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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Lawrence "Shine" Thornton

Lawrence “Shine” Thornton was born in Shaw, Mississippi, in 1925. He worked for Delta Electric Company in Greenville for 37 years and kept a liquor store business on the side to support his family. In 1984, Shine lost his job at Delta Electric and focused on the liquor store to earn his living. That same year, Shine entered the hot tamale business. With a jury-rigged recipe he got from a friend, Shine figured out the rest through trial and error. When he had a product he could stand by, he named his business after his Sicilian wife Mary, calling his new venture Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales. Over the years, Shine became well known for his quality tamales, never cutting corners on time or ingredients. Even after his beloved Mary passed away, Shine continued to make his meticulously crafted beef tamales out of the custom kitchen behind their house, welcoming any and all who stopped in to buy a dozen or sit and listen to the new tune he’d just learned on his fiddle.

Shine Thornton passed away on October 20, 2013.

Date of interview:
2005-06-30 00:00

Amy Evans


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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