James Walker Sturdivant and Bethany Lynn Tillman were crowned the King and Queen of Cotton for 2019 at the 62nd annual Junior Auxiliary Charity Cotton Ball, which was held Feb. 23 at the Leflore County Civic Center.
Cheers from the celebrating crowd accompanied King Walker and Queen Bethany on their royal walk up the center aisle to take their places onstage with past royalty, the 2019 Cotton Maids and the Children’s Court.
King James Walker Sturdivant
King James Walker Sturdivant is the son of Ygondine Walker Sturdivant of Glendora and the late Micajah Purnell Sturdivant. He is the grandson of the late Dr. and Mrs. James Phoenix Walker and the late Mr. and Mrs. William Benjamin Sturdivant.
King Walker is married to the former Lanie Langdon of Oxford, and they have three children, Kathryn Dyksterhouse and her husband, Gary, Dr. James Walker Sturdivant Jr., and Susanne Still and her husband, Jon. He is the proud grandfather of three grandchildren, Mary Laine Dyksterhouse, Langdon Dyksterhouse and Nate Still.
After graduating from Woodberry Forest School in Orange, Virginia, King Walker received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University, his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law, and his Master in Taxation degree from New York University. He practiced law in Greenville with the law firm of Campbell & DeLong from 1979 to 1987. While practicing law, King Walker served on the board of the Greenville School District, on the local Salvation Army board, on the Bessie J. Taylor Retirement Board, on the King’s Daughters Hospital board, on numerous committees with Greenville’s First United Methodist Church and was a member of the Greenville Rotary Club.
Since 1987, King Walker has been involved with his family farm in Tallahatchie and Leflore counties and with numerous charitable, church and civic organizations. His involvement includes being a member of the Board of Directors of the Methodist Hospital Systems in Memphis; member, past president and Paul Harris Fellow of the Sumner Rotary Club; member and the past president of the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation; chairman of the Board of Directors of Beacon Harbor; member of the advisory board of Regions Bank in North Mississippi; vice chairman of the Mississippi Corn Promotion Board; member of the Board of Directors of the Greenwood Little Theatre; and Sunday school teacher and lay leader of St. John’s United Methodist Church.
King Walker’s family connection with cotton predates the Civil War. His great-great grandfather, William Benjamin Sturdivant, came to Mississippi in 1843, settling in Grenada, where he started farming. In 1856, he moved to Marsh Prairie farm near Minter City, and in 1857, he relocated to Tallahatchie County, where he farmed cotton on Due West Farm until his death in 1896. King Walker’s great-grandfather, Micajah Purnell Sturdivant, his grandfather, William Benjamin Sturdivant II, and his father, Micajah Purnell Sturdivant II, farmed cotton on Due West Farm. Walker, his brothers, Mike and Sykes, and his son-in-law, Gary Dyksterhouse, continue to farm cotton in Tallahatchie and Leflore counties to this day.
King Walker’s family also has a long history with the Junior Auxiliary. King Walker’s wife, Lanie, is a life member of the Greenville Junior Auxiliary, and his daughter, Kathryn, is a life member of the Junior Auxiliary of Greenwood. King Walker’s daughter, Susanne, served as Queen of the Cotton Ball in 2011, his sister, Ygondine Creasy, served as Queen of the Cotton Ball in 1988, and his brother, Mike, served as King of the Cotton Ball in 2004. King Walker’s granddaughter, Mary Laine Dyksterhouse, served as a Cotton Ball attendant to the queen in 2018, and his grandson, Langdon Dyksterhouse, served as a member of this year’s Cotton Ball court.
Queen Bethany Lynn Tillman
Queen Bethany Lynn Tillman is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Collier Tillman Jr. She is the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Lovelace and Beth Lovelace of Jackson and the late Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Tillman Sr.
Queen Bethany was a member of the 2005 Cotton Ball Children’s Court and was a Cotton Ball Maid in 2016. Queen Bethany’s mother, Bea Lovelace Tillman, is a life member of the Junior Auxiliary of Greenwood. Bea served as president and parliamentarian during her years of service.
On her maternal side, Queen Bethany’s great-great-great-uncles William Thomas Lipsey Jr. and Edwin Dale farmed cotton in Jeff Davis County. The Lipseys also owned and operated the cotton gin there. Her cousin, William Lipsey III, continued the family business in the 1950s. He is now the owner of Gin Tech Manufacturing in Indianola.
On Queen Bethany’s paternal side, James T. Carty immigrated from Ireland in 1815 with his young family. His son, John T. Carty, moved to Clay County, where he began farming cotton and cattle. Queen Bethany’s great-great-grandfather, Pat Hayden Carty, continued the farming operation. Queen Bethany’s grandmother, Norma Carty, was the Home Extension Agent in Leflore County, where she met M.C. “Jake” Tillman, who was teaching agricultural classes. Jake, a graduate of Mississippi State University, served in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. In the late 1940s, Jake began farming cotton and cattle in Leflore County. He was in a partnership with Donald McShan in Schlater up until the early 1960s. In early 1960, he began purchasing land in the Minter City area from the Ellington and Chatham families. He expanded his crops to include soybeans, corn and rice. Jake’s son, Collier, joined the farming operation in 1986 after graduating from Mississippi State University. Collier was named Young Farmer of the Year in 1991. In 2003, Collier and his father formed the partnership of Twin Bayou Farms, which is in operation today. In 2014, Queen Bethany’s brother, Carty, also a Mississippi State graduate, began his farming career.
Queen Bethany graduated as salutatorian from Pillow Academy in 2016. While at Pillow, she was involved in the Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Young Emerging Leaders of Leflore County, Lions Leadership and the Model Security Council. She was a member of the Crown Club and ASTRA Club. She was the recipient of a Junior Auxiliary scholarship, as well as the Kathryn Pittman Scholarship. Throughout junior high and high school, she played for the Lady Mustangs fastpitch softball team.
Queen Bethany is a member of First Baptist Church of Greenwood. She has been a member of several mission teams. Her mission trips include Haiti, two trips to Bahrona Dominican Republic with Hispaniola Mountain Ministries and Big Heart Orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico.
Queen Bethany attends Mississippi State University, where she is majoring in biochemistry. She has been on the President’s List for the past three years. She is a member of Chi Omega Sorority, where she has served as assistant chaplain, worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Palmer Children’s Home in Columbus. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Alumni Delegates and the College of Ag Life and Science Ambassadors. She also serves on the Executive Board for the Biochemistry Club. In the summer of 2018, Queen Bethany had hands-on experience in clinics among impoverished areas during a medical Lead Abroad to Costa Rica. Queen Bethany plans to pursue a career in medicine.