Nine new historical markers commemorating schools, businesses, and individuals across the state have been approved by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The state historical marker program, administered by MDAH, recognizes significant people, events, and movements across Mississippi.
Laurence Clifton Jones founded the Piney Woods Country Life School in 1909 to provide African American students a vocational education. The school is the largest of four remaining historically African American boarding schools in the country, as well as the nation’s second-oldest continually operating African-American boarding school. The marker is sponsored by the Piney Woods Country Life School.
James Oliver Eastland served in the state House of Representatives from 1928 to 1932, then in the U.S. Senate from 1943 to 1978, serving as president pro tem of that body during his last term. Eastland was chairman of the Judiciary Committee for more than two decades. He is remembered nationally for his opposition to the civil rights movement and support of states’ rights. The marker will be installed near his gravesite in Forest. The marker is sponsored by the City of Forest.
Orvil Lucian Cotten’s heroism during World War I will be memorialized with a marker on the grounds of the city hall in his hometown of Faulkner. Despite being gassed, Corporal Cotton single-handedly kept the lines of communication open during a battle to take the Hindenburg Line. The marker is sponsored by the Tippah County Historical Genealogical Society.
The life and work of African American physician and civil rights activist Dr. Felix H. Dunn will be commemorated with a marker located in Gulfport, between Dunn’s home and office. Dunn was an early promoter of the Head Start Project on the Gulf Coast, worked with students at Alcorn State University, and served as president of the Gulfport branch of the NAACP from 1959 to 1969. The marker is sponsored by the MDAH Gulf Coast Office.
A marker spotlighting the East 6th Street United Services Organization (USO) Club in Hattiesburg will be placed on the lawn in front of that building. The USO club was built for African American servicemen in 1942, prior to the full integration of the United States Armed Forces. Now fully restored, the building houses the African American Military museum. The marker is sponsored by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
Established in Jackson in 1892 and then relocated to West Point in 1895 following a fire, the Mary Holmes College was founded to educate African American girls of high school age. The school began accepting male students in 1932, eventually transitioning to all college-level classes and becoming Mary Holmes Junior College. The school closed in 2005. The marker is sponsored by Joey Bailey and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
A marker recognizing the role the Queen City Hotel played in the African American commercial district of Columbus will be placed on the site where the hotel stood. In addition to anchoring the commercial district, the hotel provided accommodations for well-known entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and B.B. King. The marker is sponsored by the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A marker will commemorate the Southern Literary Festival, which originated in 1937 at Blue Mountain College. Since that first year the festival has been held at a variety of partner schools and featured prominent authors such as Shelby Foote, Barry Hannah, and Eudora Welty. The marker is sponsored by the Tippah County Development Foundation.
Built in 1920, the Walthall County Training School represents one of the few remaining Rosenwald schools in Mississippi. Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, funded the building of schools across the South in order to improve education for rural African American communities. The marker will be placed on the campus of the school. The marker is sponsored by the Walthall County Training School Alumni Association.
Sponsoring groups work with the department to create the text for each marker, which will be fabricated and installed at the expense of the requesting group. Anyone may sponsor a marker. To qualify, a site must have unique historical significance to the local community, the state, or the nation. Events featured on the markers should have occurred at least fifty years ago. Each marker’s subject and content must be approved by the MDAH Board of Trustees, which meets quarterly every year.
More than eight hundred markers can be found near buildings, battlefields, cemeteries, churches, temples, forts, and abandoned towns. For more information about sponsoring a marker, or to report a damaged or missing marker, contact William Thompson at 601-576-6946 or by email.