The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Mississippi is a southern state of the United States.

Postal abbreviation: MS. Official (long) name: State of Mississippi.

The state takes its name from the Mississippi River, which flows along the western boundary. The name itself probably comes from Native American words with various spellings that mean "large waters" or "father of the waters." Other nicknames attached to Mississippi are the Magnolia State and the Hospitality State.

USS Mississippi was named in honor of this state.



The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina and was later twice expanded to include disputed territory claimed by both the U.S. and Spain.

Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union, on December 10, 1817. It was the second state to secede from the Union as one of the Confederate States of America on January 9, 1861. During the Civil War the Confederate States were defeated and subsequently Mississippi was readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870.

The state was the last to repeal prohibition and to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 1966 and 1995 respectively.

On August 17, 1969 Category 5 Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi coast killing 248 people and causing US$1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars).

Law and government

After the Civil War, perceived mistreatment of Southerners during Reconstruction by the federally-appointed Republican governors led to considerable resentment toward the Republican party. As a result, Mississippi's state government had a very long unbroken record of single-party dominance. For 116 years, from 1876 to 1992 Mississippians only elected Democrat governors. For most of that time period, Democrats also held the majority of seats in the state legislature not to mention most other elected offices, including the state's federal representation (although some Republicans began to win Congressional elections in the 1970s).

As with all other U.S. States and the federal government, Mississippi's government is based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial power. Executive authority in the state rests with the Governor, currently Haley Barbour (Republican). The Lieutenant Governor, currently Amy Tuck (originally elected as a Democrat, she switched to the Republican party in 2002), is elected on a separate ballot. Both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected to four-year terms of office. Unlike the federal government, but like many other U.S. States, most of the heads of major executive departments are elected by the citizens of Mississippi, rather than appointed by the governor.

(See: list of Mississippi Governors.)

Legislative authority resides in the state legislature, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate, while the House of Representatives selects their own Speaker. The state Constitution permits the legislature to establish by law the number of Senators and Representatives, up to a maximum of 52 Senators and 122 Representatives. Current state law sets the number of Senators at 52 and Representatives at 122. The term of office for Senators and Representatives is four years.

(See: List of state legislatures of the United States.)

Supreme Judicial authority rests with the state Supreme Court, which has statewide authority. In addition, there is a statewide Court of Appeals, as well as Circuit Courts, Chancery Courts and Justice Courts, which have more limited geographical jurisdiction. The nine Judges of the Supreme Court are elected from three districts (three Judges per district) by the state's citizens in non-partisan elections to eight-year staggered terms. The ten Judges of the Court of Appeals are elected from five districts (two Judges per district) for eight-year staggered terms. Judges for the smaller courts are elected to four-year terms by the state's citizens who live within that court's jurisdiction.

At the federal level, Mississippi's two U.S. senators are Trent Lott (Republican) and Thad Cochran (Republican). As of the 2001 reapportionment, the state has 4 congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mississippi has 82 counties. Citizens of Mississippi counties elect the five members of their county Board of Supervisors from single-member districts, as well as other county officials.

See: List of Mississippi counties


  • In 2000, Mississippi's population was 2,844,658. Mississippi's population in 2003 was estimated at 2,881,281.
  • 2000 Census rankings: 1st among the 50 states in its percentage of blacks; 45th in its percentage of Hispanics/Latinos.
  • The 2000 Census data on the racial/ethnic makeup of Mississippi is as follows:
White persons (a) 61.4%
Black or African American persons (a) 36.3%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons (a) 0.4%
Asian persons (a) 0.7%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander persons (a) (z)
Persons reporting some other race (a) 0.5%
Persons reporting two or more races 0.7%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin (b) 1.4%
White persons, not of Hispanic/Latino origin 60.7%
(a) Includes persons reporting only one race.
(b) Hispanics may be of any race, so also are included in applicable race categories.
(z) Value greater than zero but less than half unit of measure shown.

Racial makeup

Until about 1940 African Americans made up a majority of Mississippians. However, this has changed, as Mississippi is now 36.3% black. A few thousand Native Americans (mostly Choctaw) live in the east central section of the state. The small Chinese population found in the Delta is descended from farm laborers brought there from California in the 1870s. The Chinese did not adjust well to the Mississippi plantation system, however, and most of them became small merchants. The coastal fishing industry has attracted Southeast Asian refugees.

The white population of Mississippi is remarkably homogeneous. More than 98 percent native-born, predominantly of Northern European descent, especially British (namely English and Scottish), Irish (including Scotch-Irish), and German. There are also significant French and Italian populations. The black, Choctaw Indian, and Chinese segments of the population are also almost entirely native-born.

Religious makeup

Mississippi's religious affiliations largely consist of evangelical Christian denominations, particularly Baptists (Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist, etc.); along with Methodist and Presbyterian. The Roman Catholic population is found primarily in urban areas and on the Gulf Coast. The Jewish population is also mainly concentrated in urban areas.

Important cities and towns


Colleges and universities

Miscellaneous information

State motto: "Virtute et Armis" (By Valor and Arms)
State song: "Go, Mississippi ", adopted 1962
Patron saint: Our Lady of Sorrows
State flower and state tree: Magnolia
State bird: Mockingbird
State beverage: Milk
State fish: Largemouth Bass
State insect: Honeybee
State water mammal: Bottlenose Dolphin
State shell: Oyster
State fossil: A whale fossil nicknamed "ziggy"
State land mammal: White-tailed Deer
State waterfowl: Wood duck
State stone: Petrified wood
State wildflower: Coreopsis
State butterfly: Spicebush Swallowtail
State dance: Square Dance
Statehood Quarter was minted in 2002.

Pledge to the Flag: "I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God."

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