Hattiesburg is a city in the U.S. state of Mississippi, primarily in Forrest County (where it is the county seat) and extending west into Lamar County. The city population was 45,989 at the 2010 census, with an estimated population of 45,863 in 2019. It is the principal city of the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties.
Development of the interior of Mississippi by European Americans took place primarily after the American Civil War. Before that time, only properties along the major rivers were developed as plantations. Founded in 1882 by civil engineer William H. Hardy, Hattiesburg was named in honor of Hardy’s wife Hattie. The town was incorporated two years later with a population of 400. Hattiesburg’s population first expanded as a center of the lumber and railroad industries, from which was derived the nickname “The Hub City”. It now attracts newcomers because of the diversity of its economy, strong neighborhoods, and the central location in South Mississippi.
Hattiesburg is home to The University of Southern Mississippi (founded as Mississippi Normal College, for the training of teachers) and William Carey University (formerly William Carey College). South of Hattiesburg is Camp Shelby, the largest US National Guard training base east of the Mississippi River.
Hattiesburg gained its nickname, the Hub City, in 1912 as a result of a contest in a local newspaper. It was named because it was at the intersection of a number of important rail lines. Later U.S. Highway 49, U.S. Highway 98 and U.S. Highway 11, and later, Interstate 59 also intersected in and near Hattiesburg.
Throughout the 20th century, Hattiesburg benefited from the founding of Camp Shelby (now a military mobilization center), two major hospitals, and two colleges, The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. The growing metropolitan area that includes Hattiesburg, Forrest and Lamar counties, was designated a Metropolitan Statistical Area in 1994 with a combined population of more than 100,000 residents.
The City is known for its police department, as it was the first—and for almost a decade the only—Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies federally accredited law enforcement agency in the State of Mississippi. The department is served by its own training academy. It is considered one of the most difficult basic academies in the country, with a more than 50% attrition rate.
The Hattiesburg Zoo at Kamper Park is a longstanding tourist attraction in the city. The Zoo is in the process of building giraffes habitats.
In 2011, the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood District was named one of the “Great Places In America,” to live by the American Planning Association. Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest. The twenty-five-block neighborhood has one of the best collections of Victorian-era houses in Mississippi, with more than ninety percent of the houses substantially renovated and maintained. The Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood District [HHND] was Hattiesburg’s first recognized historic district and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is also part of an Historic Conservation District and protected by Historic Hattiesburg Design Guidelines.
In 2013, the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood District celebrated the 38th Annual Victorian Candlelit Christmas and Holiday Tour of Homes. During the two nights of the Victorian Candlelit Christmas, thousands of candles burn in white bags lining the sidewalks. Christmas carolers from the three churches: Sacred Heart, Court Street Methodist, and Bay Street Presbyterian, stroll house to house singing Christmas music. Horse-drawn carriages carry visitors through the neighborhood at a walking pace.
The Miss Hospitality Pageant began in 1949. Hattiesburg was chosen in 1997 to sponsor the state pageant. The purpose of the pageant is the selection and presentation of a young, knowledgeable lady to help promote the state in tourism and economic development. Contestants are judged on the following categories: panel interview, one-on-one interview competition, Mississippi speech competition, commercial/black dress competition, and evening gown competition. The 2011 winner was Ann Claire Reynolds, a junior at University of Southern Mississippi who was majoring in elementary and special education.
Hattiesburg is home to the African American Military History Museum. The building opened as a USO club in 1942 to serve African Americans serving at Camp Shelby, as local facilities were racially segregated. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This building is the only remaining USO club site in the United States. It has been adapted for use as a museum interpreting African-American military history. Exhibits show their participation in all the major wars and the founding of Hattiesburg: exhibits include the Revolutionary War, Buffalo Soldiers, World Wars I and II, Desegregation, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Global War on Terrorism, You Can Be A Soldier, Hattiesburg’s Hall of Honor, and World Map. The museum is dedicated to the many African-American soldiers who have fought for their country.
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