The City of Olive Branch has added two new inductees to its Hall of Fame.
Wednesday afternoon, as part of the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, Gilbert Leon Allen and Martha Pearl Langston were added to the list of now 59 people acknowledged for their impact on the DeSoto County city.
“They all share at least one thing in common, the contributions they made to Olive Branch have made Olive Branch what it is today,” said Mayor Scott Phillips in introducing the inductees. “We owe them a debt of gratitude for their service to our great city.”
Allen, born in 1926 and who passed away in August 2015, initially spent time in Olive Branch when assigned there with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad. After marriage in 1948 to wife Maxine and with a family of five children, the Allens moved from Memphis to Olive Branch in 1972.
Allen’s Big Star Grocery was opened by Allen upon his arrival in Olive Branch and he operated the business until his retirement in 1990.
The city benefitted from Allen’s involvement in fundraising efforts for the high school, which included his aid in starting the Drive for Athletics golf tournament, an event that has raised more than $150,000 for the athletics programs.
The DECA program was started as an organization that promoted training young people to work, as well as a program that matched disabled youth with employers.
Allen’s other interests included Ducks Unlimited, Gideons, Masons, and he was on the committee that started the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce.
On his retirement, his sons continued operating the grocery store until 2002.
Langston, born in 1926, was the granddaughter of Olive Branch’s first mayor, Benjamin Wesson, who served as the town’s leader from 1874-1877.
Martha Pearl was born and raised in what is now known as the Wesson House. She also lived in an adjacent trailer with husband Forrest “Red” Langston as they renovated the home, hosting several Open House events after it was done.
Martha Pearl passed away in 1987 and it was her wish that the Wesson House be left with the City of Olive Branch to be used as a museum, which husband Forrest made happen in his will, prior to his death in 1991.
The Wesson House is a Dedicated Mississippi Landmark, one of only three such landmarks in DeSoto County.
As a token of the city’s appreciation to Martha Pearl’s love for the home and for the city, her Hall of Fame plaque is being displayed inside the Wesson House.
The Olive Branch Hall of Fame was initiated by former mayor Sam Rikard in 2007. Six Olive Branch residents, including Rikard, make up the Hall of Fame Board. Current Mayor Scott Phillips serves as chairman and ex-officio member of the board. They, along with all living Hall of Fame inductees, eventually vote from recommendations for two inductees, who are honored with a name plate on a plaque inside City Hall. Their photo is also included in an honor book next to the plaque in the City Hall Rotunda.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.