January 11, 1933 - January 12, 2020
Dorothy Louise Branch Cannon was an original. A way-having, hat-wearing storm of a woman, she had a huge personality, generous spirit and appetite to serve. Her impact and influence was felt throughout her native Rankin County and the entire state of Mississippi. Dorothy Louise Branch was born to Ida Mitchell Branch and Eugie Branch in Brandon, MS on the 11th day of January in 1933. As a little girl, she would gather the neighborhood children to play school. She not only taught "her students”: See Dick and Jane Run, but the Bible stories of David and Goliath and Jesus' birth. They called her "Mama Tutta”, and she expected her young pupils to treat her as if she were really their teacher. After her mother died when she was only 6 years-old, people in her community embraced her and recognized her intellectual gifts. They encouraged her to get an education. When she completed the eighth grade at the Brandon Colored School, as far as Black children could go in Rankin Coun ty, her family and community sent her to Holy Ghost High, a Catholic school in Jackson, MS. So enamored with Catholicism was young Dorothy that she considered becoming a nun - though she had already joined Rock Star Missionary Baptist Church in Brandon, MS when she was nine-years old. She graduated from Holy Ghost High School when she was 17-years old and was hired to teach in the two-room Pleasant Grove Community School in Brandon, MS. She remembers that some of the children were bigger and older than she was. At night, she pursued a degree in early childhood education at then Jackson College. The young Ms. Branch abandoned the idea of becoming a nun, and married a dashing young man, also from Rankin County, Serphine Prentiss Cannon. A World War II veteran, he had attended the Prentiss Institute in Prentiss, MS and taught for a year before deciding it was not his calling. He was his wife's biggest cheerleader and the wind beneath her wings. Over the years, they would have five children ---- Gerri “Ann", Carole, Dwayne, Regina and Patrick. When the “Colored” schools in Rankin County consolidated in 1959, Mrs. Cannon was hired to teach first grade at Carter High School, the facility built for the “Colored children in the county in defiance of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Mrs. Cannon had a passion for teaching her beloved "babies” as she called her students. She said that every child was teachable. Mrs. Cannon took her role as a teacher very seriously, and felt a cultural debt to the community that had supported her. Understanding that some children needed more than an education, she visited the homes of some with clothes and food so they would be prepared to perform their best academically. She also taught summer school and tutored students at her home in the afternoons and on weekends. But her position required that she do more than just serve her students. At that time, Black folks expected Black teachers to not only educate their children, but do everything else -- from being lay lawyers to grant writers to ambassadors, and Mrs. Cannon took it all on. To meet the area chil dren's needs, she developed Summer Enrichment programs at Rock Star and Jerusalem Churches, where children could continue growing, get hot meals, and learn life skills. While she taught school, she kept pursuing her own education, attaining both a Master's and Spe cialist degree in education from Jackson State University. In the mid-60s, she had special training at Bethune Cookman College and was chosen as one of two teachers to start a Head Start program in Mississippi. She juggled her schooling, teaching and family life with her church work. She taught Sunday School and directed the Jr. Mission and Vacation Bible School at Rock Star, where she also wrote and directed plays for church programs. She was President of the United Usher's Association for many years and held leadership positions in the Springhill District Association and Women's Insti tute. Sister Cannon felt a strong calling to expose as many people to Christ as possible. She traveled across the state, starting Good News Clubs. She also shared the gospel by guest speaking at Church and community spaces across the state. She was a gifted counselor and often prayed with people in her home prayer room. When thanked or complimented for speaking, Sister Cannon always bowed her head, pointed upward and said, "To God be the Glory. She regularly represented her church as a delegate at the state Baptist Convention, as well as at community association and institutes. She received a special certificate for attendance at the Con gress of Christian Education, National Baptist Association, USA. She directed the education program at Jerusalem and was President of the Deaconess board when she transitioned. The church library was named for her and her husband, a deacon at Jerusalem. During the 1969-70 school year, when the U.S. Justice Department finally enforced desegregation in Mississippi, the principal at Carter High School selected Mrs. Cannon as one of the Black teach ers who would integrate Brandon Attendance Center schools. Yet, instead of giving her a class room, her new principal put her in a supply closet with six Black students. Mrs. Cannon could see the principal's shadow as she paced outside her closet door, eavesdropping on her class. When people told her that she should complain about having been put into a supply closet, she replied: "I'm just going to shut my door and teach. And leave it in the hands of the Lord." Because of what the principal heard and observed, the next school year, the principal assigned Mrs. Cannon to a classroom and placed the children of many of the county's most prominent white leaders in her class. She would teach at Stevens Elementary for 20 years. Although teaching had been her great passion, she decided to impact education by moving into administration. Mrs. Can non was named principal at North West Rankin Middle School in 1990, and would remain in that position until she retired in 1994. Mrs. Cannon's contribution to education has been extensive. Over the years, she received numer ous honors, citations and awards. Among them were Mississippi State Teacher of the Year Final ist and Star Teacher. On a daily basis, her students, some doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, pro fessors, writers, scientists, would come up and share with her the powerful impact that she had on their lives. Mrs. Cannon had not tired of education when she retired, but wanted to spend more time with her husband. They traveled and spent time with their granddaughters and had a food delivery ministry until he was called home in 1997. Mrs. Cannon kept herself busy with civic work, serving on the Rankin County Hospital board, Central MS Library System's board, President of Rankin County Retired Teachers and member of the Rankin County Executive Democratic Committee. Mrs. Cannon was lured out of retirement to help Mt Elam MB Church start the Mt Elam Preparatory School in Pearl, MS. She was delighted to teach the children and grandchildren of her former students. She was known there for her signature greeting, "It's a good day!" In the pursuit of social justice, she remained active with the NAACP and Concerned Citizens of Rankin County. Her work never done, she continued speaking engagements throughout Rankin County. Proceeding her in death: Her Beloved Husband, Serphine Prentiss Cannon, her parents, Ida and Eugie Branch, and her siblings: JB Thompson, Lee Estus Myles, Bessie Mae Williams, Sydney L. Branch, Lillie Thompson, Ida Spann, Louis Branch She leaves behind to fulfill her legacy: Her Children - Dr. Gerri Cannon-Smith (Kenneth), of Brandon, Mississippi Carole Cannon and, Dwayne Cannon both of Brandon, Mississippi, Regina Cannon of Atlanta, Georgia, Patrick Cannon (Jackie); of Brandon, Mississippi: Grandchildren - Ayana Smith of Brandon, Mississippi, Ayesha Smith of Washington, DC, Sheriden Cannon and McKenzie Cannon of Brandon, Mississippi; Mozelle King (Talmadge) who was like a daughter to her of Oakland, CA, agodson, Baxter Evans of Clinton, Mississippi, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, friends and colleagues.
Dorothy Louise Branch Cannon was an original. A way-having, hat-wearing storm of a woman, she had a huge personality, generous spirit and appetite to serve. Her impact and influence was felt throughout her native Rankin County and the entire... View Obituary & Service Information
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