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Copiah County begins bicentennial

By Bob Arnold

Copiah County begins bicentennial
: Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James W. (Jim) Kitchens.

If you search the internet for “Copiah County,” it will produce only one result: Copiah County, Mississippi.

“That proves to me we live in a very special place,” Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James W. (Jim) Kitchens told more than 100 Copiah County government, business and civic leaders at kick-off the county’s year-long the bicentennial celebration.

In keynote remarks at the breakfast celebration at the Safe Room Community Center at Gallman, Kitchens, a Copiah County native and continuing resident, declared “Copiah County, Mississippi, is the only Copiah County in the world. No other place is like it. It’s a very special place.”

Copiah County Board of Supervisors President Judson Jackson (center) accepts commemorative plaque with Mississippi Legislature resolution recognizing the county from State Representative Greg Holloway, Sr., (left) and State Senator Albert Butler (right).

At the event, Greg Holloway, Sr, who serves District 76 in the Mississippi House of Representatives, and Albert Butler, who serves Mississippi Senate District 56, presented to Copiah County Board of Supervisors President Judson Jackson a plaque with a commemorative resolution adopted by the Mississippi Legislature that recognized the county for “its excellence, quality of life and values.”

Kitchens said diversity was the mark of Copiah County. He recalled a sign once on the grounds of the Copiah Court House at Hazlehurst: “Welcome to Copiah County. Mississippi’s most diversified.” “It referred to our economy, but diversity characterizes Copiah County’s people, culture, town and rural life, geography and in many other respects,” Kitchens said.

Sketching the history of the country, Kitchens said indigenous peoples lived in Copiah County before the Egyptians built the ancient pyramids, and “copiah” is a Choctaw word for “calling panther” that honors the elegant and graceful sleek felines which roamed the forests that are still part of the county’s landscape.

“The Mississippi legislature established Copiah County on January 21, 1823, carving it out of Hinds County, which was created in 1798 from native American territory,” Kitchens related. “It has remained Mississippi’s seventh largest county in size since a portion of it was surrendered in the creation of Lincoln County IN 1870.”

In the period before the Civil War, the slave population grew in the county and is still reflected in its racial mix today, Kitchens said. He noted there was a small slave market at Crystal Springs and an underground railroad that transported slaves to their freedom outside the county in non-slave states.

Kitchens illustrated the unique diversity of Copiah County in two natives who made history: Robert Johnson, a guitarist considered “the father of Blues music” and Bernita Shelton Matthews, the first woman Federal District Judge, a 1949 President Truman appointee who served until she was 88 years old.

“We live here because we want to live here,” Kitchens declared. “What will you and I do to make Copiah County better and more hospitable?”

The Copiah County Board of Supervisors and a special Bicentennial Committee are planning events throughout 2023.


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