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I am an Elk - Meet Billy Stockman

Passions come in many variations; sometimes, you find your passion later in life. For Billy Stockman, that passion was the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks – and once he found it, he did not waste time getting to work, even before taking the obligation.

Billy Malcolm Stockman is originally from Bay Springs, Mississippi a town of 1,600 about twenty-five miles north of Laurel, in Jasper County. His parents, Hassell and Imogene (Dickens) Stockman relocated the family to the Mississippi Gulf Coast moving to Pascagoula when Billy was about six. The sixth of nine children, Billy jokes that Bay Springs was getting too small for all the siblings. Hassell went to work at Ingalls Shipyard while Imogene worked in the dry-cleaning business and later in childcare.

Billy attended Eastlawn Elementary, later graduating from Pascagoula High School in 1962 under the ever-watchful eye of Coach Seay. He tried playing football in school but says that he was so small all his friends on the team would just pick him up and move him out of the way. Billy says there was not much remarkable about his childhood; it was rather normal. He did not participate in youth organizations, instead working nights and weekends for Wayne Lee’s Grocery and Market, where Stockman says that Wayne Lee was a great man to work for.

Soon, Stockman would follow his father into the shipyard as an electrician. He had taken vocational courses in high school and eventually earned his card through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 733. Three years later, he would join the United States Marine Corps, attending basic training at Paris Island. When talking about his time in the Marines, he says devilishly, “What did I do in the Marines? I tried to get out!” He would spend eight years in the US Marines Reserves based in Gulfport, Mississippi as a rifleman preparing for combat and learning survival skills. “I done a little bit of everything that they told me to do.” What the US Marines also offered Billy was training with technical skills that would prove useful on the job as an electrician.

Stockman’s brother, Bobby was drafted and received orders for a tour in Vietnam. Billy applied to take his brother’s place. “I had the training and was prepared. [Bobby] didn’t have any of that,” Billy said. However, the military would see it differently and deny his application since Billy had married Linda Duran and the couple had a two-year-old son, Todd. Thankfully, Bobby made it back alive but changed.

Billy would be honorably discharged in March 1970, as a Lance Corporal. As for whether he liked being in the Marines or not, Stockman’s patriotism does not fail him today, even though his memory may. “If I got called back now, I would go serve my country.” There was no devilish look with that statement, but a look of sincere pride.

Billy met his wife of fifty-six years when Linda was in junior high school. Billy had known her sister and thought Linda too young for him, but Linda had not forgotten him. However, fate always steps in. Linda’s parents owned Jay’s Drive Inn on Market Street in Pascagoula. Usually, Linda’s mother would not let she and her sisters sit in the restaurant because the drive-in sold beer. But one evening there was a hamburger sale - one for twenty-five cents each - and in came Billy to order some, along with a few Goebel beers. For whatever reason, Linda’s mother did not object to the girls eating in the dining room with the customers that evening, and Billy saw Linda. A few days later he called, asking her out for a date. Linda agreed, but only if it were a double date.