MGN Discovers Hattiesburg

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

– Talking Heads

About eight years ago I found myself in a Mini Cooper, having joined up with a future friend on his two-thirds-cross-country trip. Along the trip I made jokes about Mississippi that are only funny to those who haven’t spent a good portion of their lives in the Magnolia State. When in the company of people who know so much about their state, you realize how little you know about a place. We were driving to Jackson and I wondered aloud if we were driving through or near Hattiesburg.

“Hattiesburg?”

“That’s like two hours south of Jackson.”

Who would have thunk it? Anyway, I am tickled by the thought of encountering a place that has been around far longer than myself and looking at it with what must surely be the same selfish obliviousness that filled the ‘discoverers’ of America. I suppose the only difference here is that I was aware of it, and indulged in it fully.

“Look guys, I have discovered Mississippi in the name of Texas.”

It is with that selfsame attitude that I bring to you a glorified reading of the Hattiesburg wikipedia page.

Hattiesburg Fun Facts

  • Founded in 1882 by William Hardy, named the town after his wife Hattie.
  • Called the ‘Hub City’ because it was an early center for lumber and railroad.
  • About 35 minutes from Laurel, MS where friend-of-this-blog serves coffee.
  • 45,989 people call the town home

The Mayor

This guy.

Famous People Hailing From Hattiesburg

  • Fred Armison, SNL and Portlandia dude
  • Jimmy Buffett, lover of margaritas
  • Vernon Dahmer, NAACP leader that was murdered by KKK in 1966
  • Brett Favre, lover of wrangler jeans
  • Tim Floyd, basketball coach
  • Ray Guy, HOF punter
  • A Blue Man Group dude
  • Danny Manning, basketball HOFer
  • Probably someone else you know

Jobs

Let us say you were forced to move to Hattiesburg. Where would you work? Well, here is this from the wikipedia:

Hattiesburg is home to several national business branches that hold thousands of jobs across the Pine Belt. It was headquarters to the now defunct International Filing Company.

There are a few distribution centers. Also:

The main shopping mall is Turtle Creek Mall

Southern Miss

Like nearly every CUSA school, this was a Normal college in the beginning. This portion stood out to me, glaringly so:

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. But when Clyde Kennard, a black Korean War veteran, attempted to enroll at Mississippi Southern in the late 1950s, McCain made major efforts with the state political establishment and local black leaders to prevent it. Kennard was turned down three times. After he wrote letters about educational integration to the local paper, he was twice arrested on trumped-up criminal charges; he was eventually convicted and sentenced to seven years in the state prison.

Dr. McCain’s direct involvement in this abuse of the justice system is unclear. He was likely aware that the charges against Kennard were fraudulent, but neither he nor other public officials made any objection.

Kennard was finally released on parole in 1963, when he was terminally ill with cancer. He died six months later

Here is the poem Kennard wrote and had read at his funeral:

He had titled the poem “Ode to the Death Angel:”

Oh here you come again
Old chilly death of Ol’
To plot out life
And test immortal soul
I saw you fall against the raging sea
I cheated you then and now you’ll not catch me
I know your face
It’s known in every race
Your speed is fast
And along the way
Your shadow you cast
High in the sky
You thought you had me then
I landed safely
But here you are again
I see you paused upon that forward pew
When you think I’m asleep
I’m watching you
Why must you hound me so everywhere I go?
It’s true my eyes are dim
My hands are growing cold
Well take me on then, that
I might at last become my soul

In 2006 his wrongful convictions were eventually overturned and he was pardoned. The pardon fight was not easy and was contested by everyone from white supremacists to the Governor and the state parole board. The university named its student services building after Clyde Kennard in 1993.

In 1972, the school changed the athletics name from the very generic Southerners to Golden Eagles. The school is relatively highly ranked and you would not be throwing your money away if you attended.

You may remember the dispute that began in 2003 wherein the Iowa Hawkeyes were displeased that USM attempted to trademark their newest logo. Read about it here. This weekend Southern Miss is sporting their 1997 duds in honor of that team.

What To Eat?

Well let us say you wanted lunch and were around the university. You could go to Strick’s Bar-BQ which offers “Homey BBQ eatery offering boiled crawfish, po’ boys & other Southern bites amid country murals”

Or perhaps you want your food now. Wel, there is Po-Boy Express, home of the Steak Bomb (and the worst logo ever).

Elsewhere the map shows me a Shoney’s, which is intriguing for self-harm reasons. I also see a T-Bones Records & Cafe, which piques my interest thoroughly.

What To Drink?

The map lists Longhorn Steakhouse and Applebees as places to get your fill , and that is disappointing. I am sure there is a fine establishment someplace, but it is not in the immediate vicinity of the school.

What To Do?

Depending on your time and inclinations, there is the African American Military History Museum which sounds intriguing. There is the Oddfellows Gallery for art, and the Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum of Art as well.

Of course, New Orleans is a mere 2 hours away. You can always do that.

Cool place. Probably should be named after me now that I have discovered it.