Tupelo, Mississippi
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Tupelo, Mississippi

Tupelo, Mississippi
City of Tupelo
Main Street in Tupelo
Main Street in Tupelo
"All-America City"
Location of Tupelo in Lee County
Location of Tupelo in Lee County
Tupelo is located in Mississippi
Location of Tupelo in Mississippi
Tupelo is located in the United States
Tupelo (the United States)
Coordinates: 34°15?35?N 88°43?33?W / 34.25972°N 88.72583°W / 34.25972; -88.72583Coordinates: 34°15?35?N 88°43?33?W / 34.25972°N 88.72583°W / 34.25972; -88.72583
CountryUnited States
Districts1, 2, 3, 4, 5
IncorporatedJuly 20, 1870; 151 years ago (1870-07-20)
Named forTupelo
 o TypeMayor-Council
 o MayorTodd Jordan (R)
 o Council
  • Chad Mims
  • Travis Beard
  • Lynn Bryan
  • Nettie Davis
  • Buddy Palmer
  • Janet Gaston
  • Rosie Jones
 o City64.68 sq mi (167.53 km2)
 o Land64.38 sq mi (166.75 km2)
 o Water0.30 sq mi (0.78 km2)
279 ft (85 m)
 o City34,546
 o Estimate 
 o Density595.06/sq mi (229.75/km2)
 o Metro
140,460 (US: 8th)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 o Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code(s)
38801, 38804, 38826, 38866
Area code(s)662
FIPS code28-74840
GNIS feature ID678931

Tupelo is a city in, and the county seat of, Lee County, Mississippi, United States. With an estimated population of 38,312 in 2019, Tupelo is the sixth-largest city in Mississippi and is considered a commercial, industrial, and cultural hub of North Mississippi.

Tupelo was incorporated in 1866, although the area had earlier been settled as "Gum Pond" along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.[5] On February 7, 1934, Tupelo became the first city to receive power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, thus giving it the nickname "The First TVA City".[6][7] Much of the city was devastated by a major tornado in 1936 that still ranks as one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history.[8] Following electrification, Tupelo boomed as a regional manufacturing and distribution center and was once considered a hub of the American furniture manufacturing industry.[9] Although many of Tupelo's manufacturing industries have declined since the 1990s, the city has continued to grow due to strong healthcare, retail, and financial service industries. Tupelo is the smallest city in the United States that is the headquarters of more than one bank with over $10 billion in assets.[10]

Tupelo has a deep connection to Mississippi's music history, being known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and Diplo as well as the origin of the group Rae Sremmurd. The city is home to multiple art and cultural institutions, including the Elvis Presley Birthplace and the 10,000-seat BancorpSouth Arena, the largest multipurpose indoor arena in Mississippi. Tupelo is the only city in the Southern United States to be named an All-America City five times, most recently in 2015.[11]

The Tupelo micropolitian area contains Lee, Itawamba, and Pontotoc counties and had a population of 140,081 in 2017.[12]


European settlement

Indigenous peoples, including the Chickasaw and Choctaw, occupied the area prior to European settlement. The French and British traded with these indigenous peoples and tried to form 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 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.[13]

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 and authorized the relocation of all the Southeast 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 this town "Gum Pond", supposedly due to its numerous tupelo trees, known locally as "blackgum". The city still hosts the annual Gumtree Arts Festival.[14]

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 or battle of oldtown Creek. Designated the Tupelo National 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 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.[15]

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.[16]

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 ($721,000 in current dollar terms). 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."[17]

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, President Franklin Roosevelt visited this "First TVA City".

Tupelo had only 20 Jewish residents at the beginning of the Great Depression, out of 20,000 total residents.[18] Temple B'nai Israel was established in Tupelo in 1939.[19] The congregation first met in Tupelo City Hall.[18][20][21] It later rented space on South Spring Street above the Fooks' Chevrolet dealership.[18] In 1953, it moved to space over Biggs Furniture Store.[21][22] A synagogue building was dedicated in 1957, with then-Mayor James Ballard giving the remarks.[21]

In 2007, the nearby village of Blue Springs was selected as the site for Toyota's 11th automobile manufacturing plant in the United States.

In 2013 Gale Stauffer of the Tupelo Police Department died in a set up ambush following a bank robbery, possibly the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department's history.[23]

President Donald Trump visited the city of Tupelo twice, in 2018 and 2019. President Trump held a campaign rally for Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on November 26, 2018 at the Tupelo Regional Airport.[24] Almost one year later, the president returned to Tupelo to hold another rally (this time for Governor Tate Reeves) on November 1, 2019 at the BancorpSouth Arena.[25] These campaign rallies were broadcast on national television and received attention from news networks, such as CNN and Fox News.[26][27]

Severe weather

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.[28] The storm leveled 48 city blocks and over 200 homes, killing 216 people and injuring more than 700 persons.[29] 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 Fujita scale.[30] The Tupelo Tornado is recognized as one of the deadliest in U.S. history.[31]

The 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.[29][32] 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. On May 8, 2008, one rated an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale struck the town. On April 28, 2014, another large EF3 tornado struck Tupelo and the surrounding communities, causing significant damage. On the night of May 2, 2021, two EF1 tornadoes formed near town with the second being a large tornado that directly struck the northwest side of downtown, prompting a tornado emergency to be issued by the National Weather Service.[33]


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 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.


Like the rest of the state, Tupelo has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa in the Köppen climate classification); it is part of USDA hardiness zone 7b.[34] The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from 43.4 °F (6.3 °C) in January to 82.3 °F (27.9 °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.[35] 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.[35] 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.[35]

Precipitation is high, averaging 57.74 inches (1,467 mm) annually. On average, December is the single wettest month, and February through May are also especially wet; September and October are the driest months. 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.[35] 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).[35] 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).[35]

Climate data for Tupelo Regional Airport, Mississippi (1991-2020 normals,[a] extremes 1930-–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Mean maximum °F (°C) 71
Average high °F (°C) 53.2
Daily mean °F (°C) 43.4
Average low °F (°C) 33.6
Mean minimum °F (°C) 15
Record low °F (°C) -14
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.82
Average snowfall inches (cm) 0.6
Average precipitation days 10.6 10.8 11.8 9.8 10.3 10.2 9.7 8.9 6.1 7.6 9.0 10.8 115.0
Average snowy days 0.6 0.4 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.5
Source: NOAA[35][36]


As of the census of 2010, there were 35,456 people, 13,602 households, and 8,965 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 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 were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[3]

According to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, there were 13,395 households, 42.8% were married couples living together, 2.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 22.5% had a female householder with no husband present. 32.2% were non-family households, with 28.4% had a householder living alone and 3.8% having a householder not living alone. In addition, 39.7% of householders were living with related children under 18 and 60.3% with no related children under 18.[39] The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.08.[3]

The median income for a household in the city was $39,415. The poverty rate was 20%.[3]


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

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).[40]


Arts and culture

Tupelo area National Park Service map
  • Civil War sites include Tupelo or the battle of oldtown creek and Brices Cross Roads national battlefields.
  • The Tupelo Automobile Museum was one of the largest of its type in North America.[44] In 2003, it was designated as the official automobile museum of the state. It housed more than 150 rare automobiles, all from the personal collection of Frank K. Spain, who founded the channel WTVA. Unfortunately the museum closed in March 2019 and the cars were auctioned off the following month.
  • 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 1912.[46]
  • The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's season runs from September-April with concerts held at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium.[47] 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 who had occupied this area. 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, 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.
  • The BancorpSouth Arena opened in 1993 and is a venue for large events.[47]


Tupelo City Hall

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 2021, the President of the Tupelo City Council is Mike Bryan. Other council members are Markel Whittington, Buddy Palmer, Willie Jennings, Lynn Bryan, Travis Beard, and Nettie Davis.[48]


Tupelo schools are served by the Tupelo Public School District. It participates in the Chromebook Distribution Policy, which means students in grades 6 to 12 are each given a school-owned Google Chromebook 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. Tupelo High School is the largest public high school in Mississippi with a total of 1,931 students enrolled during the 2018-2019 school year.[49][50]

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, 2006.

The Christian fundamentalist American Family Association is located in Tupelo, and operates the national American Family Radio network and the OneNewsNow news service.




Until the late 1950s long-distance trains served Tupelo. These included the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio's Gulf Coast Rebel and the Frisco Railroad's Kansas City-Florida Special and its Sunnyland.[51][52]


U.S. Route 45, U.S. Route 78, U.S. Route 278, and Natchez Trace Parkway run through Tupelo; Interstate 22 runs north of the city on an east-west route.


The city is served by Tupelo Regional Airport, with service on Contour Airlines.

Notable people

See also



  1. ^ 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 1991 to 2020.


  1. ^ "Tupelo, Mississippi". City of Tupelo. 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ "Tupelo | Mississippi, United States of America". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ "The Rural Electrification of Northeast Mississippi". Sara E. Morris. Mississippi History Now. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ "The Role of Publicly Provided Electricity in Economic Development: The Experience of the Tennessee Valley Authority 1929-1955" (PDF). Carl T. Kitchens. 2012. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes". www.spc.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ "Mississippi: Crafting a Comeback: Mississippi's furniture industry is rebounding as tax credits encourage investment. | Site Selection Online". Site Selection. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Sparks, Evan (March 1, 2019). "Bank City USA". ABA Banking Journal.
  11. ^ Guajardo, Rod. "Tupelo: All-America City again". Daily Journal. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Totals: 2010-2017". www.census.gov. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ "Our History". Tupelo 150. Retrieved 2021.
  14. ^ Tupelo's 150 Years- How Tupelo Got Its Name, retrieved 2021
  15. ^ Dale Cox (January 8, 1935). "Tupelo, Mississippi - Historic Sites and Points of Interest". Exploresouthernhistory.com. Archived from the original on April 18, 2018. Retrieved 2013.
  16. ^ "Tupelo, MS". GumTree Chronicles. Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  17. ^ "George "Machine Gun" Kelly: American Robber and Kidnapper". crimelibrary. July 18, 2007. Archived from the original on February 4, 2008. Retrieved 2007.
  18. ^ a b c Richelle Putnam (2017). Mississippi and the Great Depression, History Press.
  19. ^ Vicki Reikes Fox, Marcie Cohen Ferris (2002). Shalom Y'All; Images of Jewish Life in the American South, Algonquin Books.
  20. ^ Sid Salter (2015). Jack Cristil; Voice of the MSU Bulldogs, University Press of Mississippi, Revised Edition.
  21. ^ a b c Leesha Faulkner (January 18, 2020). "Tupelo's Jewish community thrived". Daily Journal.
  22. ^ "Tupelo, Mississippi". Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. 2020.
  23. ^ Capelouto, Susanna (December 29, 2013). "Phoenix police fatally shoot man suspected in multi-state robberies, cop killing". CNN.
  24. ^ "PHOTOS: President Trump holds rally in Tupelo". Daily Journal. Retrieved 2021.
  25. ^ Journal, Daily. "Follow the latest from President Trump's Tupelo visit". Daily Journal. Retrieved 2021.
  26. ^ Rambaran, Vandana (November 1, 2019). "Trump rallies supporters in Mississippi after House impeachment probe vote, ahead of tight governor's race". Fox News. Retrieved 2021.
  27. ^ By <a href="/profiles/veronica-rocha">Veronica Rocha</a>, <a href="/profiles/brian-ries">Brian Ries</a> and Jessie Yeung (November 26, 2018). "Live: Trump holds rallies in Mississippi". CNN. Retrieved 2021.
  28. ^ "Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak", Digital Library of Georgia, 2008, retrieved 12 Sept 2011
  29. ^ a b "Significant Tornadoes Update 1992-1995" Archived May 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Mid-South Tornadoes, Mississippi State University
  30. ^ "This Day In History; Tornadoes Devastate Tupelo and Gainesville", The History Channel online, retrieved 13 September 2011
  31. ^ "The 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record". CNN.com. Retrieved 2013.
  32. ^ Martis D. Ramage, Jr. Tupelo, Mississippi, Tornado of 1936,
  33. ^ "A large and destructive tornado has touched down in Tupelo, Mississippi". CNN.com. Retrieved 2021.
  34. ^ United States Department of Agriculture. "USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map". United States National Arboretum. Archived from the original on March 3, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2021.
  36. ^ "Station: Tupelo RGNL AP, MS". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2021.
  37. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved 2014.
  38. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Community Facts: Tupelo city". Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved 2014.
  40. ^ "About Tupelo | City of Tupelo". Tupeloms.gov. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  41. ^ Dennis Seid, The Northeast Mississippi Business Journal, February 2006
  42. ^ http://www.areadevelopment.com/newsItems/5-26-2017/renin-corporation-manufacturing-plant-tupelo-mississippi.shtml
  43. ^ "Exotic Animals at the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo". www.tupelobuffalopark.com. Retrieved 2020.
  44. ^ a b "About the City of Tupelo" (2006), City of Tupelo website, web: TupeloMS-About Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine: for Elvis, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Tupelo Automobile Museum.
  45. ^ "Pharr Mounds-National Register of Historic Places Indian Mounds of Mississippi Travel Itinerary". National Park Service. Retrieved 2010.
  46. ^ Tom Wicker. "Lyric History". Tctwebstage.com. Retrieved 2013.
  47. ^ a b "City of Tupelo - Attractions"[permanent dead link], 2006, City of Tupelo website
  48. ^ Tupelo City Council
  49. ^ "Explore Tupelo High School". Niche. Retrieved 2021.
  50. ^ "Top 25 athletic programs for 2007-08". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013.
  51. ^ Gulf Coast Rebel schedule http://www.streamlinerschedules.com/concourse/track1/gulfcoastrebel195008.html
  52. ^ Kansas City-Florida Special http://streamlinerschedules.com/concourse/track2/kcflaspecial196104.html
  53. ^ https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/J/JackJa01.htm

External links

General information

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