Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bill Crawford: The Tupelo Story

Do you know the "Tupelo Story," the uplifting chronicle of Tupelo's self-transformation from "a hardscrabble hamlet" (Aspen Institute) to a prosperous small city and "national model for homegrown development" (William Winter)?
Vaughn Grisham, Jr., built a career around telling the Tupelo Story and was the founding director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at Ole Miss. His book, "Tupelo: The Evolution of a Community" tells the story as does his monograph with Rob Gurwitt, "Hand in Hand: Community and Economic Development in Tupelo," a case study published by the Aspen Institute.

In the Forward to Grisham's book, former Governor William Winter calls Tupelo "a place where people have learned not to dismiss their own personal self-interest, but to equate it with the interest of their community."
While Daily Journal publisher George McLean was the enlightened self-interest guru and unrelenting catalyst behind Tupelo's transformation, the Tupelo Story is really a multi-generational story of strong and progressive business leadership, inclusive community engagement, well-researched and strategic decisions, and institutionalized civic processes.
I was reminded of the story by a Daily Journal editorial last week entitled, "Continued community success depends on training next generation." It told of the Tupelo Mayor's Youth Council leadership program teaching youth the Tupelo Story and inspiring them to "continue the history of engaged and dedicated leadership our community has benefitted from for the last 75 years."     
You see, what Tupelo has developed is a unifying "community culture" (Grisham) that intentionally renews itself, edifies its business and community leaders, and, thereby, sustains the city's focus on helping both its people and its businesses do better.
In looking to answer why Mississippi persistently ranks at the bottom on so many indicators, you need look no further than to our lack of a vibrant, unifying state culture. Unlike Tupelo, we have been unable to bridge divisions rooted in race, provincialism, self-interest, and ideology. Thus, instead of discourse leading to success and distinction, we get unending squabbles that foster distress, disappointment, dysfunction, distrust, and discombobulation.
Nothing is more symptomatic of this condition than the rank partisanship in our state Legislature. Indeed, its leaders tout partisanship and offer no proposals to bridge divisions and develop a unifying culture.
Tupelo ensconced its forward-looking business leadership in its Community Development Foundation (CDF). Not satisfied with the chamber of commerce model, McLean designed the CDF to serve the full community along with business interests.
The only organization to come close to the CDF at the state level has been the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC). While primarily business focused, the MEC, like the CDF, has championed education, health care, and other quality of life initiatives. But despite ambitious efforts like Blueprint Mississippi, the MEC has been unable to forge sufficient consensus to bridge the state's many divisions. Lately, MEC influence has dwindled as that of anti-progressive out-of-state special interest groups has surged.
It is human nature to put self-interest first. Once George McLean convinced Tupelo business leaders that balancing self-interest with community interests would be better for all, the city and region prospered. Tupelo has carefully nurtured this approach through future generations of business and community leadership.
How far off the bottom might Mississippi be if this approach had reached statewide?
Crawford ( is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that the job of MDA? The same agency that was tared and feathered by Lowndes county?

Anonymous said...

One reason for Tupelo's continued prosperity is its commitment to public education. Tupelo was one of the few Mississippi cities not to create a segregationist academy, or private school, when desegregation became law. In the late 1980s, early in my career, I worked in Tupelo for a few years. However, I found the town to be a bit puritan for my tastes. At that time, the liquor laws there were byzantine.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:58 you are in large part correct about Tupelo’s commitment to maintaining their public school system being a secret to their success. There are a handful of North MS towns that are similar - Corinth, Pontotoc, New Albany, Oxford, and all of DeSoto Co. However, for the other towns, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. JA and Prep parents aren’t going to start sending their kids back to JPS. Neither are Washington School or Trinity parents. We’ll have to fix those towns another way.

Anonymous said...

10:10 am No agency or leader can succeed when, for reasons of self-interest or political one-upmanship, they are sabotaged at every turn.

Suggestions of policy or plans that have been successful elsewhere are seen as a criticism of " how we do things here". The assumption is made that those sharing other approaches " think they are better than us".

Or else, despite continued failure, the unwillingness to admit the " way things have been" has not worked prevails.

Or worse, there is a willingness to have the whole state fail rather than to have any section or race or party other than one's own succeed even marginally away from the status quo.

When we do catch up to something , it's 20 years too late and the side that had powerfully been in opposition has adopted the very thing they opposed as if it had been their " new idea".

Anonymous said...

Or worse, there is a willingness to have the whole state fail rather than to have any section or race or party other than one's own succeed even marginally away from the status quo.

Are there any horses left that you haven't already beaten to a dead pulp?

Anonymous said...

Years ago I went to a basketball game where Tupelo high was playing West Point in West Point. I was with some recent Tupelo alumni so we apsar in the visiting side. The game was a blowout. Tupelo was beating them by 25 or so with plenty of time.

West Point has a player that was doing well. I commented “nice shot” when he made a. Good one.

The hatred from the Tupelo crowd was overwhelming as dagger eyes were sent my way. Encourage Pd by the passion I generated, I was emboldened to continue to comment on the play of the WP players.

While I don’t disagree Tupelo is a nice place, the people there think more highly of themselves than they ought. It’s a dump.

Anonymous said...

state is in bad shape when Tupelo is your beacon of prosperity

Anonymous said...

Tupelo Story is old history and all that good stuff is about gone.

Anonymous said...

2:55 pm The " horse" in your analogy is publicly criticizing the efforts and successes of Mississippi communities than your own or simply just finding something negative to say about your fellow Mississippians.
3:41pm,4:34 pm, and 3:13 pm are proof the " horse" is not " dead".
We should all be publicly promoting our the good things about Mississippi and working together to be the best we can be.
So, no, I won't stop until the dysfunctional behavior stops.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:34 is right. Tupelo's schools dropped down to a C and they have tried to come up with government gimmicks (free college tuition) to get families to move back into town from the county.

Anonymous said...

Tupelo was in great shape until the Tupelo Christian Preparatory School came along in the late 1980's. As mentioned earlier, Tupelo survived the rush of academy introductions of the integration era with its public schools intact ,and so grew into a successful city with a stellar school system. When TCPS was introduced, all of the wealthier families began pulling their children out of public school and with them went their money, influence, and resources. Unfortunately the public school has been going down ever since.

Plain ol' Catfish said...

Bill Crawford made an EXCELLENT point when he said the following:

"In looking to answer why Mississippi persistently ranks at the bottom on so many indicators, you need to look no further than to our lack of a vibrant, unifying state culture."

When you look at other states, they embrace their major metropolitans areas. In Mississippi, they hate their own Capital.

When you look at others states, there's usually something people across demographics - racial, social, educational, economic - that people will embrace. In Mississippi - there's a stupid flag that divides more than ever.

I wasn't born in Mississippi, but I have lived here for a long time so you can say this is my adoptive home. But it's sad when people from here, can't wait to leave when the first opportunity approaches them. The legislature is tone deaf to the citizens and is not interested in propelling the state to be ahead in any regard.

In my heart of hearts, I really do believe we all want to see this state do well and be prosperous - I think "who is prosperous" is where the problem begins?

Good article by Bill Crawford

Suscribe to latest on JJ.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS