Post Office Mural – Okolona MS


Harold Egan’s “The Richness of the Soil” was completed in 1939 for the Okolona, Mississippi post office. It was ordered painted over by the postmaster within days of its installation, for reasons that are not entirely clear, but most likely, related to the elements of modernism in the mural. Egan’s work was not the typical realism or regionalism favored by the South in post office murals.

Undocumented, but commonly accepted, reasons also include that the “female figure was too risqué for the 1930s” and that the “scantily clad woman was not well received.” However, Mark Clinton Davis of the Pearl River County Historical Society stated it was far more likely that the objection was due to the mural’s modernism. (Davis, Picayune’s Disappeared Mural).

The black and white photograph of the mural on Temple University’s Endangered Murals Registry depicts a woman who is fully clad from neck to ankle, with no body parts revealed other than lower arms and feet, providing support for Davis’ assessment that it was the style that was offensive rather than the content.

It is unknown if the mural still exists under the white paint, and there is interest in attempting to restore the painting if it remains.

Source notes

Davis, M. C. (2012). Comments on Restoring Picayune's Disappeared WPA Mural. Reprinted with permission from the Pearl River County Historical Society.  Preservation in Mississippi.  Retrieved from

The Richness of the Soil. Okolona, MS. Endangered Murals Registry. Temple University.  Retrieved from

Project originally submitted by Susan Allen on March 9, 2014.

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Location Info

319 W. Main Street
Okolana, MS 38860

Coordinates: 34.0045191, -88.74987229999999

One comment on “Post Office Mural – Okolona MS

  1. Jonathan Reeves

    The mural still exists. It is under layers of whitewash. I spoke with Byron Leslie Burford, Jr., who did the Houston, MS mural, before he passed away. He said Egan’s mural was painted directly on the wall. The postmaster in Okolona immediately whitewashed over it because it depicted an African-American woman partially nude (Egan’s original sketch was a full nude), and the mural was painted in an abstract style unlike any of the other murals being installed in the area. There still remains a handful of locals who remember the postmaster but were young at the time that the mural was painted. The local papers are hush on the matter.

    Burford was a delight to talk to regarding his Mural in Houston and his son sent me digital copies of his father’s first three mural designs that were rejected. He found the originals while going through his father’s studio following Burford’s death. The originals have been sent to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi hopefully to be displayed in the newly constructed Mississippi History and Civil Rights Museums opening in time for the State’s bicentennial.

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