Delta loses two of her favorite sons: Wheeler, long-time rice grower, and Morganti, writer and educator, die
Sep 07, 2012 | 4281 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Edward Nott Wheeler Sr.
Edward Nott Wheeler Sr.
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Dr. Leroy Morganti
Dr. Leroy Morganti
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Cleveland and Bolivar County lost one of its pioneers when Edward Nott Wheeler Sr., 84, died on Thursday.

Visitation will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Cleveland.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at First United Methodist Church with burial following in New Cleveland Cemetery.

Wheeler was a long-time resident of Bolivar County and an early pioneer of the rice industry in the area.

Always willing to help other farmers, he served as an officer with the Mississippi Rice Growers Association, the National Advisory Committee on Rice, the Rice Council of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Rice Promotion Board.

"Mr. Wheeler was a leader in the agricultural community," said Bolivar County farmer Travis Satterfield. "He was a pioneer of the rice industry here in the Delta and was always willing to go the extra mile and give his time to help his fellow farmer. He will truly be missed."

"Nott was an outstanding person and community leader here in Bolivar County," said longtime friend Dr. Stacy Davidson. "He was very supportive of his community and well liked by everyone who knew him. His passing leaves a great void in the Cleveland community."

Wheeler was featured in the 2005 book, titled "Rice in the Mississippi Delta: Yesterday, Today, and Forever," by Dr. James Smith that included stories of more than 25 of the early rice pioneers of the Mississippi Delta.

After graduating from Mississippi State, Wheeler came back home to Cleveland and began his farming career near the Bogue River with 65 acres from his aunt, 140 acres from his grandmother and 400 acres of cotton land just east of Boyle.

In 1951 he planted his first rice crop, a labor of love that shaped his life for many years to come.

An avid pilot, Wheeler was often seen hanging around the Cleveland Municipal Airport.

"Nott was an excellent pilot," said Pete Jones, owner of Air Repair Inc. in Cleveland. "When I first met Nott in Greenville in 1977, we became fast friends forever.

"I remember that first time that I met him," continued Jones. "He came into our business, which was located in Greenville at the time, looking for someone to work on his airplane. When he saw me, he said that I didn't have enough gray hair to work on his plane. I told him that it was me or nothing and I think that he opted for nothing at the time.

"Anyone that knew him knew that he always liked to keep something going and he loved to agitate," Jones said. "I loved to agitate too and I believe that is what made us such good friends. He will be missed."

He loved his family and that showed in the way he lived his life.

"Mr. Wheeler was all about his family," said Dr. David Walt. "I remember one time when I was growing up, he had planned a trip to Jackson. Ms. Wheeler wanted to go and he told her no. She was furious. Well, about 7 p.m. that evening, he pulled into the driveway and picked her up. He said that he just couldn't stand to be without her. That is who Mr. Wheeler was and that is what I will always remember. He will truly be missed."

Today Delta State University and The Bolivar Commercial mourn one of their own with the passing of Dr. Leroy Morganti, who died Thursday.

He was born in Clarksdale and graduated from Rosedale High School. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, his master's degree from Mississippi State University and his doctorate degree from Delta State University. He also completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

He was a retired vice president of Delta State University and a former newspaper reporter whose career spanned across the fields of journalism, politics, education and administration.

"The Delta State University family mourns the passing of Dr. Leroy Morganti, said Dr. John M. Hilpert, president of Delta State. "Known throughout the Delta for his unique wit and storytelling, Dr. Morganti served Delta State in numerous administrative positions over a career spanning 31 years.

"Leroy’s contributions to this university are immeasurable. He was an outstanding colleague and a wonderful friend to all, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all those who loved him."

Morganti had written a weekly column for The Bolivar Commercial since 2008. The column, that appears on page four of today's paper, was sent in on Wednesday.

Dr. Morganti was known throughout the state for his unique humor and storytelling abilities.

"I worked for The Hattiesburg American, The Clarion Ledger, The Delta Democrat Times and the Associated Press," Morganti said when he began writing his column for the BC. "I was a newspaper person for about 10 years before I went to Delta State."

"We at The Bolivar Commercial share in the mourning of our community's and state's loss of Dr. Leroy Morganti," said Publisher Mark Williams. "Leroy was the ultimate professional during his long career and he will be greatly missed."

"This is such a shock. I just talked to Leroy earlier this week and I know he played golf on Wednesday," said Managing Editor Denise Strub. "Leroy was my first contact with Delta State University when I was a new reporter at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville."

While in Cleveland and at Delta State University, Morganti touched the lives of many and built friendships that continued to grow to the very end.

"We've lost a great humanitarian and personal friend," said friend B.G. Tatum. "I really haven't come to grips with the fact we lost him. He was a close friend for many, many year and I was with him nearly every day up until the day he died."

Tatum went on to tell a story that showed Dr. Morganti's unique sense of humor.

"When Leroy and his family first moved to Cleveland and bought a house on Thomas Street, he asked if I would help him renovate his kitchen," said Tatum.

"Through that task, they decided to build a home on Hillcrest and he asked me if I would help him build it. We went to get a building permit together and before I got into the office, Leroy had the permit. It listed L&H Contractors as the builder and I told him that I knew what the L stood for but what was the H. He told me that L didn't stand for Leroy but in fact stood for Laurel and Hardy. We were known by that until the day he passed."

An avid fisherman and golfer, Morganti could often be found on the golf course joking around with long-time friends James Donald Cooper and DSU President Emeritus Kent Wyatt.

"I was never fortunate in my life to have a brother but many, many years ago I adopted him as my brother, and he's been like one to me forever," said Cooper. "I don’t think there was anybody in the whole world who did not like Leroy. He was such a caring person."

"Leroy was a very close personal friend and we worked together for 28 years," said Dr. Wyatt. "He was very influential on advising me with decisions concerning Delta State University. We had a lot of good times together and I will certainly miss his friendship."

Morganti was the father of three sons, John, Bryan and Reed (deceased) and the proud grandfather of two grandsons, Michael and Matthew.