Tupelo /ˈtuːpəloʊ/ is the county seat and the largest city of Lee
County, Mississippi, United States. The seventh-largest city in the
state, it is situated in Northeast Mississippi, between Memphis,
Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. It is accessed by Interstate 22.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,546, with the surrounding
counties of Lee, Pontotoc and Itawamba supporting a population of
Tupelo was the first city to gain an electrical power grid under
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's program of the Tennessee Valley
Authority construction of facilities during the Great
Depression. The city is also the birthplace of singer Elvis
1.1 European colonization
1.2 Civil War and post-war development
1.3 20th century to present
1.3.1 Severe weather
2 Geography and climate
5 Arts and culture
9 Notable people
10 See also
12 External links
Indigenous peoples lived in the area for thousands of years. The
Chickasaw and Choctaw, both Muskogean-speaking peoples of the
Southeast, occupied this area long before European encounter.
French and British colonists traded with these indigenous peoples and
tried to make alliances with them. The French established towns in
Mississippi mostly on the Gulf Coast. At times, the European powers
came into armed conflict. On May 26, 1736, the
Battle of Ackia
Battle of Ackia was
fought near the site of present-day Tupelo; British and Chickasaw
soldiers repelled a French and
Choctaw attack on the then-Chickasaw
village of Ackia. The French, under
Louisiana governor Jean Baptiste
Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, had sought to link
Louisiana with Acadia
and the other northern colonies of New France.
In the early 19th century, after years of trading and encroachment by
European-American settlers from the United States, conflicts increased
as the US settlers tried to gain land from these nations. In 1830,
Congress passed the
Indian Removal Act
Indian Removal Act and authorized the relocation
of all the Southeast Native Americans west of the
which was completed by the end of the 1830s.
In the early years of settlement, European-Americans named this town
Gum Pond, supposedly due to its numerous tupelo trees, known locally
as blackgum. The city still hosts the annual Gumtree Arts Festival.
Civil War and post-war development
During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces fought in the area
in 1864 in the Battle of Tupelo. Designated the
Battlefield, the battlefield is administered by the National Park
Service (NPS). In addition, the Brices Cross Roads National
Battlefield, about ten miles north, commemorates another American
Civil War battle.
After the war, a cross-state railroad for northern
constructed through the town, which encouraged industry and growth.
With expansion, the town changed its name to Tupelo, in honor of the
battle. It was incorporated in 1870.
20th century to present
Railroad depot, circa 1900
By the early twentieth century, the town had become a site of cotton
textile mills, which provided new jobs for residents of the rural
area. Under the state's segregation practices, the mills employed only
white adults and children. Reformers documented the child workers and
attempted to protect them through labor laws.
The last known bank robbery by Machine Gun Kelly, a Prohibition-era
gangster, took place on November 30, 1932 at the Citizen’s State
Bank in Tupelo; his gang netted $38,000. After the robbery, the
bank’s chief teller said of Kelly, “He was the kind of guy that,
if you looked at him, you would never thought he was a bank
During the Great Depression,
Tupelo was electrified by the new
Tennessee Valley Authority, which had constructed dams and power
plants throughout the region to generate hydroelectric power for the
large, rural area. The distribution infrastructure was built with
federal assistance as well, employing many local workers. In 1935,
Franklin Roosevelt visited this "First TVA City".
In 2007, the nearby village of Blue Springs was selected as the site
for Toyota's eleventh automobile manufacturing plant in the United
In 2013 Gale Stauffer of the
Tupelo Police Department died in a
shootout following a bank robbery, possibly the first officer killed
in the line of duty in the Department's history.
Students clear the ruins of the segregated Lee County Training School,
a month after the 1936 tornado
The spring of 1936 brought
Tupelo one of its worst-ever natural
disasters, part of the Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak of April
5–6 in that year. The storm leveled 48 city blocks and over 200
homes, killing 216 people and injuring more than 700 persons. It
struck at night, destroying large residential areas on the city's
north side. Among the survivors was Elvis Presley, then a baby.
Obliterating the Gum Pond neighborhood, the tornado dropped most of
the victims' bodies in the pond. The storm has since been rated F5 on
the modern Fujita scale. The
Tupelo Tornado is recognized as one
of the deadliest in U.S. history.
Mississippi State Geologist estimated a final death toll of 233
persons, but 100 whites were still reported as hospitalized at the
time. Because the white newspapers did not publish news about blacks
until the 1940s and 1950s, historians have had difficulty learning the
fates of blacks injured in the tornado. Based on this, historians now
estimate the death toll was higher than in official records.
Fire broke out at the segregated Lee County Training School, which was
destroyed. Its bricks were salvaged for other uses.
The area is subject to tornadoes. In 2008 one rated an EF3 on the
Enhanced Fujita Scale struck the town. On April 28, 2014, a large
Tupelo and the surrounding communities, causing
significant damage.
Geography and climate
Tupelo is located in northeast Mississippi, north of Columbus, on
Interstate 22 and U.S. Route 78, midway between Memphis,
Tennessee (northwest) and
Birmingham, Alabama (southeast).
According to the
Census Bureau, the city has a total
area of 51.4 square miles (133 km2), of which 51.1 square miles
(132 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) (0.62%) is
Like the rest of the state,
Tupelo has a humid subtropical climate
(Cfa in the Koeppen climate classification); it is part of USDA
hardiness zone 7b. The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from
41.7 °F (5.4 °C) in January to 81.4 °F
(27.4 °C) in July, while, on average, there are 3.0 days
where the temperature stays at or below freezing, 55 days with a
low at or below freezing, and 67 days with a high at or above
90 °F (32 °C) per year. The all-time record low is
−14 °F (−26 °C), set on January 27, 1940, while the
all-time record high is 109 °F (43 °C), set on July 29,
1930. However, temperatures at or below 0 °F
(−18 °C) are rare, having last occurred December 23, 1989, the
date of the all-time record low for December; additionally, while
highs can reach 100 °F (38 °C) several days a row during
severe heat waves, several years may pass between such readings.
Precipitation is high, averaging 55.0 inches (1,400 mm) annually,
but reaches a low during late summer. The rainiest calendar day on
record is March 21, 1955 when 9.40 inches (239 mm) of rain fell;
monthly precipitation has ranged from trace amounts in August 1983 to
19.89 inches (505 mm) in December 1982. Snow is uncommon,
with many years receiving trace amounts or no snowfall at all, and
normal (1981–2010) winter snowfall stands at 2.1 inches
(5.3 cm). The most snow in one calendar day was 8.0 inches
(20 cm) on January 24, 1940, contributing to the 9.2 inches
(23 cm) that fell that month, the snowiest on record; the
snowiest winter was 1935–36 with 14.8 inches (38 cm).
Climate data for
Tupelo Regional Airport,
normals,[a] extremes 1930–present)
Record high °F (°C)
Mean maximum °F (°C)
Average high °F (°C)
Average low °F (°C)
Mean minimum °F (°C)
Record low °F (°C)
Average precipitation inches (mm)
Average snowfall inches (cm)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2010, there are 35,456 people, 13,602 households,
and 8,965 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city
is 58.7% White, 36.8% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.0%
Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.0% from other races, and 1.4% from
two or more races. 3.5% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of
According to the 2007–2011 American Community Survey 5-Year
Estimates, there are 13,395 households, 42.8% are married couples
living together, 2.6% have a male householder with no wife present,
and 22.5% have a female householder with no husband present. 32.2% are
non-family households, with 28.4% have a householder living alone and
3.8% having a householder not living alone. In addition, 39.7% of
householders are living with related children under 18 and 60.3% with
no related children under 18. The average household size is 2.47
and the average family size is 3.08.
The median income for a household in the city is $39,415. The poverty
rate for people living below the poverty line is 20%.
Part of the child work force at
Tupelo Cotton Mills, 1911. Photograph
by Lewis Hine.
Tupelo served as a regional transportation hub,
primarily due to its location at a railroad intersection. More
recently, it has developed as strong tourism and hospitality sector
based around the
Elvis Presley birthplace and Natchez Trace. The city
has also been successful at attracting manufacturing, retail and
distribution operations (see 'Industry' section below).
Tupelo is the headquarters of the North
Mississippi Medical Center,
the largest non-metropolitan hospital in the United States. It serves
people in North Mississippi, northwest Alabama and portions of
Tennessee. The medical center was a winner of the prestigious Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award in 2006 and 2012.
The headquarters of two banking institutions are located here:
BancorpSouth, with approximately $11.8 billion in assets (2006), and
Renasant, with assets of approximately $11 billion (2018).
The city is a five-time "All-America
City Award" winner.
It has a large furniture manufacturing industry. The journalist Dennis
Seid noted that furniture manufacturing in Northeast Mississippi,
"provid[ed] some 22,000 jobs, or almost 13% of the region's
employment... with a $732 million annual payroll... producing $2.25
billion worth of goods."
Tecumseh, Heritage Home Group, Hancock Fabrics, Inc., Magnolia
Manufacturing Mississippi, H.M. Richards, JESCO
Construction, MTD Products, Savings Oil Company (Dodge's Stores), and
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company all operate or are headquartered in
Tupelo and Lee County. Renin Corporation, a subsidiary of BBX Capital
Corporation, operates a production centre in
Tupelo which employed 50
but an expansion in 2017 expected to increase staffing to 100.
Arts and culture
Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo is home to hundreds of animals and a
American bison herd.
It is the headquarters of the historic
Natchez Trace Parkway, which
connects Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The parkway
follows the route of the ancient
Natchez Trace trail, a path used by
indigenous peoples long before the Europeans came to the area.
Nearby are the Pharr Mounds, an important Middle Woodland period
complex of nearly 2000-year-old burial earthworks, dating from 1 to
National Park Service
National Park Service map
Civil War sites include
Tupelo and Brices Cross Roads national
Tupelo Automobile Museum is one of the largest of this type in
North America. In 2003, it was designated as the official
automobile museum of the state. It houses more than 150 rare
automobiles, all from the personal collection of Frank K. Spain, who
founded the channel WTVA.
Since its founding in 1969, the
Tupelo Community Theatre has produced
more than 200 works. In 2001 and 2004, it won awards at the
Mississippi Theatre Association's Community Theatre festival. In 2004
its production of Bel Canto won at the Southeastern Theatre
Conference. TCT's home is the historic Lyric Theatre, built in
Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's season runs from September–April
with concerts held at the
Tupelo Civic Auditorium. The symphony's
free annual July 4 outdoor concert at Ballard Park draws thousands of
In 2005, the
Rotary Club sponsored a commission for a statue to honor
Chief Piomingo, a leader of the
Chickasaw people who had occupied this
area. It was erected in front of the new
The Oren Dunn
City Museum tells the Story of Community Building
through permanent exhibits and a collection of historic structures.
Special Exhibit Gallery provides a venue for a variety of
traveling and temporary shows throughout the year.
In June 1956 noted singer
Elvis Presley returned to
Tupelo for a
concert at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair & Dairy Show. This
event was recreated at the eighth "
Elvis Presley Festival" in Tupelo
on June 3, 2006. The fairgrounds is part of Tupelo's Fairpark
District. The documentary film, The Homecoming:
Tupelo Welcomes Elvis
Home, premiered at the 2006 festival.
Tupelo is serviced by the Lee-Itawamba Library System. The Lee County
Library, located in downtown Tupelo, has an annual lecture series
featuring nationally known authors. In addition to the annual lecture
series, the Lee County Library features a
Mississippi room dedicated
to genealogy research.
Built in 1937, the Church Street Elementary School (for white students
in the segregated system) was hailed as one of the most outstanding
designs of its time. A scale model of this
Art Moderne structure,
described as "the ideal elementary school," was displayed at the 1939
New York World's Fair.
BancorpSouth Arena opened in 1993 and is a venue for large
Tupelo's current mayor is Jason L. Shelton. The
Tupelo Council is made
up of seven representatives, each elected from single-member
districts. They annually elect the president of the council on a
rotating basis. In 2017, the President of the
City Council is
Lynn Bryan. Other council members are Markel Whittington, Buddy
Palmer, Willie Jennings, Mike Bryan and Nettie Davis.
Jim Newell was elected to the
City Council in 2013, but resigned
August 1, 2014, when he moved out of the ward he represented. A
special election was held to fill the vacancy is set for September 4,
In 2013 Nettie Davis was elected by the council as President, becoming
the first woman and first African American to hold the position. Davis
has served on the council for four terms.
Mayor Jason Shelton sought re-election in 2017 and was returned to
office for another four years in the Democratic Primary by garnering
85.55 percent of the votes cast. His opponent was Candace Knowles.
Mayor Jack Reed did not seek reelection in 2013. Attorney Jason
Shelton, a Democrat, was elected mayor on June 4, 2013, over council
chairman Fred Pitts, a Republican.
The city government has been honored with many awards in 2015,
including: ° All-America City, National League of Cities (5th
designation)  °
Mississippi Municipal League Award of
Excellence ° Southern Public Relations Federation Certificate of
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau  ° Southern Public
Relations Federation Award of Excellence,
Tupelo Convention and
Visitors Bureau  ° Southern Public Relations Lantern Award (2),
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau  °
Conference on Tourism Volunteer of the Year, Bev Crossen nominated by
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau  °
Conference on Tourism Large Festival/Event Award,
and Visitors Bureau  °
Mississippi Governor's Conference on
Tourism Travel Media Award,
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau 
Mississippi Urban Forest Council Lifetime Achievement David Knight
Mississippi Urban Forest Council 2015 Scenic Community Award
Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association Design Award,
Joyner Splash Pad  °
Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association
Award of Excellence in
Special Events Sports Programing, Southern Zone
Age Group Swimming Championship, The
Tupelo Aquatic Center 
Tupelo schools are served by the
Tupelo Public School District. It
participates in the
MacBook Distribution Policy, which means students
in grades 6-12 are each given a school-owned Apple
MacBook to use
during the school year. In 2008, Sports Illustrated ranked the high
school athletic department as the third-best high school athletic
program in the nation.
For post-secondary education, the city has satellite campuses of the
University of Mississippi, Itawamba Community College, and the
Mississippi University for Women.
The local daily newspaper is the Northeast
Mississippi Daily Journal.
Tupelo is home to three television stations serving the 133rd-ranked
designated market area among 210 markets nationwide as determined by
Nielsen Media Research:
WTVA (9), an
NBC and ABC affiliate; and WLOV
(27), a Fox affiliate. Both stations are located on Beech Springs Road
and were controlled by
Frank K. Spain until his death on April 25,
The American Family Association, located in Tupelo, includes the
American Family Radio network and the OneNewsNow news
Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo
Alex Carrington (born 1987), American football player
Dave Clark (born 1962), American baseball player and coach
Diplo (born 1978), American musical artist
Brian Dozier (born 1987), American baseball player
Todd Jordan (born 1970), American football player
John Murry (born 1979), American singer-songwriter
Elvis Presley (1935–1977), American singer and actor
Chris Stratton (born 1990), American baseball player
Roger Wicker, Senator
Swae Lee, hip-hop artist and member of Rae Sremmurd
Battle of Tupelo
List of municipalities in Mississippi
National Register of Historic Places listings in Lee County,
Tupelo Regional Airport
^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest
temperature readings at any point during the year or given month)
calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
^ "Tupelo, Mississippi".
City of Tupelo. 2014. Retrieved May 12,
^ a b c d "2010
Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary
File". American FactFinder.
Census Bureau. Archived from
the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9,
^ "The Rural
Electrification of Northeast Mississippi". Sara E.
Mississippi History Now. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
^ "The Role of Publicly Provided Electricity in Economic Development:
The Experience of the
Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Valley Authority 1929-1955" (PDF).
Carl T. Kitchens. 2012. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
^ a b c "
Tupelo - Attractions", 2006,
^ Dale Cox (1935-01-08). "Tupelo,
Mississippi - Historic Sites and
Points of Interest". Exploresouthernhistory.com. Retrieved
^ "Tupelo, MS". GumTree Chronicles. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
^ "George "Machine Gun" Kelly: American Robber and Kidnapper".
crimelibrary. 2007-07-18. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
^ Capeloutoaccess, Susanna (December 29, 2013). "Phoenix police
fatally shoot man suspected in multi-state robberies, cop killing".
^ "Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak", Digital Library of Georgia, 2008,
retrieved 12 Sept 2011
^ a b "Significant Tornadoes Update 1992–1995", Mid-South Tornadoes,
Mississippi State University
^ "This Day In History; Tornadoes Devastate
Tupelo and Gainesville",
The History Channel online, retrieved 13 September 2011
^ "The 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record". CNN.com. Retrieved
^ Martis D. Ramage, Jr. Tupelo, Mississippi, Tornado of 1936,
United States Department of Agriculture.
United States National
Arboretum. USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map [Retrieved 2015-03-02].
^ a b c d e f g "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
^ "Station Name: MS TUPELO RGNL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
Census Bureau. "
Census of Population and Housing".
Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved November 8,
^ "Population Estimates".
Census Bureau. Retrieved
^ "Community Facts:
Tupelo city". Retrieved March 15, 2014.
City of Tupelo". Tupeloms.gov. Retrieved
^ Dennis Seid, The Northeast
Mississippi Business Journal, February
^ a b "About the
City of Tupelo" (2006),
Tupelo website, web:
TupeloMS-About: for Elvis, the
Natchez Trace Parkway, and Tupelo
^ "Pharr Mounds-National Register of Historic Places Indian Mounds of
Mississippi Travel Itinerary". National Park Service. Retrieved
^ Tom Wicker. "Lyric History". Tctwebstage.com. Retrieved
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-20. Retrieved
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-20. Retrieved
^ , Lee County Courier, 13 February 2014
^ "Jason Shelton wins big:
Tupelo elects 37-year-old mayor", NE
Mississippi Daily Journal
^ Rod Guajardo (2015-06-15). "Tupelo: All-America
City again - Daily
Journal". Djournal.com. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
^ Rod Guajardo (2015-06-25). "
Tupelo receives top municipal honor -
Daily Journal". Djournal.com. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
^ a b c d e f Zack Orsborn (2015-10-01). "
Tupelo CVB earns several
awards - Daily Journal". Djournal.com. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
Tupelo - Mayor's Office - Timeline". Facebook. Retrieved
^ Daily Journal (2015-08-23). "OUR OPINION: Stay steady on plan for
Tupelo - Daily Journal". Djournal.com. Retrieved
^ a b William Moore (2015-09-29). "
Tupelo Parks & Recreation
brings home awards - Daily Journal". Djournal.com. Retrieved
^ "Top 25 athletic programs for 2007-08". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com.
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County seat: Tupelo
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