St. Mary's Episcopal Church
Location of Lexington, Mississippi
|• Mayor||Clint Cobbins|
|• Total||2.5 sq mi (6.4 km2)|
|• Land||2.5 sq mi (6.4 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||233 ft (71 m)|
|• Density||825.6/sq mi (318.8/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0672434|
The population was 2,025 at the 2000 census and estimated at 1,609 in 2015. It has declined with the growth of industrial agriculture. Many people have left the rural county to seek work elsewhere.
Incorporated in 1836, the city of Lexington was founded by European-American settlers after most of the Choctaw people, who had long occupied this area, were forced to cede their land to the United States and remove to the Indian Territory. The new settlers initially developed riverfront land along the Yazoo and Black rivers for cotton plantations, primarily worked by enslaved African Americans. The slaves were brought by planters with them from the Upper South or transported in the domestic slave trade. In total, more than one million African Americans were transported to the Deep South, breaking up many families. The African-descended slaves soon constituted the majority of the Holmes County population.
On court days, the town served as a trading center for the county and attracted retail merchants. Lexington was a destination in the 1830s of some German-Jewish immigrants, who often became merchants. They were joined much later in the century by Russian Jewish immigrants. The Jewish community built Temple Beth El in Lexington in 1905; it closed in 2009 because of declining population. During the plantation era, the city was bustling, as planters grew wealthy from the booming demand for cotton in the North and Europe.
Among the early settlers in the 1830s was German-Jewish immigrant Jacob Sontheimer, who first worked caring for an elderly planter. After being bequeathed land, Sontheimer later became a merchant in town. His two daughters, Rose and Bettie, also became merchants, managing the Sontheimer business. He was joined by other Jewish immigrants from Germany, totaling about 20 by the late 1870s and 50 by 1900. In the later years Jewish immigrants also came from eastern Europe to Lexington. They developed tailoring and grocery businesses; the Lewis Grocery Store developed into a major wholesaler in the state.
After the Civil War, freedmen in Holmes County, who constituted the majority of the population, joined the Republican Party and elected several county sheriffs and other local officers. They sought education and some became landowners, clearing land in the bottomlands and selling their timber to raise money for purchase. This progress was before 1890, when they were essentially deprived of the vote by the state legislature passing a new constitution, which created barriers to voter registration and forced them out of politics for decades into the late 20th century. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, financial recession and lack of political clout meant that many freedmen lost their land; within a generation they had regressed to the status of sharecropper and tenant farmer.
20th century to present
Edmund F. Noel, an attorney in Lexington who was a son of planters Leland and Margaret Noel, was elected as state legislator and later as District Attorney. In 1906 he was elected as governor of Mississippi, serving through 1912. His house at North Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its distinctive architecture, as the Gov. Edmond F. Noel House.
In the early 20th century, Mississippi planters recruited Chinese immigrant workers to satisfy the demand for labor, and some came to Holmes County. As the area suffered from the boll weevil infestation, the cotton crops suffered. Mechanization reduced the need for farm labor, leading to a decline in county and town populations from the 1930s on. Many African Americans left the South for northern and midwestern industrial cities, seeking more opportunities and escape from the violence of lynchings and Jim Crow rules.
Lexington was distinguished by two nationally known women: Arenia Conelia Mallory, a young African-American music teacher from Illinois who had joined the Church of God in Christ and became president of its affiliated Saints Academy in Lexington, expanding its programs and developing the school along a model of academic excellence, and founding an associated junior college during her long tenure, when she also served in national Presidential appointments in the federal government; and Hazel Brannon Smith, a white woman based in Lexington who owned and published several rural newspapers and promoted integration and change in the civil rights era, winning a Pulitzer Prize for her editorials.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), all land.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Lexington has a humid subtropical climate, in common with the vast majority of the American South.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,025 people, 725 households, and 503 families residing in the city. The population density was 825.6 people per square mile (319.1/km²). There were 802 housing units at an average density of 327.0 per square mile (126.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 31.36% White, 67.26% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.64% Asian, and 0.69% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.98% of the population.
There were 725 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 26.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.34.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.5% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $22,163, and the median income for a family was $29,732. Males had a median income of $25,750 versus $17,328 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,614. About 32.7% of families and 37.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 54.5% of those under age 18 and 28.4% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2010 Census, the racial composition of the city was:
- 71.8% Black or African American;
- 27.0% White
- 0.06% from other races;
- 0.5% Asian;
- 0.5% from two or more races;
- 0.1% American Indian;
- 0.0% Pacific Islander.
The city of Lexington is served by the Holmes County School District. William Dean Jr. Elementary School, and Holmes County Central High School are located here.
From 1920s to 1980s, the xxxx School for African-American students established by the COGIC grew to have a national reputation for academic excellence under the leadership of . She also established a junior college on campus. Many families from Lexington and Holmes County moved to St. Louis, Missouri and other northern cities in the Great Migration after World War II. Some sent their children back to Lexington to attend this school.
- Chalmers Archer, author, academic and U.S. Special Forces veteran
- Malachi Favors, jazz bassist
- B.B. King, musician, lived in Lexington
- Charles Harrison Mason, founder of the Church of God in Christ, an evangelical church which grew to have a national presence
- Edmond Favor Noel, attorney and politician, Governor of Mississippi, 1908-1912; son of Leland Noel, an early planter in Holmes County who migrated from Virginia and became one of the largest slaveholders before the Civil War
- Edmond F. Noel (1928-1986), born in Lexington and reared in Jackson, Mississippi, was a Howard University and Fisk University graduate, World War II surgeon and veteran, and the first African-American physician to be granted staff hospital privileges in Denver, Colorado, where he and his wife moved in 1949.
- Edmond "Eddie" F. Noel (1926-1990), born and lived in Lexington; he was an African-American World War II veteran who killed three white men in January 1954, beginning with an argument over his wife, and evaded capture by a 400-man lynch party. He turned himself in and was never tried. He was given a mental evaluation and committed by the court to the state mental institution for decades. He was released in 1970 and lived his last 20 years with family in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- Lonnie Pitchford, blues musician born in Lexington
- Monroe Saffold Jr., American bodybuilder, first place Masters Mr. America AAU, tall division 1990
- Hazel Brannon Smith (1914–1994), owner and publisher of xxxx and first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing
- Neely Tucker, journalist, author
- Hattie Winston, actress in American television, film and Broadway
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "A Final Yom Kippur in the Delta for Mississippi Community Begun in 1830s", The Jewish Daily Forward
- "History of Lexington's Jewish community", Institute of Southern Jewish Life
- Climate Summary for Lexington, Mississippi
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Contact Us." Central Holmes Christian School. Retrieved on March 23, 2013. "130 Robert E. Lee Street Lexington, MS 39095"
- "The Origin of Rose Medical Center, Denver, Colorado", Colorado Health Care History
- Claire Martin, "Activist Led the Way to School Integration"], Denver Post, 5 February 2008
- Bill Minor, "Strange true story about Eddie Noel", DeSoto Times, 11 August 2010, accessed 25 November 2015
- Allie Povall, The Time of Eddie Noel, Comfort Publishing, 2010