Delta planter, businessman, community leader William Heaton dies at age 92

During his life, his greatest pleasure was spending time with his family.

William Sutcliffe Heaton Jr. was born Sept. 23, 1925, and passed away peacefully July 7, 2018, at age 92.

Born in Chicago, Ill., the son of the late William Sutcliffe Heaton Sr. and the late Louise Bobo Moseley Heaton, he attended Clarksdale High School, where he excelled not only in academics but also athletics. He was named to the All Big 8 Team his senior year.

Upon graduation from high school, he attended the University of Louisville under the Naval V-12 Program. While there, he was initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa, Who’s Who Among American Students, Kappa Alpha Fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi, and Tau Beta Phi.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Louisville in 1946 and was assigned to the United States Naval Forces in the Pacific Fleet, where he briefly served as an officer during World War II.

At the end the war, he continued his education at the University of Texas, majoring in cotton marketing under one of the most renowned cotton marketing professors in the country. After pursuing his graduate degree at the university, he returned home to enter the family business with his grandfather, A.J. Moseley, and his beloved great uncle, Charles G. Bobo. During that time, he and Charles Bobo transformed Bobo Moseley Gin into the first public ginning operation in north Mississippi, and his farming and ginning interests continue to this day.

After several years of farming, he met the love of his life, Elsie Darrah Wilsford, and they were married in 1952, making their home in Lyon, Miss., where he resided until his death.

In the years after returning to Lyon, he became involved in numerous civic and business organizations. He was an original founder of Lee Academy and served on its board of directors for many years. He was active in First Presbyterian Church for many years, serving several terms on the Board of Elders and the Board of Sessions. He later joined Lyon Methodist Church, and was an active participant until his death.

During his business years, he not only ran Bobo Moseley Gin and Heaton Farms, but also served as a director of Delta Council, was an active member of the Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, and was on the board and served as vice president of Delta Oil Mill and North Delta Compress for many years. He served on the executive committee of the Bank of Clarksdale and Union Planters Bank for over 25 years and was an active member of the National Cotton Council Bale Packaging Committee. He also enjoyed his membership in the Cotton Carnival, Osiris, the Clarksdale VFW and the Clarksdale Elks Club.

During his life, his greatest pleasure was spending time with his family. He was an avid hunter, and loved to work, but never put work or any of his hobbies in front of his family or his wife. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and a dedicated friend to many in the Delta.

He exemplified the true southern gentleman in every way — from a white dinner jacket at a festive Delta dinner party to his signature khakis and cap on the farm. He was highly respected by friends, business partners, employees and all who had occasion to interact with him. Stories abound of his generosity and graciousness to others. And, of course, his treasured hand-written letters of congratulations, condolences or appreciation are keepsakes to many.

Big Bill, Big Daddy, Papa, Mr. Heaton — he touched many lives throughout the Delta. He will be missed dearly but wonderful stories will follow his legacy and this true southern gentleman will never be forgotten.

He is survived by his son, William Cliff Heaton (Chris), and his daughter, Darrah Heaton Pierce (Buddy); six grandchildren, Lyndsey Parker Sims, Preston Parker, Whitney Harrington Young, Cadey Heaton True, Ann Granville Heaton and Lucy Heaton; plus eight great grandchildren, all of whom were truly the apples of his eye. He is predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Elsie Wilsford Heaton, his daughter, Betsy Heaton Harrington, and his grandson, William Cliff Heaton Jr.

With tremendous gratitude, the family would like to recognize the attentive care and love shown him by his devoted caregivers throughout the years: Linda Williams, Jerry Craig, Tommy Phillips, Gregory Jones and Carrie Howell.

Funeral services were held Sunday, July 8, at First United Methodist Church, Clarksdale, Miss., with the interment in Oakridge Cemetery. With deep appreciation, the family requests that all gifts be directed to the charity of their choice.

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