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2019 marks the 190th anniversary of the birth of William Booth, one of Britain's most important, yet least known, men. He was born in Nottingham, England, on April 10, 1829. Heralded for possessing enormous energy and passion for the downtrodden, he is today recognized as being the foremost humanitarian of the 19th century. His accomplishments lifted the lives of millions during his lifetime and, since his death 105 years ago, many more millions in 58 countries around the world owe thanks to this man. William Booth was the founder and first General of The Salvation Army.

He was revered, and on June 24, 1904, was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet King Edward VII. Writer Jim Winter in his book Travel with William Booth: The First General of the Salvation Army wrote: "William was astonished when the King asked him for his autograph! Taking the pen in his hand, he wrote, 'Some men's ambition is fame. Some men's ambition is gold. My ambition is the souls of men.'"

After 13 years of mission and social work in London's crime-ridden East End, Booth, along with his wife Catherine, their son Bramwell, and a team of workers, founded The Salvation Army in May of 1878. The identification was formed out of Booth's desire to give their mission a new direction by referring to it as a volunteer army.

Their original mission was to war against sin, all sin. They renamed their mission stations "corps," and in keeping with being soldiers for Christ, they adopted a distinctive military-style uniform upon which a specially designed crest would be worn to announce to the world that their mission is first and foremost to be Salvationists. By the end of the year, Booth ceased to be known as Reverend and took total command as the General.

Realizing that most people think more of their bodies, which are temporary, rather than their souls, which are eternal, he decided to utilize music as part of his arsenal, to reach as many young people as possible. Just as in John and Charles Wesley's day, many of the Army's converts were illiterate, so like the Wesleys, General Booth's corps set out from the beginning to teach the new converts the great doctrines of the Bible through singing stirring hymns. The singing accompanied by brass instruments has long been a hallmark of The Salvation Army and aimed in the General's words: "at guarding our children, and their children too, from all strains and songs and services which will not help them to live lives of holiness."

By 1880, Booth's benevolent movement, based on the account in scripture of the Good Samaritan, had become a worldwide organization. Its message of hope had by then reached across the wide expanse of the Atlantic, planting its roots in American soil. By 1887, Britain had a thousand corps, and there were similar units on every continent. Soon the principle of "soup, soap, and salvation" was operating from Argentina to Australia and from Iceland to Zululand. During September of that same year, the first corps units opened in our state, one in Vicksburg and the other in Meridian. Three months later, a third corps was established in Corinth. Jackson's first corps opened in the home of Mr. and Mrs. T.P. Barr in February of 1906. Today, there are 17 different cities in the state hosting corps units that, in addition to offering church services, provide an array of social services. Those cities are Biloxi/Gulfport, Pascagoula, Columbus, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Laurel, Meridian, Tupelo, and Vicksburg. In addition to these 10 city units, there are seven others where Salvation Army Centers provide only social services and thrift stores. With locations in Corinth, Fulton, Houston, Oxford, Pontotoc, Starkville, and Cleveland, these corps units and service centers exist and serve solely from the prayers and generosity of the people who live and work in these towns and cities.

In each of these facilities may be found a large plaque containing General William Booth's creed taken from his famous "I'll fight speech" given to 7,000 Salvationists in London's Royal Albert Hall on May 9,1912:

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; While children go hungry as they do now, I'll fight; While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight--I'll fight to the very end!"

On March 23, 1975, The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters was relocated from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson to be centrally located to serve the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

In 2011, our state welcomed the 52,000-square-foot Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, one of only 26 in the U.S. It is located in Biloxi. This state-of-the-art center, a gift from Ray and Joan Kroc, the founders of the McDonald's Restaurant chain, serves the Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula area.
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Title Annotation:HERITAGE & CULTURE: Looking Back
Author:Cooper, Forrest Lamar
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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