Mississippi Resident’s In United States Congressman’s Bennie G. Thompson’s District’s District Ancestor’s Were Republican…And Black.
A brief look at the history of one of the poorest places in the United States.
Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district (MS-2) covers much of Western Mississippi. It includes most of Jackson, the riverfront cities of Greenville and Vicksburg and the interior market cities of Clarksdale, Greenwood and Clinton. The district is approximately 275 miles (443 km) long, 180 miles (290 km) wide and borders the Mississippi River; it encompasses much of the Mississippi Delta, and a total of 15 counties and parts of several others. It is the only majority-black district in the state.
Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district
Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district since January 3, 2013
Representative Bennie G. Thompson
Area 14,519.68 sq mi (37,605.8 km2)
• 62.67% urban
• 37.33% rural
Population (2006) 711,164
Median income $35,842
• 63.5% black
• 35.0% white
• 1.2% Hispanic
• 0.6% other
• 0.4% Asian
• 0.2% Native American
The district is home to four of Mississippi’s eight public four-year colleges and universities: Alcorn State University in Lorman; Delta State University in Cleveland; Jackson State University in Jackson; and Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, a few miles west of Greenwood. All except Delta State are HBCUs and are members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
From statehood to the election of 1846, Mississippi elected representatives at-large statewide on a general ticket. This favored candidates who could command a majority of the voters, then consisting mostly of white men of property.
Following Reconstruction, the Democratic Party regained control of the state legislature and worked to reduce Republican voting strength in the state. It redefined congressional districts, creating a ‘shoestring’ congressional district running the length of the Mississippi River and taking in the black-majority (then Republican) areas of the Mississippi Delta.
By this gerrymandering, they created five other districts with white majorities.
Election campaigns were often accompanied by fraud and violence as Democrats tried to reduce black Republican voting. Finally, the Democratic-dominated legislature passed a new constitution in 1890, with barriers to voter registration and other measures that effectively disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites for decades, subduing the Republican and Populist movements of the late 19th century.
The legislature has redefined congressional districts over the years to reflect population changes in the state. Districts 5 through 8 were reallocated to the 1st, 3rd and 4th. The 2nd, bounded by the Mississippi River on the west, continues to have a black-majority population.
Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided federal oversight and enforcement to protect voting, African-American residents here have consistently supported Democratic party candidates.
On the other hand, most white conservatives have shifted into the Republican Party, which would eventually dominate the legislature.
The district is one of the poorest in the state, with 26.2% of people in poverty as of 2017.
The district’s current Representative is Democrat Bennie Thompson.
Name Party Years of Service Cong
ress Electoral history
District created March 4, 1847
<img alt=”Winfield Scott Featherston.jpg” src=”//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/Winfield_Scott_Featherston.jpg/100px-Winfield_Scott_Featherston.jpg” decoding=”async” width=”100″ height=”157″ data-file-width=”226″ data-file-height=”354″>
Winfield S. Featherston Democratic March 4, 1847 –
March 3, 1851 30th
31st [data unknown/missing]
John A. Wilcox Unionist March 4, 1851 –
March 3, 1853 32nd [data unknown/missing]
William T. S. Barry Democratic March 4, 1853 –
March 3, 1855 33rd [data unknown/missing]
Three out of the first four congressman for the district were white democrats that fought with the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Winfield S. Featherston
Winfield Scott Featherston “Old Swet” (August 8, 1820 – May 28, 1891) was an antebellum two-term U.S. Representative from Mississippi and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was later a state politician and a circuit court judge.
Winfield S. Featherston
Winfield S. Featherston in Confederate States Army uniform
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi’s 2nd district
March 4, 1847 – March 3, 1851
This is an ongoing series that will explore the history of Mississippi Congressional 2, and the people that have held the office.
John A. Wilcox
John Allen Wilcox (April 18, 1819 – February 7, 1864) was a politician from Mississippi and Texas who served in the United States House of Representatives in the early 1850s and then in the Confederate Congress during the American Civil War.
William T. S. Barry
Born in Columbus, Mississippi, William S. Barry graduated from Yale College in 1841 and was initiated into Skull and Bones Society in his last year.:67
He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and then practiced law in Columbus, Ohio.
One of his many interests was horticulture. He served as member of the State house of representatives 1849–1851. He was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-third Congress (March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855).
He served as president of the State secession convention in 1861.
He served as member of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States. During the American Civil War he enlisted in the Confederate States Army and raised the 35th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, at times acting as brigade commander. He was captured and paroled at the Siege Of Vicksburg.
He broke parole and commanded his regiment, and at times Sears’s Brigade, during the Atlanta Campaign. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Allatoona on October 5, 1864.
He was captured in the attack on Fort Blakely and held prisonor at New Orleans until May 1, 1865. After his release, Barry resumed the practice of law in Columbus, where he died on January 29, 1868.
He is interred in the Odd Fellows Cemetery.
The seat was then left vacant until the 41st congress when Joseph_L._Morphis from Tennessee, a Republican ,served one term an was not nominated to serve another term.
Next was Hendley S. Bennett
Born near Franklin, Tennessee, Bennett attended the public schools in West Point, Mississippi. He studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1830 and commenced practice in Columbus, Mississippi. He served as judge of the circuit court 1846–1854.
Bennett was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1855 – March 4, 1857). He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1856. He resumed the practice of law in Columbus. He moved to Paris, Texas, in 1859 and continued the practice of law. He served as a captain in Company G, Thirty-second Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, from August 5, 1861, to August 31, 1862.
He resumed the practice of law. In 1886 returned to Tennessee and settled in Franklin, Williamson County, and continued the practice of his profession. He died in Franklin, Tennessee, December 15, 1891. He was interred in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Then Albert Richards Howe served from January 1, 1840 – June 1, 1884.
He was an American businessman and politician. He represented Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
Then Vannoy Hartrog Manning from July 26, 1839 – November 3, 1892 served as the U.S. Representative from (1877–1883).
Prior to this he was Colonel of the 3d Arkansas Infantry Regiment, serving from 1862 until wounded and captured by Union forces in 1864.
Van. H. Manning
Following manning, another white democrat named James Ronald Chalmers was re-elected in 1880 but the election was contested by his Republican African-American opponent, John R. Lynch.
Congress awarded the seat to Lynch because of marked election fraud by the Democrats.
In 1882 Chalmers ran as an Independent Democrat on a fusionist ticket, with support by Republicans and Greenbackers.
He contested the victory of the regular Democrat, and Congress finally awarded the seat to Chalmers, seating him in 1884. He left politics after losing election in the fall of 1884.
Chalmers had served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Initially commissioned as a captain of infantry, he reached the rank of brigadier general and was a noted cavalry commander involved in numerous actions.
MORGAN, JAMES BRIGHT, a Representative from Mississippi; born near Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tenn., March 14, 1833; moved with his parents to De Soto County, Miss., in 1840 and settled in Hernando; received an academic education; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1857 and commenced practice in Hernando, Miss.; elected probate judge of De Soto County and served from 1857 until 1861, when he resigned; during the Civil War enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private; was promoted to the rank of captain, and elected a major of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi Infantry; later became lieutenant colonel and colonel, and served until the close of the war; resumed the practice of law; again elected probate judge of De Soto County; member of the State senate 1876-1878; delegate to all State conventions 1876-1890; chancellor of the third chancery district 1878-1882; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-first Congresses (March 4, 1885-March 3, 1891); resumed the practice of law; died near Horn Lake, Miss., June 18, 1892; interment in Baptist Cemetery, Hernando, Miss.
Next in succession was MORGAN, JAMES BRIGHT, a Representative from Mississippi; born near Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tenn., March 14, 1833; moved with his parents to De Soto County, Miss., in 1840 and settled in Hernando; received an academic education; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1857 and commenced practice in Hernando, Miss.; elected probate judge of De Soto County and served from 1857 until 1861, when he resigned; during the Civil War enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private; was promoted to the rank of captain, and elected a major of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi Infantry; later became lieutenant colonel and colonel, and served until the close of the war; resumed the practice of law; again elected probate judge of De Soto County; member of the State senate 1876-1878; delegate to all State conventions 1876-1890; chancellor of the third chancery district 1878-1882; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-first Congresses (March 4, 1885-March 3, 1891); resumed the practice of law; died near Horn Lake, Miss., June 18, 1892; interment in Baptist Cemetery, Hernando, Mi