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Welcome to My City:  Jackson, Mississippi: Small Town Charm Meets Big City Culture


Jackson, Mississippi: small town charm meets big city culture. 

NBE Gabriel Swan has worked in the Jackson satellite office for his entire 25-year career at the OCC.

Mississippi capitol building

Mississippi Capitol Building

What I love most about Jackson is…the people. The metro area has a small town feel, because it is basically a collection of several small towns. People in Jackson greet you on the street, hold the door open for you, and will let you into their lane on a crowded highway. In fact, Condè Nast Traveler magazine named Jackson as one of the 10 friendliest cities in the United States. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but people in Jackson still pull over to the shoulder to allow a funeral procession to pass. Try finding that in big city America. Jackson  also  has  the  amenities  of  a larger, metropolitan area. But at the same time, it doesn’t take a major effort to drive from one side of the city to the other. A traffic jam in Jackson is being the fourth car at a stoplight!

The best kept secret in Jackson is…it has culture! Jackson is one of only four cities in the world that are sanctioned by the International Dance Committee, a subcommittee of the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International Theater Institute, to hold international ballet competitions. Jackson hosts the USA International Ballet Competition every four years in an Olympic style format and will host the competition again in June 2014. Jackson is the home of southern writers Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, and Kathryn Stockett, who wrote The Help, which was adapted into a large screen movie that contended for several Academy Awards.  Jackson is also the home of country stars Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes, rapper David Banner, and a variety of regionally known blues artists. Malaco Records, a worldwide, independent record label specializing in blues, gospel, and soul music, is based in Jackson. 

Whatever you do, be sure to…check out the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. This museum showcases the accomplishments of athletes in all levels of play from a multitude of sports, who either are from Mississippi or played at Mississippi schools. The list includes Brett Favre, Eli Manning, Monta Ellis, Jonathon Papelbon, and Jerry Rice. Because of its extensive baseball-related holdings, ESPN lists the Mississippi Sports Hall of  Fame and Museum as one of the 10 best baseball museums in America.

My three favorite restaurants are…E&L Barbecue – The place has zero ambiance and is in a rough part of town. It does not have white tablecloths or a wine list, but it does have the best smoked sausage and ribs anywhere. If you choose French fries as a side, make sure you ask for “sauce on the fries” and you’ll sound like a local. Just make sure you get your order to go.

Shapley’s – An upscale restaurant that serves great steaks. The steak menu choices are served à la carte but most of the other offerings come with a side dish.  Shapley’s does not open until 5 p.m. and is expensive, but they do not have a formal dress code. It’s a running joke that, loosely translated, Shapley’s means, “Do not expect change from a $100 bill.”

Salsa’s Mexican Restaurant (Clinton, Miss.) – This place serves the best margaritas and fajitas in the metro area, at prices that will put a smile on a thrifty examiner’s face. They have one fajita offering that mixes steak, chicken, and bacon. Everybody knows everything tastes better with bacon!

And finally, I would add…Jackson is full  of history and notable firsts.

  • The world’s first human lung transplant (1963) and first heart transplant surgery (1964) were performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. 
  • The  popular  household  cleaning solution  Pine  Sol  was  invented  in  1929  by  Jackson  native  Harry  Cole and  exclusively  manufactured  in Jackson for years.
  • The first football player ever featured on a Wheaties box (1986) was Walter Payton, who played college football at Jackson State University.
  • At $104 billion, the third largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history was filed in 2002 on behalf of WorldCom, based in Jackson.

And the list goes on. Y’all come and visit us soon.

Last Updated: 10/21/2014