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.