BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Old Biloxi Cemetery Tour is back once again. This year, because of COVID-19, the tour will air on television without live audiences. Despite that, Biloxi’s 321 year-old tapestry will still be on display with Family Legends and Lore... part 2.
For 14 years, stories of those who brought Biloxi to prominence have been retold on the hallowed grounds of the Biloxi Cemetery. Event producer Laurie Rosetti wanted to make sure that this year would be no different.
“It is who we are as a people. All of Biloxi’s history is located right here in this cemetery and I think it’s important for people today to realize hard times just aren’t about here and now. People have lived through it before and if they lived through it, we can live through it," said Rosetti.
Living through hard times was just part of life for Verta Lee Sweatman. Sweatman’s story is told by coast theatre veteran Glenda O’Neal and includes Sweatman’s role in the 1960′s investigation into the murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba county that became the plot in the academy award winning movie Mississippi Burning. For O’Neal this role has a personal meaning.
“I was in the legal industry for about 18 plus years. During that part of my life, I can’t tell you how may times I sent documents to Mrs. Verta Lee at the Courthouse," O’Neal said.
O’Neal, who is used to performing before audiences, wasn’t bothered by the empty cemetery and cameras everywhere. She was completely in her element portraying Mrs. Sweatman.
“To know that I could even meet her daughter today has just been thrilling for me. This is my third year and I thoroughly enjoy it. I love the history of this cemetery," said O’Neal.
Susan Sweatman Lebatard is the daughter O’Neal spoke of. Lebatard was worried, after submitting her mother’s name, that the actor wouldn’t do her mother justice.
“When we drove up today to the cemetery, and Glenda got out, I was like ok, yep, she’s got it. She’s down pat. She’s got the dress, she’s got the look, and she will be perfect before I even heard a word come out of her mouth," Lebatard said.
So the tour lives on, maybe not as life like as it was when you walked through the cemetery, and maybe not as captivating as standing right where the character is buried, but Biloxi history, and that history out lives us all.
You can see the Old Biloxi Cemetery Tour this year on Biloxi’s municipal TV channel BTV starting this Tuesday at 7 p.m.