The McCain Family: Blessed Be the Ties that Bind
Maj. Dex McCain (BBA ’92) cites a scripture, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of thingsnot seen,” when describing his family. McCain believes this Bible passage epitomizes the McCain Family of Batesville, Miss.
Through their faith, family values and strong desire to excel, seven of the 10 McCain children graduated from the University of Mississippi. “It wasn’t easy growing up in rural Mississippi through the ’60’s and ’70’s for any family with 10 children,” says McCain, “however, it was often much harder for an African-American family to excel under the racial attitudes of that day.”
Obstacles did not deter Charles and Earnestine McCain from instilling pride, a sense of purpose, and a vision for a better future into their children. The late Charles McCain was a family farmer, growing mostly cotton and soybeans on a farm west of Batesville — the same farm he was raised on in the early ’30s. Earnestine McCain, a graduate of Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi (MED ‘81) is a retired schoolteacher; but her love of teaching has not subsided—she stillsubstitute teaches when needed.
Charles and Earnestine’s parents were their role models—they set the example. How do a farmer and elementary schoolteacher put seven children through college at the University of Mississippi? They encouraged them to take advantage of opportunities they did not have and by untiringly teaching their children to strive for excellence while retaining their dignity and humility. Their tenacity, “tough love” and faith were instilled in each child and the fruits of their labor were recognized.
- The oldest child, Mrs. Arnetta M. Brown graduated from Ole Miss with a BS in Social Work in 1977. She is currently a Medicaid Waiver Case Manager with North Delta Planning and Development District, in Clarksdale.
- Knowing the benefits of a good education, Arnetta persuaded her son, Mr. Christopher M. Brown to attend Ole Miss. Brown graduated with a BA in Computer Graphics Design in 2002. He is currently employed by Federal Express in Memphis.
- Mrs. Cecelia M. Harrington (BA ‘84) is currently a First Grade teacher at Green Grove Elementary School in Neptune, New Jersey.
- In 1985, two McCain children graduated from Ole Miss: Mrs. Cornelia M. Willis (BA ‘85). Cornelia is currently the K-6 grade Principal of Benji’s Charter School in Houston, Texas.
- Also in 1985, Mr. Charles F. McCain (BS ‘85) graduated from The University of Mississippi. Charles, a Major in the Air Force Reserve, is a Computer Software Engineer with Zel Technologies in Hampton, Virginia.
- Ms. Cynthia L. McCain, currently working as a Licensed Practical Nurse with the Sardis Community Nursing Home is a 1990 graduate of Ole Miss.
- Maj. Dexter McCain (BBA ‘92) is an Air Force Instructor at Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama.
- Last but certainly not least, Mrs. Debbie M. Wesley graduated from Ole Miss twice, first with a Bachelor’s Degree in English in ‘94 and a Master’s in Higher Education in ‘96. She is the former associate Director of Admissions at Mt Holyoke College in Massachusetts and is now a stay-at-home Mom with her 7-month old son Howard John. Debbie left an indelible mark in Ole Miss history in 1996 when she was the first African-American to be crowned “Most Beautiful.”
The McCain tradition at Ole Miss continues, currently, Ms. Sybil Draper, a niece of the McCain siblings is a senior education major.
During their time at Ole Miss, all the siblings were active in the Black Student Union and various other campus organizations. Cornelia, Cynthia and Debbie were active members of the Theta Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Cecelia later joined the sorority through the Nu Sigma Omega graduate chapter in Tupelo. Charles was a member of Nu Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, as well as a member of the UM Marching Band and AFROTC. Dexter was in AFROTC, Arnold Air Society and a member of the Eta Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Their story is not the only story of faith, determination, and success but it is their story—an American story that is a testament to their parent’s hard work and determination to succeed. Not only are the seven Ole Miss graduates leaders in their churches and communities throughout the United States, but all 10 continue to share in their parent’s vision of hope for brighter days ahead.