S1 E1: This is the Ninety-Seven

Welcome to the Ninety-Seven, where we believe rural America is the next place to pioneer. Ninety-Seven percent of America is considered rural, yet 80% of the population currently lives in urban areas. How long is this sustainable? How has COVID-19 affected this and all rural communities? And most importantly – how can rural America thrive through this pandemic.

Our first episode explores all of these concepts as we visit Pageland, SC (pop 2,668), and speak with their Chamber President, Timothy Griffin.

We then take a trip to Clarksdale, MS (pop 15,304) to hear musician Lucious Spiller and learn about how he’s dealing with a no-live-gig world.

Finally, we talk with Alex Holland at Alchemy to learn how to navigate the federal grant programs to help communities through this difficult time.

Listen in, this is the Ninety-Seven.

This episode coincides with the story, The Hottest Pageant in the South, written by our partners at Just Place. You can read the story and more about Just Place here.


  • Timothy Griffin, Chamber Director in Pageland, SC
  •  Lucious Spiller, a musician in Clarksdale, MS
  • Alex Holland, Director of Policy and Community Development at Alchemy Community Transformations



imothy Griffin is a retired US Naval Veteran. After leaving the service, Mr. Griffin dedicated his time to community service within his community.

Mr. Griffin was instrumental in the revitalization of the Plaza Midwood Business District in Charlotte, NC into a thriving business and art district.  Mr. Griffin was recognized by  Mayor Patsy Kinsey as Citizen of the Year in 2006 for his dedication to the revitalization of the Plaza Midwood area.

Currently, Mr. Griffin is the President of the Pageland Chamber of Commerce, The Director of the World Famous Pageland Watermelon Festival, Producer of one of the oldest beauty pageants in the United States, the Miss Pageland Pageant, celebrating it’s 90th anniversary this year and sits on the Chesterfield County Economic Development Board with a focus on small business development.

In 2013, Mr. Griffin was the recipient of the Call to Service Volunteer Award from President Barrack Obama, the highest civilian award from the Presidential Volunteer Service Organization in recognition of his lifetime commitment to Community Service.

In 2018, Mr. Griffin drove the project, “Staying Alive” a marketing and social media platform that got the Town of Pageland into the Top Ten Finals for the Television Show “Small Business Revolution” out of 12,000 contestants nationwide.

Mr. Griffin is currently working on the revitalization of Historic Downtown Pageland with the assistance of the local Electric Cooperative, Lynches River Electric Cooperative.

Mr. Griffin resides in Pageland, SC with his husband Neil Griffin.



orn and raised in St. Louis, Lucious Spiller discovered at an early age that God had blessed him with a special gift. Music permeated his home, and he absorbed it all. His father gave Lucious a guitar when he was four and taught him his first chords.  Hailing from the Spiller family, Lucious continues the legacy of contributing to and enhancing the blues musical experiences of countless people across the country and the world. His grandfather and great uncles, “The Salt and Pepper Shakers” are founders of “Black Prairie Blues” and have a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Macon, MS (Blues Trail link). His early memories include watching his father Lucious Spiller Sr, and his uncle “Magic Sam” playing at his home. He spent family reunions in Chicago at the home of his aunt and uncle, Hilda and Houston Harrington, watching his cousins “Chief” Eddy Clearwater, Vernon, and Joe Harrington, and many other blues greats perform and joke in the back yard.

Lucious Spiller is a truly gifted artist, songwriter, singer, musician, teacher and mentor. He has inspired, influenced, instructed, and encouraged many up and coming blues artists such as Seth Freeman, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Zack Bramhall, Heather Crosse, and Akeem Kemp. Lucious’ original “Put the Blame on Me” was recorded and released by Seth Freeman and other artists. Lucious’ lyrics and chords have inspired the works of many other notable musicians. His collaborative works and originals will be released on his upcoming studio album “Still Paying Dues”.

Lucious Spiller’s music, rooted in blues and gospel, is unique and fresh yet embodies the spirit of the traditional. He blends his gift and influences into a performance straight from his soul. He IS the music, all of it. He plays what he feels, and he feels what he plays. There is nobody like Lucious Spiller, and everybody who hears or sees Lucious perform is blown away.

Read more about Lucious and check out his music at the links below.

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