He was a character to rival those created by William Faulkner.
But unlike Colonel John Sartoris and Thomas Sutpen and Flem Snopes and Uncle Billy Varner, John Clarence “J.C.” Holland was a flesh-and-blood Mississippian. He died Monday evening, June 20, 2016. He had cut a wide and colorful swath in North Mississippi for 85 years, a life celebrated by a throng of his family and friends Wednesday evening, June 22, at his Sadie J Farm near Plantersville.
Judge Sadie Monts Holland drove the Cadillac hearse which carried J.C.’s body to the last of his many raucous parties on earth.
The Sanctuary chapel at the Sadie J held about 120 people, and many more than that stood outside, listening to the service on loudspeakers.
Brother Bobby Holland, a nephew, was the officiating minister. Northern District Public Service Commissioner, Brandon Presley, was the eulogist. Both are talented storytellers who drew appreciative laughter with anecdotes and comments about the deceased.
“In the South, we measure our lives by the characters we have known,” said Presley. “To say J.C. was a character is like saying Jesse James had a little trouble with the law.”
Presley told of a parade that occurred in 1979, when Holland was running for a seat in the state legislature. A mule-drawn wagon carried J.C. Holland, sitting on a commode and with a sign that said, “J.C. Holland, the Only Candidate Who Knows What He’s Doing.”
Gary Monaghan, a burly Monroe County deputy sheriff, honorary pallbearer and a long-time friend, played several familiar hymns on the upright piano during the service. For the recessional music, Monaghan changed the pace, playing Floyd Cramer’s 1960 hit “Last Date.”
The celebrants moved outside for services in the Holland family cemetery next to the chapel. During the graveside service, songwriter and recording artist Paul Thorn (the headliner at last year’s Tallahatchie Riverfest in New Albany) sang “I Backslide on Friday” from his album “Too Blessed to Be Stressed.”
The sun was low in the sky as Thorn finished singing and the Masonic Funeral Service was conducted for J.C. Holland, a fourth generation 32nd Degree Mason. Official sunset time in north Mississippi for June 22nd was 8:12 p.m. It was within a couple of minutes of that time when the 10-minute ritual concluded, and J. C. Holland’s white lambskin Masonic apron was placed on top of his coffin.
“So mote it be.”
Holland’s obituary was distributed by e-mail from the Holland Funeral Directors Tuesday morning, June 21, 2016, at 9:24 a.m. If there were a Pulitzer Prize for obituary writing, we would nominate it. It read as follows:
Plantersville-One of this area’s most colorful personalities, John Clarence “J.C.” Holland, crossed the chilling waters of Jordan at 8:44 PM on Monday, June 20, 2016, at Sanctuary Hospice House, after battling Dementia/Alzheimer’s for almost 8 years. The baby of 7 children born in the Palmetto Community of Lee County on February 27, 1931, to the late Thomas McKinley Holland and Ottie Hester Holland. J. C.’s mother was killed in a tornado in 1942. He was fortunate to share in the life of Farra Mae Ivy Holland, who, along with his elder sisters, Evelyn and Mary, raised him. Jay, as he was known in youth and to many, was always mischievous, spoiled and a splendid athlete.
While under the coaching of the late Bodine Bourland at Shannon High School, he received the outstanding lineman recognition from the Tombigbee Conference and was chosen for a full football scholarship to Mississippi State University. However, as was one of his passions throughout life, he enjoyed the company of females and met and married Sadie Monts Holland on December 10, 1949, which negated his scholarship eligibility.
Sadie and J. C., early in life, owned and operated Holland’s Grocery in the Palmetto Community, a full-service-furnished store that was the hub of the community. J. C. worked initially for B and B Concrete in Tupelo. He and Sadie took literally the biblical admonition to “be fruitful and multiply” and had 6 sons born within 9 years.
In 1960, with a personal loan of $800 from the late Pat and Velma Dougherty, J. C. purchased the old Mount Bass Farm at City Point south of Plantersville, naming his new adventure the Sadie J Farm. From there, he would rapidly rise in the ranks of farming, purchase hundreds of acres of land in partnership with “Mr. Pat,” the Federal Land Bank and Production Credit Association. At one point in his career, he was farming cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle and livestock on almost 10, 000 acres in 3 Mississippi counties. In 1965, he and his family were singularly honored by being named Mississippi’s Outstanding Farmer and Farm Family. In 1966, he was chosen as one of 4 Outstanding Farmers of America, the first Mississippian to achieve this national recognition.
J.C. loved the land and all its produce. He was a progressive agriculturalist, setting trends unheard of by others. He accomplished this through partnerships with Mississippi State University, yielding acres for on-site research by the University. He was a pioneer in “no till” farming in this area, one of the charter members of the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board and longtime Chairman, was active in soil and water conservation organizations locally, statewide and nationally. It was once said about him in Progressive Farmer magazine, “J. C. Holland could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” The Sadie J became a storybook farm over the years and became a “teaching” farm for young people entering the profession, as well as a showplace for staging many agricultural functions. J. C. and Sadie kept their boys engaged in 4 H Club, FFA and other youth organizations, showing prized registered Black Angus cattle throughout the Mid- South all their growing up years.
In addition to his farming pursuits, J. C. founded and was longtime President of Holland Construction Company, major road builders in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He owned several other small businesses and financially empowered others to start small businesses. He served many years as a member of the Lee County School Board, including during the tumultuous time of integration in the 1960’s.
He grew up in the Oak Valley Christian Church near Palmetto and was a longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Plantersville and a former deacon. J.C., like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father before him, was a 32 Degree Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner.
J.C. cut a wide path in 85 years and his legacy will be that of a good-timing southern man who left few stones unturned and approached each and every day with the gusto of a hound dog. His sons and their families express gratitude for his long, interesting life.
J.C.’s large family includes his 6 sons in order of birth; Lee County Board of Supervisors President Billy Joe Holland, Don Holland (died May 22, 2009), State Representative Steve Holland and his wife, Mayor Gloria Holland, Perry Holland, John A. Holland and his wife, Judy and Jimmy Holland all of Plantersville and Nettleton. The queen bee of all their lives, their Mother and J. C.’s wife of 35 years, Judge Sadie Monts Holland; 19 grandchildren who knew him as Big Big: Deanna, Brian, Chip, Karen, Michael, Brittany, Kaylee, T.J., Ashley, Emily, McKinley, Haiwei, Christine, Ryan, Emilee, Buddy, Linzie, Austin and Hunter and 30 great-grandchildren, more or less. His siblings: Joanne Wood (Sammy) of Tupelo, Mildred Burt (John Wayne) of Palmetto, Sandra Sullivan of Shannon and Leon Holland of Tupelo; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, including Martha Jane Homan of Shannon, with whom he lived the last five years and whose watch care was exemplary and generous, two special lady friends, Juanita Bynum and Dorothy Benson (died April 14, 2011) and a wide circle of friends everywhere. He was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Don; a 7th son out-of-wedlock, Roger Dale Evans; his siblings, Evelyn, Mary, Julian, Herschel, Herbert and Bud; and his farming mentor, Mr. Horial Scruggs.
A celebration of his life will be held at 700 P.M. on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, at the Sanctuary at the Sadie J Farm, 2.5 miles south of Plantersville with his nephew, Bro. Bobby Holland, officiating and Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley delivering the eulogy. A Masonic graveside will follow in the Holland Family Cemetery on the Sadie J with refreshments to be served under the tall oaks after services are complete, a la J.C. style. Visitation will be from 3:30 PM-6:30 PM at the Tupelo Chapel of Holland Funeral Directors. The family will process to the Sadie J at 7 for the services there. It is suggested by the family that remembrances of J. C. be sent to Sanctuary Hospice House, P. O. Box 2177, Tupelo, MS. 38802 as an expression of their gratitude for the splendid care he received there before transforming to eternal life.
“I Backslide on Friday”
by Paul Thorn
Deep down I want to be a good man
I make new resolutions every day
I start off with the best of intentions
Til my lack of follow-through gets in the way
Oh Oh I sin on Saturday
I repent on Sunday
Then I tell myself I won’t procrastinate on Monday
Tuesday I do like I should
Wednesday I do pretty good
Thursday Paul drops the ball, then I backslide on Friday
I’m always planning for the future
I’ve set some lofty goals inside my mind
Someday soon I’ll put the wheels in motion
But right now I can’t seem to find the time
I have unlimited potential
Mama said that I was born to win
My picture’s on her refrigerator
She’s hoping I won’t let her down again