimmy,' served as the director for Meridian Little Theatre. Under his leadership, the theatre's season membership grew from less than 400 to more than 1500. During his tenure, Pigford helped spearhead an effort to rebuild the theatre after the original playhouse burned in 1972. Among his many accomplishments was establishing a Youth Division for MLT. This helped to develop the theatre into one of the largest and most successful amateur arts organizations in America.
"What's so amazing about it is the lessons that we learned on the stage translated into life, into public speaking, into learning to work with groups, into learning to work behind the scenes and making something happen. He was and always will be, just Meridian Little Theatre," says MLT board member, Sidney Covington.
For almost 30 years, Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tem, Greg Snowden, worked with Pigford as an actor in a number of productions. Deeply grieved, he says he will miss Pigford's friendship, encouragement and support.
Those who knew Jimmy Pigford say that he encouraged people to push beyond their self-imposed limits to be their very best.
"He was wise beyond measure. He knew ahead of time that I've got to keep this going and he had people in place for that," says Covington.
The day after Pigford's death, the MLT stage was still how he left it after the last practice he attended last week. The practice was for an upcoming production of "Steele Magnolias." Set to start February 21st., MLT officials say like Jimmy would've wanted it, the show will go on!
Jimmy Pigford died Monday afternoon at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian. At the time he was hospitalized for injuries sustained during a recent fall. At 80-years-old, he was winding down his final season as director for MLT.
Visitation for Pigford will be held Wednesday from 4 pm until 7 pm at Robert Barham Family Funeral Home. This will be followed by another visitation there at 1 pm Thursday and the funeral service at 3 PM inside the chapel.