Let’s explore a bit about Meridian itself. As the seventh largest city in Mississippi, Meridian is home to a vibrant community. With a population of 41,148 residents in 2010 and expected to reach 36,347 in 2018, the city serves as the county seat of Lauderdale County and the principal city of the MS MSA. Positioned along major highways, Meridian is conveniently located 93 miles east of Jackson, 150 miles southwest of Birmingham, 325 miles northeast of New Orleans, and 372 miles southeast of Memphis.
Meridian boasts significant employment opportunities, with Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field employing over 4,000 individuals. The Naval Air Station is home to the Regional Counter-Drug Training Academy and the state’s first Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office. It also serves as a training ground for Strike Flight Training students utilizing the T-45C Goshawk aircraft. Additionally, the city hosts the Air National Guard’s 186th Air Refueling Wing and the Army’s 185th Aviation Brigade. Rush Foundation Hospital, employing 2,610 non-military personnel, contributes further to the city’s economic vitality.
Culture and history thrive in Meridian, with numerous arts organizations and historic buildings. The Riley Center, Meridian Museum of Art, Meridian Little Theatre, and Meridian Symphony Orchestra provide a rich artistic landscape for residents and visitors alike. Notably, Meridian was home to two Carnegie libraries during the era of segregation, one for whites and one for blacks, reflecting the city’s historical significance. The MAX, located in downtown Meridian, serves as a hub for cultural experiences and events.
Meridian has a strong connection to renowned figures. The city is the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” and the Highland Park museum showcases his life and career memorabilia alongside steam-engine railroad equipment. The park is also home to the only two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie carousel, designated as a National Historic Landmark. Meridian has produced notable individuals, including Miss America 1986 Susan Akin, civil rights activist James Chaney, singer Paul Davis, and Peavey Electronics founder Hartley Peavey. The federal courthouse in Meridian was the site of the 1966–1967 Chaney murder trial, where a groundbreaking conviction by an all-white jury occurred, holding a white official accountable for a civil rights killing.
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