Mississippi 1st District
The university town of Oxford—the “Jefferson” of William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County—sits on a divide between the hill country of Mississippi and the flat farmlands of the Mississippi Delta. Named for Oxford, England, it is the home of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and of the University of Mississippi, where violence broke out in 1962 when James Meredith became the school’s first black student. Ole Miss, as it is known, now houses Meredith’s papers in its library. In 1962, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran was a student at the Ole Miss law school, and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi was a senior. To the west is the Delta, with a large African-American majority, and also DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, Mississippi’s fastest-growing county and one of its most affluent and most Republican. East of Oxford is the hill country, which stretches up to where the Tennessee River nicks the northeast corner of Tishomingo County. The Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity here, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway provided construction jobs for years, and a shipping canal was completed in 1985. The Tenn-Tom is the largest water resource project built in the United States. This was traditional farming country, but it is now more engaged in small manufacturing.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The Golden Triangle in the Starkville area has become a center for aerospace research, including work on unmanned air vehicle designs for improved surveillance and communications. The biggest town here is Tupelo, a stronghold of private enterprise and traditional values. It is home to an upholstered furniture industry that is the largest manufacturing sector in the state and has survived more prosperously than furniture centers elsewhere. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, based in Tupelo, is a prominent Christian conservative organization. Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo in 1935, in a two-room house that is open to visitors, as is the Elvis Presley Museum with a modest collection of the rock ’n’ roll idol’s memorabilia. In February 2007, Toyota announced plans to build a plant near Tupelo. It would open in 2010 and eventually employ 2,000 workers producing 150,000 vehicles a year. Seven Toyota suppliers also planned support facilities nearby, with an estimated 2,000 additional jobs.
The 1st Congressional District of Mississippi includes Oxford, Tupelo, most of the hill country, and DeSoto County. This is the descendant of the district represented by Jamie Whitten, the longtime Democratic chairman of the Appropriations Committee and formerly the longest-serving House member. He served 53 years and 62 days, ending in January 1995, but Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan surpassed his mark in February 2009. Historically this was conservative Democrat territory. In an April 2001 referendum, it voted overwhelmingly to keep the 1894 state flag with its Confederate battle cross—a symbol offensive to many African-Americans. The district voted solidly for Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 1999, but in 2003 favored his Republican successor, Haley Barbour. In national politics it is solidly Republican, voting 59% for George W. Bush in 2000 and 62% in 2004. Similarly, the district voted 62% for Republican John McCain in 2008.