The Quitman County Economic & Tourism Department will be presenting the latest news and development on projects coming in the future to Quitman County. This is a public forum to hear updates and provide feedback on projects related to infrastructure, housing, broadband, and tourism.
As part of our their Advanced STEM Winter Program, the Global Teaching Project hosted Civil Rights veteran Ms. Velma Benson Wilson. She spoke with their students about her experience walking with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when she was herself a high school student in Quitman County, as well as about her current efforts as a Quitman County administrator to commemorate the Marks Mule Train, which Dr. King launched there.
Global Teaching Project’s Winter Program seeks to affirm the nexus between Civil Rights and educational opportunity—in learning from leaders like Ms. Wilson, their hope is that students will be encouraged to build upon the work of earlier generations.
(MARKS, MS) It is miraculous! The local stakeholders and residents of Quitman County are awaiting the highly-anticipated reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the county’s rural access hospital, scheduled for November 12, 2021 at 10:30 a.m.
When the Quitman County rural critical access hospital closed in 2016, it was a devastating blow to the community. Clamoring for hope, Marks/Quitman County, Miss. recently got a full-service grocery store back and has set its sights on local tourism, especially with the 2018 grand opening of the Amtrak station in Marks. Caught by a vision for renewal, a local hospital operator approached the County leaders with a message, “Let’s re-open the hospital and bring back jobs so that we can save lives.” Quentin Whitwell grew up in Oxford some forty miles away and with two business partners saved the bankrupt neighboring hospital in Batesville, Panola Medical Center, in March 2019 when that facility was set to close at midnight. He saw Quitman County as an outpost that needed robust healthcare services. Having served in the State capital city of Jackson as a City Councilman, rural healthcare came naturally — help people in service.
Marks, is the county seat of Quitman County, a small rural town with less than 2,000 residents, has a deep-roots in agriculture and civil rights history. Marks/Quitman County served as the starting point of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, an effort to gain economic justice for those who suffered from poverty. Due to this national civil rights history, Quitman County is designated as part of the Mississippi Freedom Trail. In 2011, Marks was selected from over 200 sites viewed as one of the thirty locations in Mississippi to receive a historical marker by the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force.
Many of its current residents live below the poverty line. Because of out-migration, the land and its people have suffered in recent years. Healthcare is scarce, and the local hospital closed in October of 2016. COVID-19 has wrecked the area boasting 1,042 cases and 27 deaths this year as the aptly named “Delta variant” swept through its population.
The Panola Med team partnered with the Board of Supervisors to establish Quitman Community Hospital. To the board, it is a statement to take back their community and restore it to its glory. For Quentin, it’s a message that nothing is impossible when people work together, and local bank President Peyton Self did not hesitate to answer the call. Armed with a one-million-dollar loan secured by the County and provided by the Citizens Bank of Marks, Quitman Community Hospital will open its doors again fully functioning as a medical-surgical hospital with an around-the-clock Emergency Department.
Racing ahead, the Panola Med team has hired nurses and providers, techs, and staff. Over 500 applicants have sent in resumes from locals to as far as Boston. The old hospital has been restored with supplies, equipment, and beds. By meeting the State and Federal guidelines of a critical access hospital, the City of Marks and Quitman County are poised for a brighter future.
The phone number for the new Quitman Community Hospital is 662-388-0700.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2021
Quentin Whitwell, CEO Panola Med
This project aims to revitalize and restore the historic Marks Community Park at the intersection of Mississippi Highways 3 and 6. The park and the surrounding area serves as a gateway into the City of Marks, and we hope to improve this area for the enjoyment of the citizens of Marks and visitors to our City. Over fifty years ago, this park was the final stop prior to heading east on Highway 6 for the 1968 Mule Train – the first leg of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People Campaign (PPC) to Washington, D.C. Approximately 100 men, women and children from Quitman County, along with Civil Rights activists and supporters participated in the historic PPC. Our community continues to promote the county’s civil rights and cultural tourism history and we are committed to engaging stakeholders from all walks of life in our conceptual planning process for Marks Community Park.
City and County officials have reached an agreement for the site of the permanent home for the Hall of Fame to be the Town of Marks, Mississippi. The National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame was founded in 2010 by Lamont Robinson and has inducted many of the most notable figures in Rhythm & Blues in annual ceremonies held in various cities. Robinson cited the tremendous history of the area related to Music and Civil Rights among several reasons for deciding to place the Hall of Fame in Marks.
The location of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame Museum and Entertainment Village in Marks and Quitman County will provide a natural, authentic, and historic platform for the Hall of Fame. The founders intend to showcase the origins and future of rhythm & blues in a variety of specifically-designed educational and interactive experiences and attractions, allowing visitors and tourists to partake in a truly historic setting.
This project was made possible through the funding of a 2018 National Park Service African American Preservation grant (NPS) and the collaborative partnership with Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center (CSTC). Residents and tourists can journey along the marked Mule Train Interpretive Trail to read, touch, and explore the content of each marker. These markers signify the locations and places where Dr. King, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), noted celebrities, Freedom Riders, and hundreds of civil rights community organizers, as well as scores of local leaders and residents emerged; creating this civil rights history, which is now documented and artistically displayed on the eleven interpretive markers.
The Quitman County Economic and Tourism Development, Inc. is requesting funds for a county-wide Blight Elimination Project (BEP) to help demolish 125 blighted properties within the City of Marks, Town of Lambert, and all municipalities located within the boundaries of Quitman County. Once the blighted properties are demolished, the QC non-profit will work with the local stakeholders and homeowners to implement a strategic plan to transition these vacant lots for redevelopment or into greenspaces. These lots will become a part of the future neighborhoods’ redevelopment, which will ignite revitalization within these small rural neighborhoods and one day spark future affordable housing units.
(MARKS, MS) – The hospital in Quitman County closed on October 31, 2016, as the county’s largest employer with 99 people. Without healthcare, despondency has grown with in the unemployed. Current acute healthcare situations have worsened due to the length of time it takes to receive critical medical and healthcare services in neighboring counties, which is at minimum a 30-minute drive.
With the county’s resolve to reopen, a partnership has been created with nearby Panola Medical Center. A path has been cleared for the Quitman Community Hospital to reopen by vote of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning. The hospital will have the capacity to provide emergency care as well as beds for acute patients, including those with COVID-19.
Manuel Killebrew, President of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors stated that he is “elated that the board, Delta Medical Foundation and Panola Medical Center in Batesville are forming a partnership to reopen the hospital.” Killebrew went on to say, “This means that 75-100 good paying jobs will return to the county, and it goes without saying, we need a hospital close by to provide medical services for our citizens.”
Panola Medical Center was re-established by its acquisition from a bankrupt estate and has improved its bottom line, grown its services and become a partner with local industrial and government partners. Quentin Whitwell, CEO and Chairman of the Board, made a statement about Panola’s influence and the Quitman re- opening. “Serving our patient populations in the North Delta region is our mission. Providing exceptional care for better health is our driven passion.”
“By reopening this hospital, the loss of jobs in the community will be reversed and the citizens of Marks will have renewed energy to grow the economy in the area,” stated Senator Robert Jackson, who represents the State of Mississippi, District Eleven, which includes Quitman County. “I am pleased to have brought the Panola Med operators to the Board and that this new relationship has been forged.”
“The practical care we give every day needs follow-up and ease of access to specialists that can tend to higher acuity levels. But having a launching point from our own hospital will save lives and create new outcomes for patients,” said Lonnie Moore, a local Nurse Practitioner who also owns the former hospital building, and the president of Delta Medical Foundation.
Quitman County is located in the Mississippi Delta. This is a rural underserved county with the racial makeup of 27.3 % whites, 70.9% blacks and 1.8 % others. It has a median annual household income of $25,383 and a poverty rate of 35.6%, making it one of the poorest counties in the United States. The 2020 Census data shows Quitman County population declined by -17.40%. This county went from 8,223 to 6,792 residents living in this county, the largest percentage of lost population out of the 82 counties located within the State of Mississippi.
Recent data from the National Rural Accountable Care Consortium ranked Quitman County 79th for health outcomes, 79th for health behavior, and 77th for health factors out of the 82 counties in Mississippi. This data also indicates that the county struggles with health issues such as 58% of the adult population dealing with high blood pressure, 45% with high cholesterol, 31% with heart disease, and 17% with diabetes.
In recent years, Quitman County has shown glimmers of promise and resilience. In April 2021, the closed SuperValu reopened as an independently-owned Jeffcoat’s Family Market. In May 2018, the ribbon cutting was held for the opening of the newest Northwest Regional Amtrak stop in Marks. And, due to the county’s rich 1960s civil rights history, ties to four National Historic Native American Mounds, iconic blues artists and country music late great Charley Pride, and a National Wildlife Refuge, Quitman County is becoming a nascent tourism destination.
Having the Quitman Community Hospital back up and running will make a significant difference in the quality of life for its residents, and help change the trajectory of the exodus of the county’s population.
Sims and Cotton Streets
This area is where Dr. King visited an impoverished family, getting to their home by boat since the road was under water. He was overcome with emotion and wept after seeing the conditions in which the family lived, and many say this began his transformation into a warrior on poverty after realizing that the father worked hard all day, and it still wasn’t enough to provide the basics for his family.