"Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
State 33: Mississippi - March 15, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Tupelo well rested and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, Lori conquered her lifetime fear of bugs at the Mississippi University Entomological Museum, and even held a millipede, cockroach, and tarantula in her bare hands! We could not wait to see what adventures lie head today! Our first task of the day was to drive across town to visit the Cross Country Couple's "Historic Location" for Mississippi; “The Birthplace of Elvis Presley”. Elvis Presley was a singer, actor, cultural icon, and widely regarded as the “King of Rock and Roll”. Presley's music merged the genres of pop, country, blues, and gospel with hip shaking gyrations to reach across color lines and transform a generation. Presley is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the age 36! However, it all began in the tiny town of Tupelo, Mississippi.
In 1934, Vernon Presley's wife Gladys was pregnant with twins. In preparation for the upcoming birth, Vernon borrowed $180 from his employer, and built a tiny two room house to accommodate his growing family. On January 8, 1935, Gladys Presley gave birth to identical twins: Jesse Garon Presley, and Elvis Arron Presley. Jessie was delivered 35 minutes prior to Elvis and was stillborn. In 1957, the city of Tupelo bought the home to preserve the site. Elvis wanted the property to be turned into a park for the neighborhood children, and donated proceeds to further the cause. Today, the home where Elvis Presley was born still stands in its original location, and has been restored to its original condition. Please see the pictures below of the birthplace of “The King”.
The Presley family would spend the next 13 years living in Tupelo before moving to Memphis. These years would prove to be extremely influential for the boy who would grow up to become the “The King of Rock n’ Roll”. As a child, Elvis would: listen to country music on the family radio, hear people sing the “blues” in his community, be taught by his uncles how to play guitar, and made his first public performance. At a local fair, ten-year-old Elvis entered a singing contest, and sang the country song “Old Shep”. Elvis recalled placing 5th! Above all else, Elvis's greatest influence during his time in Tupelo would be his exposure to gospel music. The Presley family attended the Assembly of God Church while living in Tupelo, and it was here where a young Elvis discovered his musical inspiration. In 2008, the church Elvis attended as a child was moved to the site of his birth home. Please see the pictures of Elvis Presley's childhood church.
A nearby brick wall, displayed plaques depicting memories from other Tupelo
residents from the time Elvis was living in Mississippi. These reflections of a young Elvis were fascinating to read, and offered a different perspective of “The King”. Please see the pictures below.
After departing Elvis's birthplace, we drove across town to Tupelo Hardware Co. Founded in 1926, Tupelo Hardware Company is a 3rd generation family owned and operated business famous for selling Elvis Presley his first guitar. According to local legend, on January 8, 1946, Gladys brought 11-year-old Elvis into Tupelo Hardware to buy her son a birthday gift. Gladys wanted to buy Elvis a bicycle, but he wanted a rifle instead. To compromise, they settled on a 1940’s Kay acoustic guitar for $7.95, and the rest history. Phew! That was close one! A plaque outside of Tupelo Hardware commemorates the historic event which occurred here, and as you can see from the pictures below, they still sell guitars!
After departing Elvis Presley's birthplace, we drove 192 miles Southwest to Jackson to tour the Mississippi Statehouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historical Landmark, the Mississippi Capitol Building houses both the Legislative and Executive Branches of the state government. Built in 1903 in Beaux-Arts architectural style on the grounds of the former state penitentiary, the statehouse’s exterior facade is made of limestone, and the external rotunda rises 180 feet from the ground to a gold gilded eagle at its apex. Please see the pictures below.
We found the Mississippi Liberty Bell replica prominently displayed in the capitol courtyard directly in front of the statehouse. We were pleased to discover the clapper of the Liberty Bell was unchained unlike a previous capitol we had visited, which you can read about by clicking here. Please see the pictures below.
After passing through security, we entered the statehouse on the 1st floor, and made our way to the tour guide’s desk. After spending 8 months on the road and exploring 32 states on our cross country journey, it has become an annoying tradition to sign visitor guestbooks. Indiscriminately sharing personal information all across America is a precursor to spam and identity theft. However, The Mississippi Statehouse was the first capitol we visited who actually made good use of the guestbook information pinning the location of each visitor on a publicly displayed map. Our guided tour began on the 1st floor with the Mississippi Hall of Governors. One of the paintings of the former Governors looked vaguely familiar, but I just could not put my finger on it. On the way back down the hall, our tour guide stopped in front of that very same painting, and said, “This is former Mississippi Governor Anselm J. McLaurin, (1896-1900) who is the Great-Great Grandfather of the famous actor and comedian; Robin Williams”. Robin Williams middle name is McLaurin! See, I knew ole’ Anselm looked familiar! Do you see the resemblance? Look closely at the cheekbones and chin! I also included pictures of Robin Williams daughter Zelda for comparison.
Next, we ascended the grand internal staircase, and entered into the capitol's central room! When the statehouse was built in 1903, electric lighting was in its infancy. The Mississippi Capitol was electrified from construction, and was one of the first buildings in the state to feature light bulbs! Back in the day, people traveled from far and wide to see this new strange technology. Similar to a movie marquee, the building's designers cleverly used individual light bulbs to highlight the artwork and architectural features throughout the space. Although the capitol's central room contains 4,750 individual light bulbs, today only 750 of them are illuminated to conserve energy. I would sure hate to be the person whose job it is to change all of those damn light bulbs! Please see the pictures below of a central room unlike any other we had previous seen.
Next we ascended the grand staircase enroute to the legislative chambers. On our way up the stairs we passed by three breathtaking Victorian era leaded stained glass windows. Please see the pictures below.
Upon reaching the 4th floor, we began by visiting the Senate and then the House via the public gallery. The floor in the hall leading into each chamber was constructed of glass blocks allowing sun to shine through the skylights to illuminate the floors beneath. On the walls of each hall, were pictures of each state legislative group dating back to Mississippi’s territorial days. Our guide highlighted one person of particular interest who served 2 terms in the House; Best Selling Author; John Grisham. Unfortunately, the House and the Senate were both in recess during our visit. Since legislator’s desks in both chambers displayed confidential papers, we were not permitted to take pictures in either chamber with one exception; The ceiling. Each legislative chamber featured the most magnificent stained glass domes I have encountered on my cross country trip. In addition, the Architect once again utilized the design element of individual light bulbs highlighting the murals and arches in each chamber. Please see the pictures below.
Please see the additional pictures below of our visit to the Mississippi Statehouse.
After departing the Mississippi Capitol, we drove across town to a Walmart where we spent the night.