Melvin Tingle enjoyed the favor of God on his life


Royce and I enjoyed a visit with Melvin and Betty Tingle yesterday.  Even though we are not from Newton County, we were able to share memories with them of “Mississippi Outdoors” on television, which Melvin hosted for about 40 years.

Royce spoke up just before we left to say, “Melvin, I seem to remember a show where you took a long shot, and the bullet hit the deer’s antler and knocked the deer out.”  Melvin exclaimed, “You remember that?  Yes, and it shot the deer’s horn off!”

Royce also asked Melvin about his most remarkable deer hunt. Melvin pointed to the bust mounted on his wall of a 10–point buck that he shot up in the Delta.

We learned that Melvin Tingle was born Feb. 28, 1935, in Neshoba County, to Fletcher and Etna Tingle. The youngest of five children, he graduated from Philadelphia High School in 1956 and finished a year at East Central Junior College before serving in the Army for two years. He then returned to finish his degree at ECJC in 1959. When the fall semester started there, he met Betty Sims, daughter of Charles and Addean Sims of Newton County, and they were married a year later.

They bought Betty’s Kitchen, a café uptown in Decatur, and ran it for two years. Melvin then worked four years at EC, as book store, post office and student center manager. He then secured a position with the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, where he did public relations, later teaching conservation in the schools, forming clubs such as FFA and 4-H, in which teachers would help students plant grain crops in the forest areas for wildlife to eat. 

Recommended by Paul Ott, who had started the “Mississippi Outdoors” program about 1970, Melvin stepped into the position as host of the show around 1972 when Paul left and continued as host until 2011, when he had to stop because of a severe case of the shingles. His show became a classic in Mississippi television history, with many a man and boy watching every week as Melvin guided eager hunters and fishermen to interesting kills and catches. 

“Mississippi Outdoors Magazine” in 2008 ran a feature story on his career. The article stated that “Melvin once said he’s been living every country boy’s dream, and he’s been able to exceed his dreams and expectations…”  Then, quoting Melvin, “With God’s grace, the support of my wife, Betty, and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, I’ve been able to do just that.”

Melvin and Betty’s marriage, now 57 years strong, produced three children.  Karen Collins has three children and lives in Tupelo.

Emily Usry, who lives nearby in Decatur, has two daughters. Mingo, their son, named after Chickasaw Chief Tishomingo, also has three children and resides in Madison.

I asked about the strong, obvious interest in the Choctaw culture, as evidenced by his son’s name and his collection of artifacts, which he had displayed in a museum he had behind their house.  He said it was just because finding Indian arrowheads, etc., out in the cotton fields on his father’s farm caused him to become fascinated with everything Choctaw.

But, even as we talked of his other interests and hobbies, such as refinishing furniture and collecting Choctaw Indian artifacts, the main thing Melvin emphasized was the hand of God in his life.  When I asked about a memory that stood out in his career, he replied that, instead of remembering the big thrill of catching the big fish or shooting the trophy deer, the most enjoyment he had was meeting the people all across the state of Mississippi, even every county! 

“I think God called me into this.  It took me a while to realize that.” He explained that, because “we had a common ground, we could share our testimonies with each other.”  He said that, in those shared experiences, “I was able to talk to them about God.” 

Though he was reared in the country, attending a Baptist church with a devout mother ensuring that attendance, he said he “didn’t know how to be saved. I had never heard the simple gospel preached.” 

It took going to Camp Lake Forest Ranch in Noxubee County one summer when he was 18, where a young preacher just laid out the simple gospel.  He said he learned that “it’s not what you do; it’s what God has done for you!”  He exclaimed, “This is what I’d been looking for!”  He told of the rich man, Charlie Barge, who owned the camp.  Mr. Barge also paid counselors to set up clubs in the schools, where many were saved! 

Melvin and Betty have been active and faithful members of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church for many years, with Melvin being deacon from 1968 until recently when he asked to be removed because of his health. 

I asked Melvin to tell of what he considered the biggest miracle he had ever experienced in his life. 

He just spoke repeatedly of the blessings of God on his life.  He says, “God has blessed me beyond measure!  God has been so good!  So good!”