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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

< Back to Oral History project: Hot Tamale Trail


Frank Carlton - Organizer and Tamale Maker

A native of Greenville, Frank Carlton saw an opportunity to support and celebrate the hot tamale tradition of this part of the Mississippi Delta. In 1990 he organized the first World Championship Hot Tamale Contest. It has been held each July in Greenville ever since. Each entrant’s hot tamales are judged on flavor, appearance, texture and overall impression. The winners receive trophies, cash prizes, and the right to brag. In the beginning, it was Carlton’s belief that he should round out the competition by bringing in some tamales of his own. So in 1990, after a little trial and error, he came up with version that he now sells to hot tamale connoisseurs throughout the Delta. But, he says, “I don’t feel it’s fair for me to enter the contest because I’d blow them all away.”

Unfortunately, 2005 was the last year that the world Championship Hot Tamale Contest was held.

It is with great sadness that the SFA shares news that Frank Carlton passed away in March of 2009.


FIRST: Mildred Jerman of Millie’s Hot Tamales – Greenville
SECOND: Hattie Brown of Jodie’s Hot Tamales – Greenville
THIRD: Don Fancher of The Kitchen – Greenwood
FOURTH: James Harris of J’s Hot Tamales – Greenville

Date of interview:
2005-07-24 00:00

Amy C. Evans

Amy C. 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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