Oxford resident David Crews will be the next featured speaker at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. During the event set for 6 p.m. Monday, March 27, Crews will speak about his collection of intriguing and sometimes odd quotes from Mississippians.
In a conversation with the center’s chairman, Charles Overby, Crews will elaborate on his recently published The Mississippi Book of Quotations in the fourth of a spring series of programs dedicated to Mississippi during the celebration of its 200th anniversary of statehood.
“David collects quotes the way some guys collect baseball cards,” said Overby. “Mississippians are great at talking, and David has put together comments that are inspiring, outrageous and funny. The stories he tells behind the quotes are fascinating.”
The event, which will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus, is free and open to the public. A reception will be held afterward, and arrangements for parking have been made for the lot adjacent to the auditorium.
Over the years, Crews saved quotes from politicians and writers, as well as musicians and athletes, dozens of which have become favorites, such as: “It’s hard to remember the truth when there’s so much truth to remember.”
“It was uttered by a witness during a federal trial in my court,” said Crews. “That is a line that is simultaneously true, amusing, and bordering on perjury. What’s not to like about a line that incorporates truth, humor, and perjury.”
Crews is now the chief clerk for the U.S. District Courts in North Mississippi, but enjoys a statewide reputation as a raconteur and an authority on many things “Mississippi.”
After graduating from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., he taught American history for a year and worked for two years as a newspaper reporter. In the early 1980s, he was a young, yet valuable aide to Gov. William Winter while informally doubling as an adventurous traveler and student of literature. He developed friendships with most of the prominent writers in Mississippi’s modern history.
While living in Jackson, Crews made stealthy deliveries of the daily New York Times to the doorstep of Eudora Welty to save her the trouble of finding the newspaper at her neighborhood grocery. (Determined to find who was responsible for the magic, she caught him in the act one morning.) As a child, he even encountered William Faulkner – after the Nobel Prize-winning novelist spotted him stealing apples from an orchard.
Crews was a buddy of the late Willie Morris. He was also part of a cast of characters who banged about China and beyond 30 years ago. Fellow Mississippian, Stuart Stevens, a travel writer and political analyst, wrote about their trip in his book, Night Train to Turkistan.
Crews has hiked all 450 miles of the Natchez Trace and climbed the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. More recently, he produced a documentary that won a regional Emmy Award.
His father, the late John Crews, was a popular English literature professor at Ole Miss. His wife, Claire, is a teacher in the Oxford School District. They are the parents of twins.
To round out his unconventional profile, he carried a gun for nearly eight years while tracking down fugitives as the chief U.S. marshal in North Mississippi during the Clinton administration.
Of his varied background, Crews says: “My brother contends all of this is evidence that I can’t hold a job.”