See Rock City

See Rock City

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tupelo, MS

File:Tupelo MS downtown Main Street guitars 02.JPG
Elvis sculptures in Tupelo

Tupelo (IPA: [tu:pəlo]) is the largest city in and the county seat of Lee County, Mississippi, United States. It is the eighth largest city in the state of Mississippi, smaller than Meridian, and larger than Olive Branch. The Tupelo area — specifically the nearby village of Blue Springs — was selected during the spring of 2007 as the site for Toyota's eleventh U.S. automobile manufacturing plant. As of the 2000 United States Census, the city's population was 34,211. By 2007, the population was 36,058, with a micropolitan area population of 132,245, encompassing Lee, Pontotoc and Itawamba counties. The city is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley Situated in northeast Mississippi, the city lies between Memphis, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, along U.S. Highway 78 — slated to become Interstate 22 within a few years.


This photo, from a collection in the Lee County Library, shows Spring Street, looking north, as it appeared in 1928.

The town was originally named Gum Pond prior to the American Civil War, supposedly due to the high number of tupelo trees, locally known as blackgum, that grow in the area. The city still hosts the Gumtree Arts Festival [2] each year. In the post-Civil War era, Tupelo became the northern Mississippi site for the crossing of a railroad, which brought industry to the town, establishing it as the center of commerce in the northern part of the state. Once the town began to grow, Gum Pond took on the name Tupelo, naming the town after the small Civil War battle that took place on the site. That site is now designated as Tupelo National Battlefield. That Battle of Tupelo was in turn named for the tupelo trees of the area. Tupelo was incorporated in 1870 with a population of 618.

Chili Fest

Tupelo made national history in 1934 as the first city in the United States to provide its citizens with electric power through the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited this First TVA City.

Cultural and attractions:

June 5th, 6th, & 7th 2009

Tupelo is the headquarters of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, connecting Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, while following the route of the original Natchez Trace trail.

The Civil War battlefields include: Tupelo National Battlefield and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield.

One of the largest automobile museums in North America, the Tupelo Automobile Museum opened on December 7, 2002, Pearl Harbor Day, and was designated the official State of Mississippi automobile museum in the spring of 2003. The museum is home to more than 150 rare automobiles, all of which were the personal collection of WTVA founder Frank K. Spain.

Tupelo Community Theatre was founded in 1969 and has produced over 200 productions. In 2001 and 2004 it was the winner of the Mississippi Theatre Association Community Theatre festival and was a winner at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 2004 with its production of Bel Canto. TCT's home is the historic Lyric Theatre, built in 1912.

The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's season runs from September-April with concerts held at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium. Special conductors and soloists appear regularly and the symphony also holds a free annual July 4 outdoor concert at Tupelo's Ballard Park that draws thousands of fans.

The Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo home to hundreds of animals and a large buffalo herd.

Tupelo's coliseum, the BancorpSouth Arena, opened in 1993 and has hosted concerts by entertainers such as The Eagles, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Widespread Panic, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and Creed.
In 2005, under the leadership of the Tupelo Rotary Club, the city unveiled a statue of Chief Piomingo, a leader of the Chickasaw people, in front of the new city hall.
Tupelo's Oren Dunn City Museum displays relics from the American Civil War Battle of Tupelo as well as Indian artifacts and NASA exhibits.

Farmers Market

April 2006 marked the 70th anniversary of the 1936 Tupelo Tornado, the fourth deadliest tornado in United States history and part of the Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak of tornadoes on April 5-6, 1936. Historian Martis D. Ramage, Jr.'s book, "Tupelo, Mississippi, Tornado of 1936," chronicles the devastation of the tornado, with many rare photographs.

June 2006 was the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Elvis Presley Homecoming in Tupelo, the highlight of which was the famous 1956 concert at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair & Dairy Show. The event was recreated at the eighth Elvis Presley Festival in Tupelo on June 3, 2006. The original site of the concert, the fairgrounds, is now part of Tupelo's Fairpark District. Documentary filmmakers Roy Turner and Jim Palmer premiered their new Presley documentary, "The Homecoming: Tupelo Welcomes Elvis Home", at the 2006 festival.

Authors who have spoken at the Lee County Library's annual Helen Foster Lecture series since its inception in 1974 have included Shelby Foote, Alex Haley, John Grisham, Rick Bragg, Pat Conroy, Ernest Gaines, Willie Morris, Beverly Sills and Alice Walker.

Built in 1937, Tupelo's beautiful Church Street Elementary School was hailed as one of the most outstanding designs of its time. A scale model of this Art Moderne structure was displayed at the 1939 New York World's Fair as "the ideal elementary school."


Tupelo is the headquarters of the North Mississippi Medical Center, the largest non-metropolitan hospital in the United States. It serves people in North Mississippi, northwest Alabama and portions of Tennessee. The medical center was a winner of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2006.

Tupelo is the headquarters of two banking institutions - BancorpSouth, with approximately $11.8 billion in assets (2006), and Renasant, with assets of approximately $2.4 billion (2006).

The city is a three-time "All-America City Award" winner and boasts one of the largest furniture manufacturing industries nationwide. As journalist Dennis Seid of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal noted in the February, 2006 edition of The Northeast Mississippi Business Journal, furniture manufacturing is crucial to the economy of Northeast Mississippi, "providing some 22,000 jobs, or almost 13% of the region's employment... with a $732 million annual payroll... producing $2.25 billion worth of goods."

Tupelo had the first Comcast cable system. Comcast is now the largest cable company in the world.


Furniture Brands International,

Hancock Fabrics Inc.,

Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Mississippi,

H.M. Richards,

JESCO Construction,

MTD Products,

Savings Oil Company (Dodge's Stores),

And Cooper Tire & Rubber Company all operate or are headquartered in Tupelo & Lee County.

Famous People

Elvis Presley was born in east Tupelo in 1935. There is a life-sized bronze statue of "Elvis at 13" by sculptor Michiel Van der Sommen close by the little wooden house where Elvis was born (which is open to the public). The annual Elvis Presley Festival held in early June attracts music lovers from all over the world. Nearby is Johnnie's Drive-in, a local eatery that was frequented by the singer, and has several menu items he was said to favor. Tupelo has received a Mississippi Blues Trail marker commemorating it as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

John Michael McCarthy's Teenage Tupelo is a film about the sex life of the filmmaker's mother, who believes he was fathered by Presley.

John Lee Hooker released a song called "Tupelo", about a flood in Tupelo in the 1930s. Inspired by John Lee Hooker's song, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds recorded a song titled "Tupelo", mixing imagery of the flood and birth of Elvis Presley.

Rockabilly singer-songwriter Jumpin' Gene Simmons, who had a hit in 1964 with the song "Haunted House" was born and died in Tupelo. He also co-wrote the Tim McGraw hit "Indian Outlaw" with Tommy Barnes and John Loudermilk.

Newspaper publisher George McLean bought Tupelo's Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in June, 1934 and remained publisher until his death in 1983. Using his newspaper to promote the cultural development of the area, he was one of the foremost community development figures in the United States, being named "Man of the Year" in 1937 by Nation Magazine at age 34.

Tupelo native Glenn L. McCullough Jr., a sixth-generation Mississippian, was named chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors by President George W. Bush on July 19, 2001. In December, 2004, Congress passed Public Law No. 108-447, which stripped the TVA Board of its full-time status and required management experience for future members of the Board. Serving until 2005, he was the first TVA chairman from Mississippi since the John F. Kennedy era. McCullough began serving on the TVA board in 1999 following his appointment by President Bill Clinton. In 1992, he had been appointed director of the Mississippi office of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) by Governor Kirk Fordice. In June, 1997, McCullough had been elected Tupelo's 23 mayor, with 61 percent of the vote. During his administration, the genesis of the future downtown Fairpark District began as well as the rebirth and redevelopment of the Historic Downtown Tupelo Neighborhood and the city was also awarded "All-American City" status for the third time in its history.

Allie Grant (actress) - The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

Controversial U.S. Congressman John E. Rankin of Tupelo served his district for sixteen terms (1921-53), co-authoring the bill to create the Tennessee Valley Authority as well as being a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Singer Guy Hovis was born in Tupelo in 1941. In 1970, he joined his wife on the Lawrence Welk Show as one half of "Guy & Ralna," one of the show's most popular acts.

Actor John Dye (China Beach, Touched By An Angel) graduated from Tupelo High School in 1981.

Notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde spent a few days with a family in East Tupelo, across the tracks (the part of town where Elvis was born), while they attempted to elude federal and local authorities.

Tupelo was a "knock down spot", or place for hiding and relaxing for infamous State Line Mob and Dixie Mafia members like Carl Douglas "Towhead" White, Jack Hathcock, W.O. Hathcock, Kirksey Nix, and Louise Hathcock.

Singer/songwriter Paul Thorn hails from Tupelo and always introduces himself at shows as being from the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

Famous prohibition-era gangster Machine Gun Kelly's last known bank robbery occurred on November 30, 1932 at the Citizen’s State Bank in Tupelo netting his gang $38,000. After the robbery the bank’s chief teller would say of Kelly, “He was the kind of guy that, if you looked at him, you would never thought he was a bank robber.”[6]

In 2001, Amy Wesson was featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

1987 Playboy Bunny of the year, Madi Martin, was born in Tupelo.

Krusty the Clown from TV's The Simpsons is credited with starting his career as a street mime in Tupelo.

Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC's Gospel Entertainers.

Conflict and courage. They have formed the backbone of Tupelo's colorful history from the earliest days of Spanish explorers through the bloody battles of the Civil War.

Visitors to Tupelo, Mississippi can walk the same countryside that Hernando De Soto explored in 1540, when he and his traveling party stumbled upon a tribe of Chickasaw Indians among the hills of the wooded countryside. Defending the land of their ancestors, the fierce-fighting Chickasaws pushed the Spanish explorer to the west and onward to the Mississippi River, the discovery that made De Soto's name immortal.

Two centuries later, more bloodshed led to British control of the region. Chickasaw warriors, armed by England, drove back French invaders and their Indian allies, the Choctaws. It is known as the Battle of Ackia - a victory that helped Great Britain establish a foothold in North America that would last until the Revolution.

But war is not the only thread that runs through Tupelo's history.

The Natchez Trace, now a scenic parkway, weaves itself through Tupelo's past and into its future. Built to facilitate trade with the Natchez Indians to the South, the now-famous route has endured, serving British travelers in the 1700's and an ensuing flood of settlers who built peaceful civilizations up and down its great length.

Downtown Tupelo

But peace was again interrupted when more than 20,000 Union and Confederate troopers clashed in July 1864 at the Battle of Tupelo. Led by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate cavalry assaulted Union soldiers assigned to protect the supply lines of General William T. Sherman in his famous march to Atlanta. The Union forces ultimately retreated to Memphis, leaving casualties from both sides at nearly 2,000.

Within five years, Tupelo officially became a city, taking its name from the native Tupelo Gum Tree. By 1887, the town's modern roots were being planted at the crossroads of several converging railroads: the Mobile & Ohio, Kansas City and the Memphis & Birmingham. Tupelo's emergence as a railway and manufacturing power helped ensure its status as the first U.S. city to switch on a cheap and reliable source of electricity, through the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Tupelo Courthouse

The evolution of Tupelo continues as this city throbs with economic vitality and a wealth of historical attractions guaranteed to intrigue and educate visitors and residents alike.

Welcome to the Tupelo Automobile Museum!

A Tucker

Featuring 120,000 square feet of automobile displays and open viewing restoration bays. Over 100 antique, classic and collectible automobiles, chronologically displayed, illustrate the progress of over 100 years of automobile design and engineering. Your self-guided tour begins with an 1886 Benz, representing the birth of the automobile, and culminates with a never-driven 1994 Dodge Viper. The collection, valued at over $6 million, includes a rare Tucker, a Lincoln previously owned by Elvis Presley, other movie and celebrity vehicles, Hispano Suizas, a Duesenberg and many more rare brands and American favorites. Automobiles currently under restoration will be added to the display area as they are completed.

Located ½ block off Hwy. 45, Main Street Exit
Adjacent to BancorpSouth Arena on Otis Blvd., Tupelo, Mississippi
Telephone: 662-842-4242


Tuesday - Saturday (Mar - Oct), 10am - 6pm
Tuesday - Saturday (Nov - Feb), 10am - 5pm
Sunday (Year Round, 12pm - 5pm)
Closed Mondays, Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Easter

Admission Fees:

$10.00 Adult • $5 Children ages 5-12
Children 4 and under Free
$8.00 for AAA members and Seniors
$7.50 Group discount for 10 or more people

The History

Establishing the Tupelo Automobile Museum was a 28 year process. It began when founder Frank Spain acquired his first antique car in 1974. Spain and his good friend, museum curator, Max Berryhill, spent the next many years researching, finding and acquiring the 150 rare automobiles in the collection. Cars were gathered from all over North America and Europe.

Until the late 1990’s the vehicles were stored at various locations throughout the United States. Spain and Berryhill desired to develop a museum so the public could enjoy and learn from the collection. Spain’s hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi rallied support for the museum. With the help of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tupelo Mayor Larry Otis, placing the museum in Tupelo became a reality.

The Tupelo Automobile Museum opened on December 7, 2002 and was designated the official State of Mississippi automobile museum in the spring of 2003.

Elvis delivering his present to Captain Jerry Kennedy of the Devner Police. Denver, 1976.

The king of rock n' roll was generous; he gifted many close friends with automobiles. The Tupelo Automobile Museum has a 1976 Lincoln Mark IV that was given as a gift by Elvis Presley.

Elvis often played shows in Denver, Colorado where he formed a close relationship with Jerry Kennedy, captain of the Denver Police Vice and Drug Control Bureau. Captain Kennedy was in charge of security for Elvis when he appeared in Denver.

On January 14, 1976 Elvis visited the Kumpf Lincoln Mercury Dealership at 9th Avenue and Broadway in Denver. There he purchased a 1976 Lincoln Mark IV for $13,386.69. The check to the the dealership, by Elvis himself, can be seen in the museum.
Elvis gave the brand new car to Captain Jerry Kennedy as a gift. The event was photographed.

The Tupelo Automobile Museum also owns a 1939 Plymouth, the same model driven by Elvis' family when they moved from Tupelo to Memphis. This car is on permanent loan to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, MS.

Glimpse of the Past

Tupelo and Lee County have come a long way from the early settlement days. Here's a look at that trip.
The majority of this timeline originally appeared in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and is reprinted here with permission. Introduction and additional research by Jason Collum, Publisher.

Hundreds of years ago, native Chickasaw Indians called the area home. Later, when a railroad line was built just east of the village of Harrisburg, land and town developers gave the community a new name: Tupelo.

From its founding as a wide spot along a rail line from Mobile, Tupelo has grown into the region's hub city. The story of how the city and Lee County got to be where they are today is one that makes for interesting reading.

As part of its 125th Anniversary celebration in 1996, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal produced a special keepsake edition chronicling the history of Tupelo and the region. A feature of that edition was a timeline, guiding readers through Tupelo's development since 1870.

Now, with permission, the Apartment Finder & Newcomers Guide presents this timeline, along with several entries culled from additional research, to give you a glimpse of the city's and county's past.

1540: Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto passes through this area and encounters an established Chickasaw Indian civilization nestled in the wooded hills and valleys. The Chickasaws, fierce fighters, drive De Soto westward to his discovery of the Mississippi River.

1736: At the height of the French and Indian War, a bloody battle erupts near what will become Tupelo between the British-armed Chickasaws and the combined invading forces of the French and the Choctaw Indians. Known as the Battle of Ackia, the engagement leaves the area in firm British control and contributes to the Crown’s eventual domination of North America.

1864: The Battle of Tupelo takes place, pitting Union troops against Confederate cavalry intent on controlling railroad traffic supplying the Union campaign against Atlanta.

July 20, 1870: Tupelo is incorporated, four years after Lee County was carved out of Itawamba and Pontotoc counties. The town's population is 618. Henry Clay Medford is the first mayor.

1870: Lee County Journal is established. George Herndon is the first owner-editor. The present-day Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal is a direct descendant of this newspaper.

Sept. 1, 1871: Tupelo Male Academy opens its doors for both public and private school students.

Sept. 11, 1871: Tupelo Female Seminary is founded.

1872: S.J. High is born. High will become one of Tupelo’s most influential civic and business leaders.

Feb. 6, 1873: Lee County Courthouse burns down.

1874: New Lee County Courthouse is erected.

1885: Private John Allen is first elected to Congress.

Oct. 7, 1886: Private John Allen drives the last spike in the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham Railroad near Guin, Ala. The railroad becomes the second to serve Tupelo.

1887: The 900-seat Tupelo Opera House opens. It lasts 25 years.

1887: First train on the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham Railroad passes through Tupelo. Banks and other business begin to relocate to Tupelo from nearby communities

Sept. 1891: Tupelo's first public school, Tupelo Graded School, opens on property previously known as Freeman's Grove on Jefferson and Gloster streets

December 1892: Board of Trade, Tupelo's first economic development group, is formed.

1902: The Lee County Courthouse burns. It is replaced in 1904 by the structure still in use today.

1914: Lee County builds the first concrete road south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The road still exists and is travelled upon.

1920: Tupelo's population is listed at 5,055; Lee County's at 29,618.

1925: The Library Association establishes a small library on the second floor at Tupelo City Hall. The library is launched with 300 donated books.

1933: Tupelo signs the contract for electricity to become the first TVA City.

1934: George McLean buys the bankrupt Tupelo Journal.

January 8, 1935: Elvis Presley is born in a small house in East Tupelo.

The devastating tornado of 1936 wiped much of then Tupelo off the map. This view of the destruction is looking southeast from the corner of Church and Walnut streets.
April 5, 1936: A massive tornado rips through Tupelo, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands. Much of Tupelo's landscape is destroyed.

1937: Construction officially begins on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

1948: The Community Development Foundation is incorporated in Tupelo.

July 6, 1948: Tupelo is divided into six wards.

1949: Tupelo purchases the former home of Pvt. John Allen at corner of Madison and Jefferson streets and converts it to use as the county's first freestanding library.

1950: At the North Mississippi Community Hospital, a three-story wing that increases the bed capacity to 95 is constructed and joined to the south side of the original building.

June 21, 1951: The first commercial passenger plane, a Southern Airways flight, lands in Tupelo.

1954: Tupelo native Elvis Presley cuts his first record for Sam Phillips of Sun Records Studio in Memphis. "That's All Right (Mama)" was on the A-side of the single and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was on the flip side.

Elvis Presley performs at the 1956 Mississipp-Alabama Fair and Livestock Show at the Tupelo Fairgrounds in 1956.
1956: New rock 'n' roll sensation Elvis Presley agrees to perform at the Mississippi Alabama Fair and Livestock Show on the Tupelo fairgrounds.

1957: Elvis Presley, legendary status in music history confirmed, returns to the fair and donates his $10,000 in earnings to the city for the founding of a public park in East Tupelo.

1961: A new Tupelo High School is built and dedicated on Varsity Drive.

1961: Natchez Trace Visitors Center is built in Tupelo.

1964: Itawamba Junior College offers classes in Tupelo for the first time. Warehouse space is used for classrooms until a campus is established on Eason Boulevard in 1966

1965: Tupelo Public Schools are peacefully integrated for the first time under the "freedom of choice" plan. Two black students from Carver High School volunteer to attend Tupelo High School for their senior year. Black teachers from Carver also "switch" places with white educators.

1966: A joint venture between the schools and the city results in the construction of the Tupelo Civic Auditorium on the site of the new Tupelo High School.

1967: North Mississippi Community Hospital's name is changed to North Mississippi Medical Center.

April 5, 1968: Official announcement is made that Tupelo has been named an All America City, one of 10 in the nation.

1969: Tupelo Community Theater is organized.

1970: Tupelo Mall on South Gloster and Downtown Mall on East Main Street open.

1971: Elvis Presley's Birthplace in East Tupelo is opened to the public.

1971: The present Lee County Library is constructed and opened at the corner of Madison and Jefferson streets.

1971: Tupelo Symphony Orchestra premieres in concert at Civic Auditorium.

1974: CREATE (Christian Research Education Action Technical Enterprises, Inc.) is founded.

1975: University of Mississippi branch opens on the Itawamba Junior College Tupelo campus.

1976: North Mississippi Medical Center increases its capacity to 550 beds and the hospital's medical staff grows to 76 physicians.

Aug. 16, 1977: Elvis Presley is found dead in his Memphis mansion, Graceland.

1978: The Elvis Presley Birthplace is designated as a Mississippi Historical site by the state Department of Archives and History.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan arrive at the Tupelo Police Department in 1978, a less than sparkling moment in the city's history.

1978: Following the conviction of two Tupelo police officers on federal police brutality charges, the city becomes marching ground for United League of Mississippi boycotters and Ku Klux Klan recruiters. The controversy and the marches last for several weeks.

Aug. 17, 1979: Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel is opened to the public.

1980: NMMC grows to 600 beds and earns the distinction of being the largest hospital in the state, both in facilities and services.

1980: Tupelo's population is listed at 23,905.

February 1984: The first commercial jet, a Southern Airways DC9, lands in Tupelo.

1985: Tupelo Art Gallery opens.

1987: The 1987 AHEAD Highway Construction program overrides a gubernatorial veto, paving the way for the quicker completion of U.S. Highway 78 and U.S. Highway 45.

1987: The first Tupelo Furniture Market is held in 30,000 square feet of rented space and draws 77 exhibitors.

1988: Tupelo voters, with 96 percent approval, pass a $21 million bond issue to finance construction of a system to pump water from the Tombigbee River, treat it, and move it 18 miles to the city. This ends the city's reliance upon a rapidly depleting groundwater supply.

May 16, 1989: Tupelo is named an All America City for the second time.

1990: The Mall at Barnes Crossing opens. The $65 million, 700,000-square-foot building houses some 80 stores.

1990: Tupelo purchases the Downtown Mall property for $2.9 million for the purpose of constructing a 9,000-seat coliseum and convention center.

1991: Phase I of the Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Program is approved by city voters. This first phase calls for improvements to various intersections in town, and the widening of Gloster Street to five lanes.

Aug. 8, 1992: The Elvis Presley Museum is opened on the park site.

1992: The new Tupelo High School campus off Cliff Gookin Boulevard is completed and opened for classes.

1992: Last Mississippi/Alabama Fair and Livestock Show is held on the Tupelo fairgrounds. Tupelo officially re-acquires the property.

1994: Major ice storm hits Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi. Power to more than 180,000 people in the state is knocked out for days.

August 1994: A four-lane U.S. Highway 78 is completed and opened from the Alabama state line to the Tennessee state line.

1994: The Lee County Agri-Center fairgrounds in Verona is completed and plays host to the first Lee County-sponsored regional fair.

1995: NMMC, the largest rural hospital in the nation, is now licensed for 647 beds. About 200 physicians representing more than 40 medical specialties are on staff.

1999: Bond sales begin for the redevelopment of the old fairgrounds.

June 1999: Tupelo is named an All America City for the third time.

November 1999: Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough Jr. is appointed to the TVA board of directors.

2000: First Baptist Church, Tupelo's oldest church, celebrates its 150th anniversary.

2000: Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough Jr. is named the director of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

August 2001: Lee County Sheriff Harold Ray Presley is killed in the line of duty.

The new City Hall building in Fairpark District in Tupelo opened in 2002. It heralded a new era of development and life for the Downtown Tupelo area.
February 2002: City leaders celebrate the opening of the new City Hall building in the old fairgrounds.

June 2002: The Tupelo Fairgrounds redevelopment area is officially renamed Fairpark District.

July 2002: The Apartment Finder & Newcomers Guide celebrates the publication of its 10th edition and completion of its fifth year of business in Tupelo.

December 2002: The Tupelo Automobile Museum opens. It houses more than 120 antique and collectors cars owned by Tupelo broadcasting businessman Frank Spain.

March 2003: Delta International, one of the first major industries lured by the Community Development Foundation, announces it plans to close its facility on South Gloster Street and move production to its Jackson, Tenn., plant.

November 2004: Officials break ground on a new facility in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South for San Diego-based General Atomics. The company will build Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, for the Navy's next generation of aircraft carriers at the Tupelo location.

May 2005: Area leaders attend an auto industry show in Barcelona, Spain, to tout the newly developed Wellspring Project near Blue Springs, about 10 miles west of Tupelo. Leaders hope the 1,000-acre megasite will become home in the future to an automobile manufacturer.

Church Restoration Adds New Dimension to Elvis Birthplace
Published Aug 14, 2008

Elvis impersonator Bill J. Brooks of Mantachie, Miss., poses for a portrait in front of a sign welcoming visitors to Tupelo. Brooks has been an impersonator since 1978.
Ask anyone in Tupelo, and they’ll tell you the most fascinating site in the city is the Elvis Presley Birthplace.

“It’s our most famous attraction – people come from all over the world to see where Elvis came from,” says Linda Elliff, director of sales for the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a one-of-a-kind place, and we’re very proud of it. The Elvis Presley Birthplace, museum, park and all the sites from his life in Tupelo mean a lot to the tourism industry here.”

More than 80,000 Presley fans trek to Tupelo each year to walk through the modest, two-room house where the King of Rock ’n’ Roll was born on Jan. 8, 1935, and to visit the adjacent museum, gift shop, park and chapel. In August 2008, Presley’s home church will become part of the attraction.

“We have purchased the church Elvis attended in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and we moved it to our property in January,” says Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation.

Previously located on Berry Street in East Tupelo, the First Assembly of God Church played an integral role in Presley’s early life. It was where he sang regularly and learned to play chords on the guitar.

“From stories we have heard and interviews with his fellow church members, we know the church had quite an impact on his life and vastly influenced his musical career,” Guyton says.

The church, which has been a private home for the past 42 years, is being stripped down to reveal original fixtures from Presley’s time and restored to its 1930s condition.

“While it was still a church, the building had partially burned, and that part had never been repaired when it was made into a dwelling place,” Guyton says. “We had to demolish the inside to restore it. There’s about 50 percent of the original flooring left, a third of the inside paneling and about 50 percent of the outside walls.”

The restoration is being done at an estimated cost of $750,000 and is being funded by ticket sales, gift shop purchases and a donation from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

The project was completed in time for the annual Elvis Presley Birthplace Fan Appreciation Day on Aug. 9, 2008, when visitors were able to walk out of the memorial chapel, where Presley’s gospel music is played, directly into the church, where he learned to sing gospel music.

“It was a great experience for the fans,” Guyton says. “We had multimedia presentations going in the church that showed how the congregation worshipped in the 1930s.”

The church restoration is one of several enhancements made to the Elvis Presley Birthplace in recent years. In 2002, a statue of 13-year-old Presley clutching a guitar was unveiled and dedicated to his fans worldwide. And in 2006, the Elvis Presley Museum was completely renovated to include a new exhibit containing Tupelo artifacts, large photomurals and graphics, and two audiovisual presentations that bring Presley’s childhood in Tupelo to life.

“The museum renovation they did completes the story because it shows people what it was like for Elvis growing up here,” Elliff says. “The church restoration will be an added bonus for visitors to see what it was like to go to church in a rural town in the ’30s and ’40s. It gives an inside look at how Elvis was influenced musically.”

Story by Jessica Mozo
Photo by Jeff Adkins

Dudie's Diner

Dudie Burger Festival Celebrates Old-Fashioned Meat Patty
Published Aug 14, 2008

When was the last time you ate a Dudie burger?

There is actually only one weekend each year when the public can have a Dudie Dough Burger, and that’s during the Dudie Burger Festival in May (where some 1,400 burgers are sold). The famous burgers are a mix of meat, flour and water and were first made during World War II, when many items were being rationed.

In 1947, resident Truman “Dudie” Christian converted an old Memphis streetcar into his Dudies Diner joint at the corner of South Gloster and Carnation streets. The retired streetcar is now parked at the Oren Dunn City Museum, which sponsors the annual Dudie Burger Festival.

The Battle of Tupelo Was Among the Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War
Published Jul 08, 2008

It was among the bloodiest Civil War battles staged in Mississippi‚ and it took place over two scorching days – July 13-14‚ 1864.

The Battle of Tupelo was waged for control of a railroad supply line that was coveted by Union Gen. William Sherman‚ who wanted to lead his troops through Tupelo and eventually toward Atlanta.

The battle pitted Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest against Union Maj. Gen. Andrew Smith‚ with the Federals victorious. More than 14‚000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting.

Today‚ the one-acre Tupelo National Battlefield memorial site has a cannon‚ a marker with text and maps outlining the engagement. It is open daily and maintained by the National Park Service.

Vanelli’s Restaurant Offers Food and Music Under One Roof
Published Aug 14, 2008

Diners enjoy eating outdoors at Vanelli’s Greek & Italian Restaurant, a mainstay in Tupelo since 1975. The restaurant, located at 1302 N. Gloster St., also offers a wide variety of nightly entertainment at Papa’s Place lounge.
Vaz Vanelli unveiled what he pro­claims “the eighth wonder of Tupelo” just outside his Vanelli’s Greek & Italian Restaurant in north Tupelo.

“It’s actually ‘Papa’s Pavilion,’ ” he says of the cedar-roofed dining and party area that was added to the res­taurant’s patio in 2008. “It comes to a point, so when you go underneath and look up, it’s like a Swiss chalet,” Vanelli says of the new structure.

The restaurant was founded in 1975 by Demetrios Kapenekas, aka “Papa,” a native of Athens, Greece. The late Kapenekas grew up around food. His father owned a restaurant and hotel in Athens during the 1920s and ’30s.

Now son Vaz Vanelli is in charge of the restaurant and entertainment venue located at 1302 N. Gloster St.

In addition to the patio and pavilion, the restaurant has 10,000 square feet under roof, made up of three dining rooms and Papa’s Place lounge.

Offerings such as toasted ravioli, fried calamari, pizzas and Athenian lasagna are just a few examples from “a menu that is an Americanized blend of Greek and Italian cuisine,” Vanelli says.

In addition, there are appetizers, sand­wiches, salads, chicken wings and a large selection of classic Italian favorites.

Vanelli’s also offers live enter­tain­ment, from concerts to comedy, and the eatery showcases all of the big sports games on direct television.

The new pavilion allows Vanelli to expand his varied entertainment offerings.

What are Tupelo’s wonders one through seven?
“Well, start at Elvis’ birthplace and work your way down,” Vanelli says with a laugh.

Vanelli’s is open daily for lunch and dinner.

For more information, visit

Story by Tim Ghianni
Photo by Jeff Adkins

Tupelo Hardware Co. Sold Elvis His First Guitar
Published Jul 08, 2008

It was a 10-year-old Elvis Presley who in 1945 entered the Tupelo Hardware Co.‚ wanting to buy a .22 bolt-action hunting rifle.

Owner George H. Booth told Elvis he would never sell a gun to a child‚ causing the future singing legend to cry. Booth then promised young Elvis a present of his choice‚ since the Presleys had little money.

A few days later‚ Elvis and his mother‚ Gladys‚ returned to the hardware store‚ and she suggested that her son pick out a guitar instead. Elvis cried again but eventually accepted Booth’s kind gift and took the instrument home.

The price of Elvis Presley’s first guitar: $7.75.