Former long time tax collector dies

Published 4:50 pm Friday, September 7, 2007

Former long-time county tax collector/assessor and World War II veteran Hal B. Breland, 85, died Thursday morning at the Pearl River County Hospital following a brief illness.

“He was my best friend,” his son James Hal Breland said. “I’ve got a lot of fond memories fishing and bird hunting with dad. He loved bird hunting.”

A native of Poplarville, Breland was born Sept. 17, 1921 to the late Bruce and Bertha Spence Breland. He attended high school in Poplarville and after graduation spent a half year at the University of Mississippi before enlisting in the military service. After World War Two Breland married Ruby Ann Smith in 1948.

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Breland, like a lot of soldiers and sailors, joined the military in 1941-’42. A copy of his Honorable Discharge listed his enlistment date as Sept. 28, 1942 and discharge as Jan. 24, 1946.

Breland served in World War II as a medic in the European Theater of Operations with the 303rd Medical Battalion, 7th Infantry. The Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns were listed as the battles and campaigns he participated in, according to a copy of his discharge papers.

His son said Breland was severely wounded in the legs from shrapnel when a mortar round landed near where he and his commanding officer were standing. The officer was killed in the blast, James Hal Breland said.

His father heavily supported veterans and their rights following the war, his son said. Breland was one of the original founders of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW Chapter 4196, and an active member throughout his life. He held the post’s Quartermaster office for many years.

Breland was a regular helper every Christmas when the VFW sponsored the visit by Santa Claus on the courthouse lawn.

Breland’s father, Bruce Breland, was tax assessor for many years. Hal Breland was elected to the post his father had held in January 1956, according to county records. James Hal Breland said his father served in that post for 28 years, which later included tax collector when that position was transferred from the sheriff’s office.

Local attorney Lampton Williams says he remembers Breland as a kind person who helped people in need, long before there were welfare programs. Williams said Breland would help people get to the hospital and the doctor and other needs such as sponsoring blood drives.

“Hal was always there for them,” Williams said. “He was always real kind and looking for some way he could help and benefit people.”

His son said, “I’ve seen him leave the house at two o’clock in the morning, get on the phone call people to go to Jackson where they could donate … somebody needed blood. He genuinely cared about people.”

Funeral services are at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at White Funeral Home of Poplarville. Brother Carl Myers and Brother Tommy Anthony will officiate at the service with burial to follow in the Poplarville City Cemetery. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Poplarville.

Survivors include his wife, Ruby Ann Smith Breland; his son, James Hall Breland, both of Poplarville; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild .

Visitation is 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at White Funeral Home.