Skip to content
Rose Budd Stevens advised “Sweetly...

Rose Budd Stevens advised “Sweetly Be!”

By: NK Wessman - August 3, 2023

Readers enjoyed the author’s perspective on the role of women in southern society, the language and expressions she used, and her anecdotes.

Mamie Davis Van Norman Willoughby grew up in the storytelling culture of rural Amite County. She became one of the most widely read journalists, garnering awards from Mississippi Press Women, National Federation of Press Women, and Progressive Farmer magazine.

After graduating from Liberty Agricultural High School and Southwest Mississippi Junior College, the young woman worked in the County Extension Office and then went to Baton Rouge where she worked for the Works Progress Administration. Back home, she married Bennett Willoughby, and they became the parents of Will, Ben, and Celeste.

Confined to bed rest during her third pregnancy, the young housewife and mother decided to write stories for her local newspaper, The Gloster Wilk-Amite Record. She contributed articles about her life and experiences on Shady Rest Farm near Liberty—incidentally also the hometown of nationally acclaimed author, comedian, and Christian influencer Jerry Clower.

That local, limited beginning resulted in nearly half a century of journalistic contributions to such newspapers as the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, the Carthaginian, and Clarion-Ledger. For those and subsequent articles and books, Willoughby adopted the name Rose Budd Stevens, honoring her husband’s favorite Aunt Rose, her father’s nickname—Bud, and the surname of her college roommate—Stevens.

Readers enjoyed her perspective on the role of women in southern society, the language and expressions she used, and her anecdotes. Her stories primarily focused on arts and crafts, cooking, and family life on the farm. As her readership grew, she wrote regular features for the Mississippi EPA News—“Ramblin’ With Rose Budd”—and for MFC News—“The Farmer Takes a Wife.” University Press of Mississippi published a 186-page collection of her articles in 1987 as Along the R.F.D. With Rose Budd Stevens.

Her second book, also a University Press product, came the following year and featured 284 pages of forty years’ worth of “great downhome recipes.” Jerry Clower wrote the foreword for From Rose Budd’s Kitchen.

An Amazon-verified buyer in 2010 reviewed the favored cookbook: “I had to search high and low to get a copy of this book. It has some fantastic recipes and has recipes I never knew existed, for example, cooking with the poke salat plant. I don’t think I will try that any time soon, but I have the plant everywhere on my farm. It is a passalong book to be treasured and used. It will bring a smile to your face and if you are old enough, it will conjure up memories back of a much simpler time of family and food. If you are a baby boomer, you will love this book.”

Finally, her third book, Sweetly Be!, published in 1990, just four years before she ended her writing career. Of that near 200-page book, another reviewer proclaimed the author “one of the greatest writers and sweetest lady!” She wrote, and Amazon published, “I always loved Rose Budd – she is a wonderful writer and every Christmas we make her mother’s fruit cake recipe. I have the original typed paper that Rose Budd sent to me with the recipe which is in the book.” Sweetly Be! also featured many of her articles and repeated the words with which she closed her writings.

The prolific writer contributed her papers in 1983 to University of Southern Mississippi. USM reported that “ill health forced Mrs. Willoughby to cease writing her columns in 1994, and on January 9, 1996, she died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.” The collection of her papers includes an oral history recording from 1983.

About the Author(s)
author profile image

NK Wessman

NK Wessman authored Katrina, Mississippi: Voices from Ground Zero, the compelling story of first responders who stayed behind when the worst natural disaster in our history slammed the Gulf Coast. She co-wrote You Can Fix The Fat From Childhood—And Other Heart Risks, Too in collaboration with Dr. Gerald Berenson, founder and senior researcher of the Bogalusa Heart Study. Wessman also has worked as a journalist, public relations practitioner/consultant, and now as a book coach and editor.