Columbus, Mississippi

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Columbus, Mississippi
Montage of significant city locations
Montage of significant city locations
Nickname(s): 
Possum Town
Motto(s): 
The Friendly City
Location of Columbus, Mississippi
Location of Columbus, Mississippi
Columbus, Mississippi is located in the US
Columbus, Mississippi
Columbus, Mississippi
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 33°30′6″N 88°24′54″W / 33.50167°N 88.41500°W / 33.50167; -88.41500
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Lowndes
Founded 1821
Government
 • Mayor Robert Smith (D)
Area
 • Total 22.3 sq mi (57.8 km2)
 • Land 21.4 sq mi (55.5 km2)
 • Water 0.9 sq mi (2.3 km2)
Elevation
217 ft (66 m)
Population
 • Total 23,640
 • Estimate 
(2016)[1]
24,561
 • Density 1,100/sq mi (410/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
39701-39705
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-15380
GNIS feature ID 0668721
Website Official website

Columbus is a city in and the county seat of Lowndes County, on the eastern border of Mississippi, United States,[2] located primarily east, but also north and northeast of the Tombigbee River, which is also referred to as the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It is approximately 146 miles (235 km) northeast of Jackson, 92 miles (148 km) north of Meridian, 63 miles (101 km) south of Tupelo, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and 120 miles (193 km) west of Birmingham, Alabama.[3]

The population was 25,944 at the 2000 census and 23,640 in 2010.[4] The population in 2012 was estimated to be 23,452.[4] Columbus is the principal city of the Columbus Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Columbus-West Point Combined Statistical Area. Columbus is also part of the area of Mississippi called The Golden Triangle, consisting of Columbus, West Point and Starkville, in the counties of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha.

History

Postcard of steamer American on Tombigbee River at Columbus, c. 1890-1920

The first record of the site of Columbus in Western history is found in the annals of the explorer Hernando de Soto, who is reputed to have crossed the nearby Tombigbee River on his search for El Dorado. However, the site does not enter the main continuity of United States history until December 1810, when John Pitchlynn, the U.S. Indian agent and interpreter for the Choctaw Nation, moved to Plymouth Bluff, where he built a home, established a farm, and transacted Choctaw Agency business.

After the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson recognized the urgent need for roads to connect New Orleans to the rest of the country. In 1817 Jackson ordered a road be built to provide a direct route from Nashville to New Orleans. His surveyor, Captain Hugh Young, chose a place on the Tombigbee River where high ground approached the river on both sides as the location for a ferry to be used for crossing the river when high water prevented fording the river. A military bridge was constructed where the present-day Tombigbee Bridge was later developed in Columbus, Mississippi. Jacksons' Military Road opened the way for development in the area.[5]

Founding

Columbus was founded in 1819 and as it was believed to be in Alabama it was first officially recognized by an Alabama Legislative act as the Town of Columbus on December 6, 1819. [6]Before its incorporation, the town site was referred to informally as Possum Town, a name which was given by the local Native Americans, who were primarily Choctaw and Chickasaw. The name Possum Town remains the town's nickname among locals. The town was settled where Jackson's Military Road crossed the Tombigbee River 4 miles south of John Pitchlynn's residence at Plymouth Bluff. In 1820 the post office that had been at Pitchlynn's relocated in Columbus. Pitchlynn's which had been settled in 1810 became the town of Plymouth in 1836 and is now the location of an environmental center for Mississippi University for Women.[7] Silas McBee suggested the name Columbus; in return, a small local creek was named after him.[8]

The city's founders soon established a school known as Franklin Academy. It continues to operate and is known as Mississippi's first public school. The territorial boundary of Mississippi and Alabama had to be corrected as, a year earlier, Franklin Academy was indicated as being in Alabama. In fact, during its early post-Mississippi-founding history, the city of Columbus was still referred to as Columbus, Alabama.

Civil War and aftermath

During the American Civil War, Columbus was a hospital town. Its arsenal manufactured gunpowder, handguns and a few cannons. Because of this, the Union ordered the invasion of Columbus, but was stopped by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This is substantiated in the book The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge by John McBride. Many of the casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were brought to Columbus. Thousands were eventually buried in the town's Friendship Cemetery.

One of the hospitals was located at Annunciation Catholic Church, built in 1863 and still operating in the 21st century. The decision of a group of ladies to decorate the Union and Confederate graves with flowers together on April 25, 1866, is an early example of what became known as Memorial Day. A poet, Francis Miles Finch, read about it in the New York newspapers and commemorated the occasion with the poem "The Blue and the Grey".[9] Bellware and Gardiner noted this observance of the holiday in The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America (2014). They recognized the events in Columbus as the earliest manifestation of an annual spring holiday to decorate the grave of Southern soldiers. While the call was to celebrate on April 26, several newspapers reported that the day was the 25th, in error.[10]

As a result of Forrest preventing the Union Army from reaching Columbus, its antebellum homes were spared from being burned or destroyed, making its collection second only to Natchez as the most extensive in Mississippi.[11][page needed] These antebellum homes may be toured during the annual Pilgrimage, in which the Columbus residences open their homes to tourists from around the country.

When Union troops approached Jackson, the state capital was briefly moved to Columbus before moving to a more permanent home in Macon.[12]

During the war, Columbus attorney Jacob H. Sharp served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. After the war, he owned the Columbus Independent newspaper. He was elected to two terms in the State House, serving four years representing the district in the Mississippi House of Representatives.[13]

WPA mural

The mural Out of the Soil was completed in 1939 for the Columbus post office by WPA Section of Painting and Sculpture artist Bealah Betterworth.[14] Murals were produced from 1934 to 1943 in the United States through "the Section" of the U.S. Treasury Department.

20th century

Columbus has hosted Columbus Air Force Base (CAFB) since World War II. CAFB was founded as a flight training school. After a stint in the 1950s and 1960s as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base (earning Columbus a spot in Soviet Union target lists), CAFB returned to its original role. Today, it is one of only four basic Air Force flight training bases in the United States, and prized as the only one where regular flight conditions may be experienced. Despite this, CAFB has repeatedly hung in the balance during Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearings.

Columbus boasted a number of industries during the mid-20th century, including the world's largest toilet seat manufacturer, Sanderson Plumbing Products, and major mattress, furniture and textile plants. Most of these had closed by 2000. A series of new plants at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, including the Severstal mill, the American Eurocopter factory, the Paccar engine plant and the Aurora Flight Sciences facility, are revitalizing the local economy.

Columbus is the birthplace of famous playwright Tennessee Williams, author of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire. His birthplace, formerly the rectory of nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church, is now the welcome center for Columbus (300 Main St., Columbus). Columbus is also the birthplace of baseball announcer Red Barber; boxing's first three-time world heavyweight champion, Henry Armstrong; rock singer Andrew Wood; the parents of Grammy-award-winning bluegrass musician Alison Krauss; American Idol contestant Jasmine Murray; and bluegrass musician Ruby Jane Smith. Lenny Fant, award-winning basketball coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe from 1957–1979, graduated from Lee High School in Columbus but was born in Hamilton, Alabama.

Recent history

Columbus has made the national news at least three times in recent decades. On June 12, 1990, a fireworks factory exploded, detonating a blast felt as far as 30 miles away from Columbus. Two workers were killed in the blast.[15][16] On June 26, 2000, the television show 48 Hours did an investigative report of five murders of senior citizens occurring in an 18-month period between late 1997 and early 1999.[17][18] On February 16, 2001, straightline winds measured at 74 miles per hour destroyed many homes and trees but resulted in no fatalities. The city was declared a federal disaster area the next day by President George W. Bush. In November 2002, a tornado hit Columbus and caused more damage to the city,[19][20] including the Mississippi University for Women.[21][22]

In 2010, Columbus won a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust by Historic Preservation.[23]

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.3 square miles (57.8 square kilometers), of which 21.4 square miles (55.5 square kilometers) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 square kilometers) is water. Large lakes and rivers are nearby, such as the Buttahatchee River in northern Lowndes County that defines the border between Lowndes and Monroe counties; in the middle of the City of Columbus and Lowndes County lies the Luxapallila Creek, and the Tombigbee River with the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam impounding Columbus Lake. Columbus is a relatively flat place in the northern part of Lowndes County, as the land rises for a short period of time into hills and bluffs, in the southern/eastern part of the county, the land has rolling hills that quickly turn into flatland floodplains that dominate this county. This county lies in the Black Prairie Geographic Region, and the Northeastern Hills Region of the state/area. Prairies, forests and floodplain forests lie here. The soil quality is poor in the eastern part of the county, otherwise the soil is relatively fertile. Columbus and the surrounding areas are listed as an Arbor Day Hardiness Zone 8a (10 °F or −12.2 °C to 15 °F or −9.4 °C); note that temperatures in 2010 reached 11 °F (−12 °C), but the USDA Hardiness Zones list the area as zone 7b (5 °F or −15.0 °C to 10 °F or −12.2 °C).[24]

Climate

Climate data for Columbus, Mississippi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 81
(27)
88
(31)
89
(32)
93
(34)
101
(38)
105
(41)
111
(44)
108
(42)
109
(43)
96
(36)
88
(31)
82
(28)
111
(44)
Average high °F (°C) 54
(12)
60
(16)
68
(20)
77
(25)
84
(29)
90
(32)
93
(34)
93
(34)
87
(31)
77
(25)
67
(19)
57
(14)
76
(24)
Average low °F (°C) 33
(1)
37
(3)
43
(6)
50
(10)
59
(15)
67
(19)
71
(22)
70
(21)
63
(17)
51
(11)
42
(6)
35
(2)
52
(11)
Record low °F (°C) −1
(−18)
7
(−14)
17
(−8)
30
(−1)
41
(5)
48
(9)
59
(15)
52
(11)
42
(6)
29
(−2)
22
(−6)
−4
(−20)
−4
(−20)
Average rainfall inches (mm) 5.70
(145)
4.85
(123)
6.07
(154)
5.62
(143)
4.88
(124)
4.03
(102)
4.35
(110)
3.33
(85)
3.48
(88)
3.35
(85)
4.66
(118)
5.13
(130)
55.45
(1,408)
[citation needed]

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,611
1860 3,308 26.7%
1870 4,812 45.5%
1880 3,955 −17.8%
1890 4,559 15.3%
1900 6,484 42.2%
1910 8,988 38.6%
1920 10,501 16.8%
1930 10,743 2.3%
1940 13,645 27.0%
1950 17,172 25.8%
1960 24,771 44.3%
1970 25,795 4.1%
1980 27,503 6.6%
1990 23,799 −13.5%
2000 25,944 9.0%
2010 23,640 −8.9%
Est. 2016 24,561 [1] 3.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[25]
Aerial view of Columbus

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 23,640 people residing in the city. 60.0% were African American, 37.4% White, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from some other race, and 1.1% of two or more races. 1.4% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Columbus' population has grown steadily since the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1900, 6,484 people lived in Columbus; in 1910, 8,988; in 1920, 10,501; and in 1940, 13,645. As of the census[26] of 2000, there were 25,944 people, 10,062 households, and 6,419 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,211.5 people per square mile (467.6/km²). There were 11,112 housing units at an average density of 518.9 per square mile (200.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 43.62% White, 54.41% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.

There were 10,062 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.0% were married couples living together, 21.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 12.0% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,393, and the median income for a family was $37,068. Males had a median income of $30,773 versus $20,182 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,848.

Economy

Major Employers:

Education

Columbus is home to a state university, the Mississippi University for Women. The MUW campus is also home to the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, a state-funded public boarding school for academically gifted high school juniors and seniors. It attracts students from all over the state, who compete for spots. It sets a high standard for educational opportunities.

The city's public high school (under the Columbus Municipal School District) is Columbus High School, located in the eastern part of town. It is the largest high school in the city and fifth largest in the state, enrolling approximately 1370 students. Columbus High School was formed by the merger of the city's two previous high schools, Stephen D. Lee High School and Caldwell High School; the schools were merged in 1992 and the campuses in 1997. Columbus is also home to the oldest public elementary school in Mississippi, Franklin Academy Elementary, founded in 1821.

Desegregated in 1970, Lee High School received a state award for the high school with the best race relations. Prior to desegregation, the school formed a race relations committee consisting of black and white students who could discuss issues and determine how to handle certain situations. For instance, the students decided to have both white and black homecoming courts so as to prevent sides being taken along racial lines. However, black students were allowed to vote for the white homecoming court and vice versa. The school went undefeated in football in 1970, which helped unite the student body. Students were ranked based on achievement score tests and divided into three groups, in order to allow each group to learn at their own pace. This practice was in place prior to integration. It was continued after integration for a period, but such tracking was later ruled to be unconstitutional by a Federal court, because it was based on biased testing. It did not take into account differences in preparation in earlier grades.

The Lowndes County School District operates three high schools—Caledonia, New Hope, and West Lowndes—fed by similarly named elementary and middle schools.

Columbus has several private schools, including:

Media

Columbus' city newspapers are the daily (except Saturdays) Commercial Dispatch, the weekly (Thursdays) Columbus Packet and the internet-only paper, Real Media (formerly The Real Story). One television station, WCBI-TV 4, the CBS affiliate, is located in the city's historic downtown area; it broadcasts CW and MyNetworkTV programming on digital subchannels.

Two magazines are published in Columbus: The New Power Magazine, a regional urban magazine, and Columbus Fire and Rescue Magazine.

Columbus is also served by television stations from the Columbus / Tupelo / West Point DMA, ranked No. 133 nationally. These include NBC affiliate WTVA 9, its DT2 subchannel which is the market's ABC affiliate, and Fox affiliate WLOV-TV 27.

Radio Stations include:

  • 103.1 Sports Talk/ESPN Radio
  • 94.1 Top 40
  • 99.9 Rock
  • 92.1 Hip-Hop & R&B
  • 100.9 Talk Radio (Supertalk Mississippi)
  • 93.3 Easy Listening/Top 40
  • 104.5 Christian radio/KLOVE

Infrastructure

Transportation

Columbus lies on U.S. Highways 82 and 45. It is also served by state routes 12, 50, 69, and 182. Columbus is the eastern terminus of the Columbus and Greenville Railway; it is also served by the BNSF Railway (on the original right-of-way of the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway), the Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama Southern Railroad (using the original right-of-way of the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad). The local airport is Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The airport currently has three flights a day to Atlanta. The city is located on the east bank of the Tombigbee River and the associated Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Columbus Lake, formed by the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam, is approximately two miles north of downtown. The Luxapalila Creek runs through the town, separating East Columbus from Columbus proper (both are within city limits). The Lux, as it is locally known, joins the Tombigbee about three miles south of downtown.

Notable people

  • Sam Jethroe, first black baseball player on the Boston Braves roster

See also

References

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External links

  • Official website
  • Wikisource "Columbus, a city and the county-seat of Lowndes county, Mississippi, U.S.A.". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
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