Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi
—  City  —
University of Mississippi, a.k.a. "Ole Miss".
Location of Oxford, Mississippi
Coordinates: 34°21′35″N 89°31′34″W / 34.35972°N 89.52611°W / 34.35972; -89.52611Coordinates: 34°21′35″N 89°31′34″W / 34.35972°N 89.52611°W / 34.35972; -89.52611
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Lafayette
 - Mayor George "Pat" Patterson (D)
 - Total 10.0 sq mi (25.8 km2)
 - Land 10.0 sq mi (25.8 km2)
 - Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 505 ft (154 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 11,756
 - Density 1,179.1/sq mi (455.3/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 38655
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-54840
GNIS feature ID 0691644
A British double-decker tourist bus and the Mississippi state flag contrast beside the Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford, Mississippi, during the 2007 Double Decker Festival.

Oxford is a city in, and the county seat of, [1] Lafayette County, Mississippi, United States. Founded in 1835, it was named after the British university city of Oxford in hopes of having the state university located there, which it did successfully attract.

As of the 2010 US Census, the population is 14,147. In 2008, the city annexed five square miles of Lafayette County in all directions, which represented 33% of Oxford's fifteen square miles at the time, resulting in a smaller 2010 population count than in previous years.[2] Oxford is the home of the University of Mississippi, founded in 1848, also commonly known as "Ole Miss."

Oxford has been named by USA Today as one of the top six college towns in the nation. It is included in The Best 100 Small Towns in America. Lafayette County consistently leads the state rankings in the lowest unemployment rate per quarter. Oxford City Schools are ranked as "Star" schools, the highest ranking available, and Lafayette County school systems are consistently ranked as "5-star" systems.



Oxford became a center of culture as the location of the University of Mississippi, founded in 1848 as the first rank college of the state. The university was segregated until 1962.

In a pattern typical of many areas, after the Civil War numerous freedmen moved from farms into town to establish their own community. They called their neighborhood "Freedmen Town". They built houses, businesses, churches and schools, eagerly embracing education. They exercised all the rights of citizenship.[3] Even after Mississippi disenfranchised most African Americans and poor whites with provisions of its new constitution in 1890, they proceeded to build their lives in the face of discrimination.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Oxford gained national attention in 1962 as a combination of the governor and University of Mississippi officials attempted to prevent James Meredith, an African American, from integrating the University of Mississippi after he won a federal court case for admittance. Meredith began his quest for admission in January 1961, after watching John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech. Meredith sent a letter to the Registrar of The University of Mississippi requesting a catalog and an application for admission. University officials responded promptly with the materials and invited Meredith to apply. When officials learned from Meredith that he was African-American, his application was immediately rejected without comment, and Meredith's legal battles with the University began. Meredith was finally admitted in the summer of 1962 by a federal court in New Orleans, and made preparations to begin his studies in the fall of 1962. President John F. Kennedy, after secret telephone negotiations with Democratic Governor Ross Barnett, ordered United States Marshals to protect Meredith. Meredith traveled to Oxford under armed guard to register in late September 1962, and riots broke out in protest of his admittance. Thousands of armed "volunteers" flowed into the Oxford area to prevent Meredith's admittance. During the rioting, late on the evening of Sunday, September 30, 1962, two men, a French journalist sent to cover the events, and a Lafayette County resident, Ray Gunter, were killed by stray bullets. During the riots by segregationists, cars were burned, federal marshals were pelted with rocks, bricks, small arms fire and university property was damaged. The Mississippi Highway Patrol, on campus to supposedly provide security for the University and for Meredith, stood by passively while the riots were taking place.

Order was restored to the campus with the early morning arrival of the U. S. Army. Although President John F. Kennedy had mobilized the Army and ordered them onto the campus early on the evening of the riot, poor communication delayed their arrival in force until the following morning (Monday, October 1). Meredith enrolled that morning without incident and attended for the rest of the school year, graduating in August 1963 with a degree in history. During his time at the University, Meredith lived in Baxter Hall, which is now the telecommunications center for the university. A plaque has been placed inside the front entrance to Baxter Hall which recounts Meredith's time spent there. As recounted in Meredith's book Three Years in Mississippi, students on the floor right above Meredith's room tried to keep him awake all night by bouncing a basketball on the floor, he was constantly insulted with racial slurs whenever he left his room or the building, anonymous notes and letters were delivered to his mailbox on a daily basis, and unlike most first-year college students, he lived in a suite of several rooms. Two United States Marshals were with him 24 hours a day, with another contingent of marshals escorting him to class and elsewhere on campus.


Oxford is located at 34°21′35″N 89°31′34″W / 34.35972°N 89.52611°W / 34.35972; -89.52611 (34.359837, -89.526242).[4]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.0 square miles (26 km2), of which, 10.0 square miles (26 km2) of it is land and 0.10% is water.

The land is hilly in places but is generally level. To the west is the Mississippi Delta. It is within one hundred miles of Memphis, Tennessee.

Oxford is located at the confluence of highways from eight directions: Mississippi highway 6 (now co-signed with US-278) runs west to Batesville and east to Pontotoc; highway 7 runs north to Holly Springs and south to Water Valley. Highway 30 goes northeast to New Albany; highway 334 ("Old Highway 6") southeast to Toccopola; Taylor Road southwest to Taylor, and highway 314 ("Old Sardis Road") northwest, formerly to Sardis but now to the Clear Creek Recreation Area on Sardis Lake.

The streets in the downtown area follow a grid pattern with two naming conventions. Many of the north-south streets are numbered from west to east, beginning at the old railroad depot, with numbers from four to nineteen. The place of "Twelfth Street," however, is taken by North and South Lamar Boulevard (formerly North and South Streets). The east-west avenues are named for the U.S. presidents in chronological order from north to south, from Washington to Cleveland; here again, there are gaps: John Quincy Adams would be indistinguishable from John Adams; "Polk Avenue" is replaced by University Avenue, and "Arthur Avenue" is lacking.


As of the census[5] of 2009, there were 16,706 people, 9,094 households, and 6,856 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 73.4% White, 21% African American, 1% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 1.6% from other races, and 0.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.3% of the population. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city the population was spread out with 6.7% under the age of 5, 12.3% from 5 to 17, 69.1% from 18 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26.9 years. For every 100 females there were 101.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,186, and the median income for a family was $71,884. The per capita income for the city was $25,859. About 12% of families and 32.3% of the population were below the poverty line.


The City of Oxford is served by the Oxford School District and by the private Oxford University School. It is the home of the main campus of the University of Mississippi, known as "Ole Miss", and of the Lafayette-Yalobusha Center of Northwest Mississippi Community College.

Health care

The Baptist Memorial Hospital - North Mississippi, located in Oxford provides comprehensive health care services for Oxford and the surrounding area, supported by a growing number of physicians, clinics and support facilities. The North Mississippi Regional Center. The North Mississippi Regional Center, a state-licensed Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded, is located in Oxford.

Oxford is home to the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi's School of Pharmacy. The Center is the only facility in the United States that is federally licensed to cultivate marijuana for scientific research, and for distribution to patients who are allowed marijuana for medical purposes.

Notable Citizens

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portable typewriter in his office at Rowan Oak (see below), which is now maintained by the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a museum.
  • William Faulkner adopted Oxford as his hometown after growing up there when his family moved to Oxford from nearby New Albany when he was three. Oxford is the model for the city "Jefferson" in his fiction, and Lafayette County, Mississippi, was the model for his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. His former home, Rowan Oak, now owned by the University of Mississippi and recently remodeled, is a favorite tourist attraction in Oxford. Several members of Faulkner's family still live in the Oxford and Lafayette County area.
  • John Grisham also has a home in Oxford. He received a J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced law in the Mississippi suburbs of Memphis for ten years before retiring to write full time. He and his family relocated to Oxford in the early 1990s. Mr. Grisham still maintains a home in Oxford but his primary residence is now in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Curtis Wilkie, Jane Ann Mullen, Ace Atkins, Beth Ann Fennelly, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Neil White, Tom Franklin and Richard Ford are among the many writers who live in Oxford. Deceased authors Stark Young, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, and Barry Hannah also called Oxford home. Howard Bahr also lived in Oxford for an extended period.
  • Oxford has been called the art center of the South. Famous artists include photorealist painter Glennray Tutor; figurative painter Jere Allen; expressionist painter Paula Temple; portraitist Jason Bouldin, sculptor William Beckwith; sculptor Rod Moorhead; and primitive artist Theora Hamblett (1895–1977). New Orleans artist John McCrady (1911–1968) studied art at Ole Miss.
  • Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson (1810–1885) owned a manor called "Home Place" in Oxford that was burned down in 1864 during the Civil War by Union troops. A historical marker stands on the spot where it once stood.
  • L.Q.C. Lamar (1825–1893), U.S. senator and supreme court justice, resided in Oxford, where he served as professor of mathematics at the University of Mississippi, farmed, and practiced law. He was the son-in-law of university chancellor Augustus Baldwin Longstreet. Lamar's home in Oxford has recently been restored (2008) as a museum.


Rowan Oak
  • The courthouse square, called "The Square", is the geographic and cultural center of the city. In addition to the historic Lafayette County Courthouse, the Square is known for an abundance of locally owned restaurants, specialty boutiques, and professional offices, along with Oxford City Hall. Some restaurants on the Square include Ajax Diner, The Bottle Tree Bakery, The Blind Pig Pub, Bouré, City Grocery, the Downtown Grill, Irie, Parrish Baker Pub, Proud Larry's, The Rib Cage, Rooster's Blues House, Varsity Grille, and Waltz on the Square.
  • The J. E. Neilson Co., located on the southeast corner of the square is the South's oldest documented store. Founded as a trading post in 1839, Neilson's continues to anchor the Oxford square. When the Great Depression hit Oxford and most of the banks in town closed, Neilson's acted as a surrogate bank for university employees, who needed to cash their checks to pay living expenses.
  • Square Books, a local bookstore founded in 1979, is consistently ranked among the best independent bookstores in the country. A sister store, Off Square Books, which is several doors down the street to the east, deals in used and remainder books and is the venue for a radio show called Thacker Mountain Radio, with host Jim Dees, that is broadcast state-wide on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. The show often draws comparisons to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion for its mix of author readings and musical guests. A third store, Square Books Jr., deals exclusively in children's books and educational toys.
  • The Flamingo is an apartment building near the Oxford Square on University Avenue. Its distinctive Miami-style Deco architecture makes it one of Oxford's most visible landmarks.


2008 Presidential Debate

More than 3000 journalists came to Oxford on September 26, 2008 to cover the first presidential debate of 2008, which was held at the University of Mississippi.[6]

Historical sites

See also National Register of Historic Places listings in Lafayette County, Mississippi

  • Ammadelle, ca. 1860, designed by Calvert Vaux
  • Barnard Observatory, University of Mississippi, 1859
  • First Presbyterian Church, 1881
  • Isom Place, 1848
  • Lafayette County Courthouse, 1872
  • Lucius Q. C. Lamar House, ca. 1860
  • Lyceum-The Circle Historic District, University of Mississippi
  • Oxford City Hall (former federal building), 1885
  • Rowan Oak (William Faulkner House), 1848
  • St. Peter's Cemetery, 1871
  • St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 1860


External links

Area newspapers

  • The Oxford Eagle, Oxford's only daily newspaper. Includes the weekly guide for arts and entertainment, the Oxford Town.
  • The Local Voice, The Local Newspaper for the Community, by the Community
  • The Daily Mississippian, the student newspaper of The University of Mississippi.

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