Ouida Barnett Atkins
Services to celebrate the life of Ouida Barnett Atkins were held on March 4 at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.
A private family burial followed at Lakewood Cemetery. Born on September 4, 1933,
Ouida was the oldest of former Mississippi governor Ross Robert Barnett’s and Pearl Crawford Barnett’s three children. Growing up in the Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson, she attended Bailey Junior High School and Central High School. A true daughter of the state of Mississippi, she attended Mississippi State College for Women (“The W’) and the University of Southern Mississippi where she obtained her degree in history.
In 1971, Ouida completed her education with a master’s degree in history from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Ouida was a member of Chi Omega social sorority, and she was presented by The Debutante Club of Mississippi in 1953. She represented Jackson as the Lady of the Realm in the Memphis Cotton Carnival in 1954. Ouida’s lifelong passion and career as a teacher began in Mobile, Alabama, where she met her husband, Ab Atkins Jr.
After their marriage in 1957, they moved to his hometown of Homer, Louisiana. Before and after the divorce and death of her husband, Ouida experienced the agony and the ecstasy of raising and teaching her five children and many of their friends in Homer and Ruston. After Ouida became an empty nester in the late 1980’s, she returned to her hometown of Jackson where she taught at Lanier High School for over a decade.
The daughter of a segregationist governor, Ouida garnered much unsought, yet very favorable recognition by the national media during her tenure at Lanier and she remained close to many of her students after her retirement.
In addition to being mentioned in many news articles and books, Tom Brokaw devoted a chapter in his New York Times bestseller Boom! Voices of the Sixties to Ouida’s life journey as a symbol for the efforts toward racial reconciliation in Mississippi.
As a lifelong student and teacher of history, Ouida served as president of the North Louisiana Historical Association. In Homer, she was one of the founders and chairman of the Claiborne Jubilee and president of the Women’s Department Club. Always a social butterfly, Ouida enjoyed many luncheon and philanthropic clubs and organizations throughout her life such as the Junior Guild in Ruston.
In Mississippi she was very involved with Young Life at Lanier and was an original member of William Winter’s Institute of Racial Reconciliation. Prior to Ouida departing on trips when her children were young, they would ask her to wave goodbye to them from the car all the way down the driveway and to the top of the hill on their street until she was out of sight.
On February 22, 2023, Ouida waved her final earthly goodbye from the top of that hill, and we celebrate her amazing life with assurance that we will someday see her waving a heavenly welcome to us. Ouida is predeceased by her parents and sister, Virginia Barnett Branum.
She is survived by her brother Ross Barnett Jr. (Mary Lois), her children Angelyn Cannada (Barry), Ginny Hootsell (Ault), Ab Atkins, III, Ross Atkins, and John Atkins (Elise); her grandchildren Katie Nicholas (Taylor), Caroline Rush (Lane), Davis Cannada, Sessions Hootsell, Reeves Atkins, Emily Atkins, Luke Atkins, Olivia Atkins, Ginny DeWitt (Cali), Helen Atkins, Charlie Atkins, Ainsley Atkins, Cole Atkins and Amelia Rose Atkins; her great grandchildren Knox Nicholas, Price Nicholas, Lane Rush, Jr., Luke Rush, Lily Rush and Samuel DeWitt.
Memorial contributions may be made to Peyton’s House, c/o Mission First, Post Office Box 250, Jackson, MS 39205; The Mind Center at UMMC either online at umm.edu/mindcenter or by mail to 2500 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39216; or to a charity of your choice.