State to mark bicentennial in a big way

Mississippi Department of Archives and History executive director Hank Holmes  speaks about the digital replica of the rare 20-star U.S. flag that marked Mississippi's statehood in 1817 and that will tour the state as part of the state's bicentennial observance. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi Department of Archives and History executive director Hank Holmes speaks about the digital replica of the rare 20-star U.S. flag that marked Mississippi’s statehood in 1817 and that will tour the state as part of the state’s bicentennial observance. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Mississippi officials on Tuesday invited everyone to a birthday – the 200th for the state.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and others announced the kickoff of plans for the state’s bicentennial celebration in 2017 at a news conference Tuesday, the 196th anniversary of Mississippi’s admission as the nation’s 20th state.

“What better way to showcase our state’s diverse population and unique culture than with this historic celebration of the birth of our great state,” said Reeves, speaking in the House chamber of the old Capitol Museum.

Gunn said the “bicentennial celebration should be on everyone’s calendar.”

Malcolm White, a former Booneville resident who is the state’s director of tourism, is serving as chair of the Mississippi Bicentennial Organizing Committee. He said Tuesday the plan is to bring the celebration to every region of the state.

The hope is for the Bicentennial Celebration Commission to work with individual communities on events – Capitol for the day or a parade, for instance – on celebrations specific to that community. The organizing committee is working to raise $10 million to provide grants to help communities organize the events.

The events will recognize the state’s many accomplishments, ranging from the arts, to science, to the bravery of its residents, such as demonstrated during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or after the 1936 Tupelo tornado, to its historical shortcomings, such as racial segregation.

White said the goal is to raise $10 million through various sources, both public and private. The donations will be tax-deductible. There will be an opportunity to give $1 by checking a box on state income tax returns. In addition, a specialty bicentennial car tag will be available.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who had another commitment and did not attend the news conference, said in a statement, “This celebration will allow us to remember those who have gone before us and paved a way to a better Mississippi and nation.”

The celebration is scheduled to culminate with the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Civil Rights Museum, side by side in Jackson, in December 2017.

“The museums will bring Mississippians together to celebrate our rich culture, explore our shared past and meet the opportunities and challenges of our future,” said H.T. Holmes, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. “I can think of no better way for us to launch our next century of statehood.”

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com