Finding Mississippi

First, let me just say that Mississippi has some challenges, and all of them are well documented. It is America’s poorest state. It is last in education. It is first in obesity per capita. And then there was that whole Civil Rights thing that wasn’t handled as well as it should have been. Well, someone has to be first, or last as the case may be, and my home state of Arkansas is certainly glad Mississippi stepped up, because we are next in line for all of these dubious honors. We like to joke that the unofficial state motto of Arkansas is “Thank God for Mississippi.”

For the second time in less than a year I have found myself stationed in Mississippi for work, and despite all of the afore mentioned problems, I have to say that I like the place. This time I am in Jackson, with occasional side-trips to Vicksburg. I quickly noticed that Mississippi is famous, in a good way, for two things: writers and blues musicians. Almost every blues icon who came to prominence in the last century was a native of Mississippi, and if you stretch the definition of blues icon just a little, you could even snare Elvis Presley with it. Notable writers include Tennessee Williams, John Grisham, Shelby Foote, and the king of them all, William Faulkner. Jackson resident and Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty was no slouch herself. She lived and wrote in the house pictured below for most of her life.

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Eudora Welty’s Jackson home, where she lived for more than seventy years.

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Eudora Welty’s grave in Greenwood Cemetery, downtown Jackson.

You can’t get much deeper in the Deep South than Jackson, Mississippi. Some of the public buildings in this capitol city date back to the 1800’s, and they reflect a style that I think of as being classically Southern, although I have to confess I don’t have the expertise to expound on what I mean by that. Suffice it to say that I think it’s cool.

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Jackson City Hall

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Mississippi Governor’s Mansion

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Occasionally they will throw in a Victorian, like this restored house near downtown Jackson.

Looking up the rotunda of the Mississippi State Capitol Building.

Looking up the rotunda of the Mississippi State Capitol Building.

Medgar Evers’ house in Jackson was undergoing a major renovation at the time of my visit, and I debated whether I should include the photo here or not. But history trumps aesthetics, so here it is. Mr. Evers, a civil rights activist, was shot in the driveway of this home in 1962. Despite knowing the identity of the murderer within days of the killing, it took Mississippi thirty years to put him in prison.

The Jackson home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

The Jackson home of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Vicksburg, Mississippi was the site of one of the pivotal campaigns of the American Civil War. Unlike what happened at some of the other “burgs”, i.e. Gettysburg and Sharpsburg, Vicksburg was a slow strangulation, not a full-blown bloodbath. Union forces surrounded the city and then forced the Confederates into surrender through relentless artillery bombardment and starvation. The Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the finest that I have ever seen. The first time I visited was the morning after my wedding day, as my new wife and I were making our way to New Orleans for our honeymoon. That’s her pictured below, fondling one of the big guns.

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August 22, 1976. My new bride at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

No battlefield visit would be complete without the obligatory cannon photos. I found comfort in these pieces with shorter, less threatening barrels.

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A line of cannon at the ready. March 31, 2013.

one of the more that 1300 monuments on the Vicksburg battlefield. I liked the effect of the tall trees.

One of the more than 1300 monuments on the Vicksburg battlefield. I liked the effect of the tall trees.

Spring was bursting out all over during my visit to Mississippi. Azaleas and dogwoods were still at their springtime peaks. I’m not sure what kind of flowering tree I captured below, but I thought the blossoms were worthy of a photo.

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Unknown flowering tree near the Mississippi River bridge at Vicksburg.

Vicksburg has a number of historic homes near the old channel of the Mississippi River, which changed course a few years after the Civil War. Many of them, like the one below, have been converted into B & B’s.

Blooming azaleas in the garden of a historic Vicksburg home.

Blooming azaleas in the garden of a historic Vicksburg home.

This grand lady near the Vicksburg waterfront fairly screams “Old South.” I can only imagine the things that went on here. It would not surprise me to learn that Scarlet O’Hara’s Mississippi cousins flirted with the eligible young gentlemen of Vicksburg from the railing of this very balcony.

Mansion on the Mississippi in Vicksburg.

Mansion on the Mississippi in Vicksburg.

Vicksburg is first and foremost a river town. After the Mississippi changed course in 1876 the old section of the city was left a bit high and dry, so to speak, where river commerce was concerned. Luckily, riverboat casinos have stepped in to fill the void. Below is the view down historic Washington Street on a drizzly Sunday morning.

Washington Street in downtown Vicksburg on a drizzly Sunday morning.

Washington Street in downtown Vicksburg.

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The old bridge over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. The replacement has none of the character of its predecessor.

My visit to Mississippi ended prematurely when one of my employees broke a leg and I had to drive his dumb ass home. It’s probably just as well. I was becoming a little too fond of the food that makes so many people in Mississippi fat. There are southern delicacies everywhere you turn. Did you know you can get a very good catfish po’boy at the Holiday Inn in Pearl, of all places? It’s true. I did. Twice.

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About Truman

I find myself on the downside of my sixtieth year, older but not old, wiser but not wise, and still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.
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4 Responses to Finding Mississippi

  1. Lila says:

    I’m from Mississippi. I call it “God’s Country” for it’s beauty:)
    Travel north a bit and eat a slugburger:)

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