Dr. Terri Austin McCullough, a Chicot County justice of the peace and member of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, is continuing a family tradition of public service that began nearly 150 years ago when her great-great-grandfather was justice of the peace in Mississippi.
McCullough, who was recently re-elected to represent Chicot County’s 9th district residents on the Chicot County Quorum Court, is the great- great-granddaughter of Anderson Austin, a university-educated gentleman who served as justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Mississippi when the county was formed.
According to a brief Anderson Austin biography on an Austin family website, Anderson Austin traveled with his family by covered wagon from South Carolina to Mississippi around 1837.
Austin was well educated and wrote letters and legal documents for others, and acted as a peacemaker to settle disputes between citizens in the community. He was the first justice of the peace for Montgomery County when it was established in 1871.
Though raised and educated in the same region of Mississippi where her ancestor began his public service, McCullough moved to Chicot County in the late 1970s when she married Willard McCullough, a Chicot County farmer who has farmed farmed in District 9’s Ross Van Ness community his entire life.
“The only proof of my heritage is my University of Mississippi mascot at Grand Lake,” McCullough joked. “There is a three foot tall concrete Ole Miss Rebel in my front yard chained to a tree.”
Aside from a professorship at the University of Arkansas at Monticello in the early 1980s, McCullough, who holds a doctorate degree, saw few employment opportunities for academic doctorates in rural Arkansas. In contrast, Louisiana offered ample psychologist opportunities much closer to Chicot County.
“It’s almost true,” she said, “that a man can throw a rock from my Grand Lake home into the Mississippi River and another rock into the state of Louisiana.”
So, she found a job as a school psychologist in Louisiana and made the 18-mile, one-way commute from Chicot County to Louisiana until she retired in 2008.
Upon her retirement, she began a new chapter in her life as a public servant.
“When I retired, I hoped for public service in Arkansas,” she said. “Now I have two political interests, as an elected justice of the peace and as Gov. Beebe’s Chicot County appointee to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission.”
Apparently McCullough is doing a good job at both. She was recently re-elected to another term on the Chicot County Quorum Court and Beebe in 2010 re-appointed her to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, a commission that promotes travel in the 10 states that border the Mississippi River.
Among the Arkansas commission’s 2012 achievements and accomplishments were the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center interpretive program, new Civil War interpretation sites in Helena-West Helena, the on-going project of restoring and recreating Johnny Cash’s boyhood home and the Dyess Colony Resettlement Area, and the creation of a tri-state blues trail (Arkansas, Mississippi and Memphis) dedicated to jointly promoting blues music in the Mississippi River Delta region.
Reflecting on her great-great-grandfather’s public service, McCullough said it is important to her that she continue the standard he set.
“As an only child, my parents often reminded me of Proverbs 22:11 – ‘A good name is more desirable than great riches…,'” she said. “At this point in my life, I know how important this standard was to my family and how it applies to me personally.”