Main Births etc
Tupelo, Mississippi
Main Street in Tupelo
Location of Tupelo in Lee County
Coordinates: 34°15′35″N 88°43′33″W / 34.25972, -88.72583Coordinates: 34°15′35″N 88°43′33″W / 34.25972, -88.72583
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Lee
Incorporated 1870
 • Mayor Jason L. Shelton (D)
 • City 67.4 sq mi (133.2 km2)
 • Land 51.1 sq mi (132.4 km2)
 • Water 0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
Elevation 279 ft (85 m)
Population (2012)[1]
 • City 35,490
 • Density 709/sq mi (274/km2)
 • Metro 138,976 (US: 8th)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 38801–38804
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-74840
GNIS feature ID 0678931
Website [4]

Students clearing the ruins of the Lee County Training School, a month after the 1936 tornado

Elvis sculptures in Tupelo

Tupelo /ˈtpəl/ is the county seat and the largest city of Lee County, Mississippi. It is also the seventh-largest city in the state. It is situated in northeast Mississippi, between Memphis, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, and is accessed by U.S. Route 78. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,546, with the surrounding counties of Lee, Pontotoc and Itawamba supporting a population of 138,976.

This city is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley.[2] As a one-year-old in Tupelo on April 5, 1936, Presley and his family survived a tornado that was ranked as the fourth deadliest in United States history. It took 216 lives.


European colonization[]

Indigenous peoples lived in the area for thousands of years, followed by the historical peoples of the Chickasaw and Choctaw, both Muskogean-speaking peoples of the Southeast.

On May 26, 1736 the Battle of Ackia was fought near the site of the present 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 later times, after years of trading and encroachment, conflicts increased in the early 19th century with European-American settlers. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and authorized the relocation of Native Americans west of the Mississippi River, which was completed by the end of the 1830s.

In the early years of settlement, European-Americans named the town Gum Pond, supposedly due to its numerous tupelo trees, which are locally known as blackgum. The city still hosts the annual Gumtree Arts Festival. The Southern expression, "possum up a gum tree", originated in this area.[2]

Civil War and post-war development[]

During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces fought in the area in 1864 in the battle known as a Battle of Tupelo. Designated the Tupelo National Battlefield, the war site is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). In addition, the Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, about ten miles north, commemorates another Civil War site.

After the Civil War, a cross-state railroad for northern Mississippi was 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.[3]

By the early twentieth century, the town had become a site of textile mills, which employed both white adults and children. Reformers documented the child workers and attempted to protect them through labor laws.[4]

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 robber.”[5]

During the Great Depression Tupelo was electrified by the new Tennessee Valley Authority, which had constructed dams and power plants to harness water power throughout the region. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt visited this "First TVA City".

In 2007, the nearby village of Blue Springs was selected as the site for Toyota's eleventh U.S. automobile manufacturing plant.

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.[6]

Severe weather[]

The spring of 1936 brought Tupelo one of its worst-ever natural disasters. Part of the Tupelo-Gainesville outbreak of April 5–6 in that year,[7] the Tupelo storm struck at night and destroyed large residential areas on the city's north side. One survivor of the storm 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.[8] The Tupelo Tornado is recognized as one of the deadliest in U.S. History.[9]

The Tupelo tornado leveled 48 city blocks and over 200 homes, killing 216 people and injuring more than 700 persons. The Mississippi State Geologist estimated a final death toll of 233, but 100 white persons were still hospitalized at the time. Because newspapers published only the names of injured whites, due to a racially discriminatory policy that persisted into the 1940s and 1950s, it was difficult to follow up on the fates of injured blacks. Historians now estimate the death toll was higher than in official records.[10][11] Fire broke out at the 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 tornado struck Tupelo and the surrounding communities, causing significant damage.

Culture and attractions[]

  • The Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo is home to hundreds of animals and a large American bison herd.
  • Tupelo is the headquarters of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, which connects Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee while following the route of the original Natchez Trace trail, an ancient path used by indigenous peoples long before the Europeans came to the area.[12]
  • Nearby are the Pharr Mounds, an important Middle Woodland period complex of nearly 2000-year-old burial earthworks, dating from 1 to 200 AD.[13]

Tupelo area map of historic battlefields and sites

  • Civil War sites include Tupelo and Brices Cross Roads national battlefields.
  • The Tupelo Automobile Museum is one of the largest of this type in North America.[12] In 2003, it was designated 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 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 1912.[14]
  • The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's season runs from September–April with concerts held at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium.[2] The symphony's free annual July 4 outdoor concert at Ballard Park draws thousands of fans.
  • In 2005, the Rotary Club sponsored a commission for a statue to honor Chief Piomingo, a leader of the Chickasaw people. It was erected in front of the new Tupelo City Hall.
  • The Oren Dunn City Museum tells the Story of Community Building through permanent exhibits and a collection of historic structures. The Special Exhibit Gallery provides a venue for a variety of traveling and temporary shows throughout the year.
  • In June 1956 Elvis Presley returned to Tupelo for a concert at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair & Dairy Show. The event was recreated at the eighth "Elvis Presley Festival" in Tupelo on June 3, 2006. The fairgrounds is now part of Tupelo's Fairpark District. The documentary film, The Homecoming: Tupelo Welcomes Elvis Home, premiered at the 2006 festival.
  • The Lee County Library has an annual lecture series featuring nationally known authors.
  • Built in 1937, the Church Street Elementary School 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.
  • The BancorpSouth Arena opened in 1993 and is a venue for large events.[2]


Tupelo's current mayor is Jason L. Shelton. The Tupelo Council is made up of seven members. The President of the Tupelo City Council is Mike Bryan. Other council members are Markel Whittington, Lynn Bryan, Willie Jennings, Buddy Palmer and Nettie Davis. [15]

Jim Newell was elected to the City Council in 2013, but resigned August 1, 2014, because he moved from the ward he represented. A special election to fill the vacancy is set for September 4, 2014. [16]

In 2013 Davis was elected by the council as President. Through that election, Davis became the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position. The council presidency rotates annually. Davis has served on the council for four terms. [17]

Mayor Jack Reed did not seek reelection to the city's highest office in 2013. Attorney Jason Shelton, a Democrat, was elected mayor on June 4, 2013, over council chairman Fred Pitts, a Republican.[18]


Tupelo schools are served by the Tupelo Public School District. In 2008, Sports Illustrated ranked the high school athletic department as the third best high school athletic program in the nation.[19]

Tupelo Public School district partakes in the MacBook Distribution Policy, which means students in grades 6-12 receive a school owned copy of their own Apple MacBook for the school year.

For post-secondary education, the city has satellite campuses of the University of Mississippi, Itawamba Community College, and the Mississippi University for Women.


Historically, 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).[20]


  • 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.
  • Tupelo is the headquarters of two banking institutions - BancorpSouth, with approximately $11.8 billion in assets (2006), and Renasant, with assets of approximately $4.2 billion (2011).
  • The city is a four-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."[21]
  • Tecumseh, Heritage Home Group, Hancock Fabrics, Inc., Magnolia Fabrics, Toyota Motor 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.


Part of the child work force at Tupelo Cotton Mills, May 1911. Photographed by Lewis Hine.

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1870 618
1880 1,008 63.1%
1890 1,477 46.5%
1900 2,118 43.4%
1910 3,881 83.2%
1920 5,055 30.2%
1930 6,361 25.8%
1940 8,212 29.1%
1950 11,527 40.4%
1960 17,221 49.4%
1970 20,471 18.9%
1980 23,905 16.8%
1990 30,685 28.4%
2000 34,211 11.5%
2010 34,546 1.0%
Est. 2012 35,490 3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[22]
2012 Estimate[23]

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 any race.[1]

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.[24] The average household size is 2.47 and the average family size is 3.08.[1]

The median income for a household in the city is $39,415. The poverty rate for people living below the poverty line is 20%.[1]>


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 affiliate; WLOV (27), a Fox affiliate, and WKDH (45), an ABC affiliate. All three stations are located just outside the Tupelo city limits and were controlled by Frank K. Spain until his death on April 25, 2006.

Geography and climate[]

Tupelo is located in northeast Mississippi, north of Columbus, on future Interstate 22 and U.S. Route 78, midway between Memphis, Tennessee (northwest) and Birmingham, Alabama (southeast).

According to the United States 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 water.

It has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa in the Koeppen climate classification).

Climate data for Tupelo, Mississippi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 50
Average low °F (°C) 30
Record low °F (°C) −14
Rainfall inches (mm) 5.14
Snowfall inches (cm) 1.3
humidity 48.5 73.5 71.5 70.0 71.5 74.0 75.0 76.5 75.5 74.5 71.5 72.5 76.5
Source #1: [25]
Source #2: [26]

Notable people[]

Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi[27]

  • Alex Carrington (b. June 19, 1987), American football defensive tackle
  • James M. Davis, white collar criminal, part of Stanford Financial scandal.
  • Diplo, (b. 1978) DJ
  • Brian Dozier (b. 1987), Major League Baseball player
  • John Dye (1963–2011), actor
  • Mikky Ekko, singer-songwriter & record producer
  • Allie Grant (b. February 14, 1994), film and television actress
  • Ray Harris (1927–2003), rockabilly musician
  • Joe Horn (b. 1972), American football wide receiver
  • Guy Hovis (b. 1941), singer
  • Jarious Jackson (b. 1977), American football quarterback
  • W. Winfred Moore (b. 1919), Baptist clergyman
  • Alan Nunnelee (b. 1958), United States Congressman
  • Laura Pendergest-Holt, white collar criminal, part of Stanford Financial scandal
  • Elvis Presley (1935–1977), singer and actor
  • John E. Rankin (1882–1960), sixteen-term United States Congressman, died in Tupelo
  • Jack Reed (born 1924), Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1987
  • Jumpin' Gene Simmons (1933–2006), rockabilly singer-songwriter
  • Gil Stovall (b. 1986), swimmer
  • Chris Stratton (b. August 22, 1990), minor league pitcher in the San Francisco Giants
  • Paul Thorn (b. 1964), singer-songwriter
  • Van Tiffin (b. 1965), American football placekicker
  • Rae Sremmurd, hip-hop duo known for their single No Flex Zone!
  • Chad Bumphis (b. October 18, 1989), American football wide receiver

See also[]


  1. ^ a b c d "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "City of Tupelo - Attractions", 2006, City of Tupelo website
  3. ^ Dale Cox (1935-01-08). "Tupelo, Mississippi - Historic Sites and Points of Interest". Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  4. ^ "Tupelo, MS". GumTree Chronicles. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  5. ^ "George "Machine Gun" Kelly: American Robber and Kidnapper". crimelibrary. 2007-07-18. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  6. ^ Capeloutoaccess, Susanna (December 29, 2013). "Phoenix police fatally shoot man suspected in multi-state robberies, cop killing". CNN. 
  7. ^ "Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak", Digital Library of Georgia, 2008, retrieved 12 Sept 2011
  8. ^ "This Day In History; Tornadoes Devastate Tupelo and Gainesville", The History Channel online, retrieved 13 September 2011
  9. ^ "The 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record". Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  10. ^ "Significant Tornadoes Update 1992-1995", Mid-South Tornadoes, Mississippi State University
  11. ^ Martis D. Ramage, Jr. Tupelo, Mississippi, Tornado of 1936,
  12. ^ a b "About the City of Tupelo" (2006), City of Tupelo website, web: TupeloMS-About: for Elvis, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Tupelo Automobile Museum.
  13. ^ "Pharr Mounds-National Register of Historic Places Indian Mounds of Mississippi Travel Itinerary". National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  14. ^ Tom Wicker. "Lyric History". Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  15. ^ Tupelo City Council
  16. ^ [1][2]
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ NE Mississippi Daily Journal: Jason Shelton wins big: Tupelo elects 37-year-old mayor
  19. ^ "Top 25 athletic programs for 2007-08". Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  20. ^ "About Tupelo | City of Tupelo". Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  21. ^ Dennis Seid, The Northeast Mississippi Business Journal, February 2006
  22. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Community Facts: Tupelo city". Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Average Weather for Tupelo, MS - Temperature and Precipitation". 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  26. ^ "Climate Information for Tupelo - Mississippi - South - United States - Climate Zone". Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  27. ^ "Elvis gets marker on Mississippi Blues Trail". USA Today. January 7, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2008. 

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