‘Big E’ will be remembered fondly

Published 8:57 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

There are certain people in this world who just have a special aura about them. Will Atkinson was one of those special people.

“Big E,” as he was affectionately known – which is short for “Big Elvis” — passed away Wednesday. The Oxford icon was known for his persona as an Elvis impersonator who donned his flashy Elvis-style outfits to bring smiles to all those he came in contact with.

Atkinson started working as an Elvis tribute artist in the late 1990s. Leading gospel music at his church in Courtland, he received a call from his preacher asking if Atkinson would be Elvis for a ’50s night at the church. Atkinson agreed and after the show at the church, began performing more regularly as Elvis.

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When he wasn’t performing as Elvis, he worked at the Oxford Walmart. Customers always knew he was working because Elvis or gospel songs could be heard throughout the aisles, but they weren’t coming from the sound system.

Atkinson performed solo or with his band, The Mississippi Boys. He would perform Elvis, dressed in Elvis-styled jumpsuits, and often performed other songs as well. But it was his giving nature that people will remember most about Atkinson.

There are lots of Elvis impersonators out there, lots of Elvis look-a-likes, lots of Elvis tribute artists and lots of Elvis wannabes. Atkinson has entered his share of Elvis contests, wore the outfits and sang much more like the King of Rock ’n’ Roll than most.

But where he shined most was his generosity. He often played for community events like the American Cancer Society. Even when he was booked for a half-hour or hour show, he would stay sometimes for two hours, off the clock, because he and everyone else, was having such fun.

Doesn’t the world need a little more of that today?

The impact Atkinson had on the L-O-U community was evident by all the posts and comments on social media during his brief illness and following word of his death. Many folks in the area had a story to relate about “Big E” and how he entertained or brought a smile to their face while he sang songs made famous by the King of Rock ‘n Roll.

It didn’t matter who you were — young or old, black or white — “Big E” loved everyone and enjoyed spreading the music and keeping the memory of Elvis alive.

Atkinson left a lasting impression on all of us, but most importantly, he left a lesson we can all learn from.

(“Our View” is an unsigned editorial representing the general opinion of The Oxford EAGLE editorial board, which includes Publisher Tim Phillips, Editor Stephanie Rebman, Managing Editor Rob Sigler, City Editor Alyssa Schnugg and photographer Bruce Newman.)