Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sid Salter: Remembering Oliver Triplett

How does one capture the contradictions and complexities of the life of Forest attorney Oliver Beamon Triplett, who died last week at the age of 81?


Outside of Forest, most Mississippians would have known Oliver as a conservative author of tightly written letters to the editor of the Jackson or Forest newspapers. The letters, almost haikus in their brevity if not their specific construct, were usually written in praise of Donald Trump or in condemnation of Hillary Clinton.

Oliver’s letters had all the subtlety of rolling an unpinned grenade into a Sunday night church social. And that was clearly Oliver’s intent – to provoke debate and discussion. To be sure, he enjoyed the notoriety it stirred.

That was particularly true when Oliver would visit the Neshoba County Fair on political speaking days. More than one statewide politician would be introduced to Oliver – a resolutely and reliably pleasant and courtly individual – then circle back later to inquire: “Is that the guy who writes those tough little letters slamming Hillary?”

It was a shame that outside of Forest, few came to know the rest of Oliver’s story. Despite the “grouchy old curmudgeon” persona that Oliver’s letters implied, I’ve known few better or more generous men. Oliver was my across the street neighbor when I moved to Forest in the early 1980s.

And as family stories are inexorably unveiled in small towns, I came to know Oliver’s. His father, Beamon, was a Yale-educated attorney in Forest who was killed in a Hwy. 35 car accident in 1980. His mother, Mary McCravey Triplett, was the daughter of the founder of the Bank of Forest and would eventually become the first female member of the Board of Trustees of Belhaven University, her alma mater.

We knew Oliver as a loyal neighbor and friend. We watched as the McCravey and Triplett families endowed Belhaven University with a 40,000-sq. ft. Student Center that opened to students in 2002. Several years later, the Tripletts endowed their University of Mississippi alma mater’s through the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy with a gift honoring my late first wife, Paula Jones Salter.

Oliver and Carolyn endured the untimely death of a beloved son, Cooper East Triplett.

Beamon and Mary Triplett’s first child, Donald Triplett, was born in 1933. Don’s redemptive, fascinating sojourn with his family and Mississippi hometown was chronicled in the 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction “In A Different Key: The Story of Autism” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.

The book makes clear Don Triplett’s status and burden in 1942 as the world’s first person diagnosed with autism. Make no mistake, Don Triplett’s life story is remarkable in and of itself without his younger brother’s voice in it.

Yet unless one has experienced life and interactions with someone who is at some juncture on the autism spectrum, it is difficult to fully comprehend the challenges of providing a semblance of a full life with what the rest of us consider normal familial relationships.

In that role, Oliver Triplett was far more than a small-town curmudgeon. Triplett family photos document that over the course of their lives that Oliver included Don in his younger brother’s life as a father and a grandfather. He shared children and grandchildren with his brother, enriching Don’s life without encroaching in it.

How remarkable it is to observe that that it was a set of parents in rural Mississippi – albeit parents blessed with uncommon resources – who had the tenacity of refuse to accept less than as a full a life as they could give their son despite a disability that few if any recognized when the Triplett brothers were boys.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, Boomer.

Anonymous said...

Here's Sid trying to glorify and rehabilitation another racist.

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think there is a handful of commenters on this site that simply hate Sid Salter. These people wait each week for his column so that they can make personal comments on him, or berate whatever he chooses to write about. If he wrote about the second coming of Christ, they would have some glib smirk about it.

This is sad, because anyone who know Sid knows he is a truly decent person who doesn't need me to take up for him. Yes, some of his recent columns are more stating the obvious, or are recitations of history rather than insightful comments about the present and future. But no one bats 1.000; however, after reading this Sid column, I'm left wanting to know more about this Oliver's story and that of his family.

Also on this particular column, I'd love to know why 9:47 thinks Triplett is a racist.

Anonymous said...

Did you read his letters ???

Anonymous said...

Where might the letters be found?

Anonymous said...


2:00 PM - Here's an article that was published in The Atlantic in 2010 about Don Triplett and the Triplett family. Lengthy, but a fascinating read.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/10/autisms-first-child/308227/

Anonymous said...

3:47, thanks for the link. And Sid, thanks for the article. Autism is at an epidemic rate with no known/proven cause. Also, kudos to Delbert Hoseman for leading the legislature a few years ago to force those greedy bastard insurance companies to cover some of the costs. If only the U.S. agencies would treat autism as coronavirus is currently, given that if you have an austic child, your personal like will be mostly confined to taking care of your child. And your child will outlive you.

Anonymous said...

200, I was planning to make a very similar comment, but it's unnecessary now since you stated what I was going to say and did it better.

How anyone could make a negative comment about this column amazes me - but I fully expected to hear from the Sid haters, and tat least a couple of them did not disappoint.

Anonymous said...

@9:47 is one of the trolls whose primary interest is in harming JJ. Y'all over-reacted.

Anonymous said...

Truth hurts 10:49, I bet you never read his BS.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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