(OXFORD, Miss.) – The lives of two brothers who served in World War II, graduated from the University of Mississippi with business degrees and followed their father in the family business are being honored with a scholarship at their alma mater.
Named for Raiford N. Long Sr. of Ripley and the late Erst Long Jr. of Corinth, the business scholarship endowment was created with a $125,000 gift from Randall G. “Randy” Long of Long Wholesale Distributors Inc. in Corinth, and Raiford N. “Ray” Long Jr. and Samuel E. “Sam” Long III of Long Wholesale Inc. of Meridian.
“Ole Miss was a consistent thread throughout their entire lives, and that love for Ole Miss is being carried on by their family,” said Randy Long. “We wanted to pay tribute to their lives in a way that combined their love of the university and their long presence in the Mississippi business community. A business scholarship endowment at their alma mater seemed like the perfect vehicle.”
Ray Long said his father and uncle earned reputations for being positive people, each with a great sense of humor, and for their outstanding work ethic.
“These men have always been recognized as extremely hard-working, balancing their business with being great family men and dedicated Christians. They also had a high degree of integrity and ethics – something to which the third and fourth generations now running the family businesses aspire. They always told their sons that whatever business or vocation we pursued, to do so with integrity at all costs,” he said.
With the help of its employees, the Long distribution centers have evolved from a general store supplier, delivering orders with a horse and wagon, to one of the largest convenience store suppliers in the South, according to the company. The Long family likewise has extensive history at Ole Miss and, in particular, with the School of Business Administration. Among degrees that family members have earned on the Oxford campus are seven in business, three in law, two in education, two in accountancy and one in music. When Erst Long Jr. attended Ole Miss, his wife, Velma, was the secretary to the business dean.
“The generosity and commitment of the Long family is very inspiring, and we greatly appreciate this gift,” said Ken Cyree, dean of business administration. “Through this family’s philanthropy, Ole Miss students will benefit for years to come. It is truly moving to see the family’s passion for the School of Business Administration represented through multiple generations. We are grateful for their support and dedication to the business school and the University of Mississippi.”
Randy Long said his uncle is pleased with the scholarship and believes his father, who died in 2006, would have been, also.
“They always were very aware that they owed much to Ole Miss because the training and education they received played a huge role in their success,” he said. “They both avoided the spotlight and were always very humble. However, this scholarship does mean a lot to my uncle and would have to my dad.”
Ray Long said the family hopes the scholarships will help deserving young people take advantage of opportunities Ole Miss offers.
“Creating a scholarship endowment is a very lasting way to honor my dad and to memorialize my uncle. We want to help some students experience what we all have experienced. Growing up, my dad was always gathering us all for a car, train or airplane ride to follow Ole Miss football and other sports. He was very enthusiastic about his team, and for 40-plus years he never missed a game. Now we all have second homes in Oxford in order to attend university events and enjoy Oxford. Family members see each other more than we normally would because Ole Miss brings us all together,” he said.
In 1922, Erst Long Sr. founded Tippah Wholesale Co. in Ripley, selling groceries, general merchandise, hardware and other supplies. In the 1940s, another warehouse was opened in Corinth under the name of Alcorn Wholesale. The two Long sons, Erst Jr. – who served in the U.S. Air Force – and Raiford – who served in the U.S. Navy – then became active in the family businesses.
In 1964, the Longs purchased a company in Meridian to expand their service territory. Through the years, three more warehouses were built in Meridian and Corinth. Other distributors were merged into their operations, including Corr-Williams Wholesale of Meridian, Hattiesburg Grocery Company and, most recently, J.J. Rogers and Sons Wholesale in Tupelo.
The Long Scholarship will be open to full-time business students who maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average. Selection will be made by the School of Business Administration Selection Committee with approval by the dean. The Long Scholarship Endowment is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations.
For more information about contributing to scholarship programs and other initiatives at the University of Mississippi, go to www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.