Johnny DuPree on Diversity in Mississippi

Originally published by The Mississippi Link, 2/11/2016 – 2/17/2016

298265_259007810806387_896387493_nCurrently serving his fourth term as mayor of Mississippi’s fourth largest city, Johnny L. DuPree, Ph.D. walks into a room with a sense of urgency, visibly and audibly excited about the possibilities for success for Hattiesburg and all of Mississippi.

He is Hattiesburg’s first black mayor, first elected in 2001, and still going strong, focusing on what he sees as his purpose – building healthy families and putting them in stable homes, where the door to prosperity is open.

He sat down with The Mississippi Link to talk about what drives him as a political leader in the face of obvious challenges in Mississippi – a state with 37-percent African-American population and the highest number of black elected officials, but still has not elected a black politician to statewide office since Reconstruction. Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation and one of the most conservative.

Dupree said one of the hallmarks of his success has been building bridges.

“There’s no one place that has all the resources that you need. One thing that stifles many African Americans is our inability to reach out to other places and connect,” he said.

When solutions to problems have not been in sight, he has searched to find them. He’s become so well known in circles such as the Mississippi and National Leagues of Cities, and the Mississippi and U.S. Conferences of Mayors, they’re now looking to him for guidance.

In June of 2015, the U.S. Conference of Mayors named Hattiesburg one of America’s Most Livable Cities, in its population category of under 100,000. Just this month, DuPree has been appointed to the National League of Cities’ Youth, Education and Families Board.

Dupree is a 62-year-old real estate broker-turned-politician, who started his public service on the Hattiesburg School Board, then the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. He has now stood 15 years as mayor of Hattiesburg, and shows no sign of slowing down. Too much work yet to get done, he said.

“When you build on relationships, people learn who you are. Then, you’re also learning who other people are and learning that – people are just people. The core of most people is to help because there’s a feeling you get from helping people that you don’t get when you hurt people,” he said.

He continued praising the value of building relationships. “It’s a whole different kind of feeling, reaching out to people to give them an opportunity to feel good.”

The most recent census from 2013 places Hattiesburg’s population at 47,556, and demographically at 53-percent black, 41.9-percent white. Nicknamed the “Hub City,” it anchors a tri-county area that includes Forrest, Lamar and Perry Counties, which has a combined population of 146, 996.

The Hattiesburg Convention Commission, created by the state Legislature at the request of the Hattiesburg City Council,in 1990, oversees tourism related operations in the tri-county area. The commission partners with Hattiesburg in numerous ways and has used its revenues from tourism to renovate and reopen historic properties in Hattiesburg’s AfricanAmerican community, such as its former black U.S. Officers Club, now a unique African-American Military Museum. Dupree is not a member of the Convention Commission. Moreover, he is recognized, as are other mayors in the tri-county, as an ex-officio member of the private, non-profit Greater Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership.

Over the course of his tenure as mayor, Dupree has put forth key initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for his residents. These include special health and financial education services, and a Hattiesburg-area Youth Master Plan. A clinic for city employees, which opened in 2014, gives taxpayers a return on their investment, said DuPree, in the form of a more productive city staff. When people who work for the city are healthy, everyone else benefits, he said.

“When you talk about education. It has no color. Financial stability has no color. Health care has no color. I ache for a white child who has cancer, just like I ache for a black child with cancer.”

As he champions diversity, DuPree preferred not to discuss the state of race relations in the state for this interview.

He ran a race neutral campaign for governor and made history when he was elected state Democratic nominee. He believes that it’s only a matter of time before an African American will win election to statewide office.

Every time he has stood for political office, he said people kept telling him, he couldn’t win.

What’s needed in Mississippi, he said, is for more African Americans to go out and try to become part of the “the establishment.”

“We tell each other we can’t do it, but what we’re actually saying is I can’t do it. We have to get out there and try.”

Dupree said he draws inspiration from those early black Southerners who were elected to state and federal offices during Reconstruction.

“They laid the groundwork for my success and the successes of other African Americans. Their picture is a symbol of hope because it is a constant reminder that anything is possible.”


Mayor Johnny L. DuPree of Hattiesburg, MS Declares November 29th Small Business Saturday

Hattiesburg, MS – The city of Hattiesburg announced its endorsement and participation in the fifth annual Small Business Saturday. Falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support the small independently-owned businesses that help boost local economies across the country.

“Black Friday is right around the corner and I urge my fellow community members to support our local, small businesses as they truly are the backbone of our nation’s economy. Pumping money into our local economy is a deposit into our community’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Mayor DuPree expressed.

Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 in response to small business owners’ most pressing need: more demand for their products and services. Since its inception, Small Business Saturday has served as the ceremonial kickoff to the busy holiday shopping season for small, independently-owned businesses. In 2013, millions of consumers shopped at independently-owned small business spending $5.7 billion on the day – up from $5.5 billion in 2012.

Similar to last year, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a non-partisan small business advocate and operational arm of the Small Business Saturday Coalition, is rallying mayors across the country to show their support and encourage their local communities to “shop small” on November 29, 2014.

In recognizing the importance of supporting independent businesses in Hattiesburg, Mayor Johnny L. DuPree will issue a Small Business Saturday Proclamation for the city.

“In 2013, elected officials in all 50 states and Washington D.C. championed Small Business Saturday which helped drive consumers to small, independently-owned businesses on the day,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP. “This year, we are urging Mayors everywhere to show their support and encourage their communities to ‘shop small’ during the holiday season.”

Hattiesburg small businesses will be offered toolkits and other resources to participate in Small Business Saturday by WIPP, on behalf of the Small Business Saturday Coalition.  Additional information about Small Business Saturday is available at:

KCSR Slated to Increase Train Speed on Gulfport to Hattiesburg Rail Line

Kansas City, Mo., August 19, 2014 – Effective September 1, The Kansas City Southern Railway
Company (KCSR) will increase train speed on portions of its line from Gulfport to Hattiesburg from 25
miles per hour to 49 miles per hour. The exceptions where the speed will not increase include KCSR yard
limits on either end of the line, inside the city limits of Wiggins and the line south of I-10.
In addition, the train speed on this line will be affected as follows:

· From Gulfport, train speed will remain 25 miles per hour until the lead locomotive passes Morton
Road in Saucier northbound, at which time the train speed may increase up to 49 miles per hour.
· At Perkinston, train speed will remain 25 miles per hour until the lead locomotive passes Third
Street at Perkinston southbound, at which time train speed may increase up to 49 miles per hour.
· At Wiggins, train speed will remain at 10 miles per hour until the lead locomotive passes MS 26
southbound, at which time train speed may increase up to 25 miles per hour and when the lead
locomotives passes Davis Avenue northbound, the train speed may increase to 49 miles per hour.
· At McLaurin, train speed will remain at 25 miles per hour until the lead locomotive passes
Dunkly Street southbound and Carter Road northbound, at which time the train speed can
increase up to 49 miles per hour.
· At Hattiesburg, train speed will increase from 10 to 20 miles per hour from Tatum Industrial Drive to Barkley Road.

The increase in train speed over these track segments is made possible by a major track rehabilitation
effort that will enhance economic development opportunities in the region.
For public safety, KCSR and Mississippi Operation Lifesaver would like to remind the community that as
train speed increases, regardless of whether the crossing is public or private or what type of warning is in
place, motorists and pedestrians are urged to always expect a train. In addition, pedestrians are urged to
stay off railroad rights-of-way. Do not walk along the track or trespass on railroad rights-of-way and only
cross the tracks at designated crossings.
Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City Southern (KCS) is a transportation holding company
that has railroad investments in the U.S., Mexico and Panama. Its primary U.S. holding is KCSR, serving
the central and south central U.S. Its international holdings include Kansas City Southern de Mexico,
S.A. de C.V. serving northeastern and central Mexico and the port cities of Lázaro Cárdenas, Tampico
and Veracruz, and a 50 percent interest in Panama Canal Railway Company, providing ocean-to-ocean
freight and passenger service along the Panama Canal. KCS’ North American rail holdings and strategic
alliances are primary components of a NAFTA Railway system, linking the commercial and industrial
centers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

City of Hattiesburg to Unveil Two Major Enhancements to Town Square Park

Hattiesburg-The City of Hattiesburg will reveal two major projects at Town Square Park on Thursday, August 20 at 4:30 p.m., that will continue to bridge the community economically, physically and socially. Mayor Johnny DuPree encourages community members to participate in the ribbon cutting of Gordon’s Creek Linear Park and the unveiling of the new, permanent 25’X30′ covered Town Square Park stage. 

The Gordon’s Creek Park Pathway-Downtown District Phase I was funded via two grants—$377 thousand contribution from the Hattiesburg Downtown Association’s Landmark Preservation by way of state legislative appropriation, and $350 thousand from the Pat Harrison Waterway District.  

9/11 Observance of Patriots Day

Hattiesburg, MS– The City of Hattiesburg will host its annual 9/11 program on Thursday, September 11, 2014. This event will be held at Fire Station #1, located at 810 North Main Street in Hattiesburg, Miss. The observance will begin at 8:40 a.m. to coincide with the times on September 11, 2001.

Citizens of Hattiesburg are invited by the City of Hattiesburg Fire Department to attend this ceremony in memory all the victims and heroes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania flight on September 11, 2001. There will be a wreath ceremony following at the 911 Memorial Park. For more information regarding the ceremony, contact the City of Hattiesburg Fire Department at 601-582-3311.

Hattiesburg Earns Grant from National League of Cities for Children and Families Insurance Campaign

Washington, DC – Hattiesburg was one of eight cities selected by the National League of Cities (NLC) to receive $250 thousand and technical assistance to help implement local outreach efforts to enroll children and families in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“As a nation, we’ve made significant progress on enrolling eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP, but millions of children who qualify for coverage under these programs still need to sign up.  Cities are vital partners in outreach and enrollment efforts,” said Cindy Mann, Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “We applaud National League of Cities for its leadership and support.”

Hattiesburg hosts its 2nd annual Franklyn L. Tate Community Health Day celebration


Hattiesburg-The City of Hattiesburg will host its 2nd annual Franklyn L. Tate Community Health Day celebration on Sat., Oct. 19 at Town Square Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Town Square is located on the corner of Buschman and North Main Streets.

Franklyn L. Tate Community Health Day pays homage to the city’s efforts to fight obesity and other preventable illnesses and the life of Tate who was the City of Hattiesburg Director of Federal and State Programs and a YMCA staple when he died last year.
The event will kick-off with a walking parade featuring the Hattiesburg High School Marching Band, The National Double-Dutch League based in Bronx, New York; Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who gained worldwide notoriety when she “functionally cured” an infant of HIV and former Philadelphia Eagles Football Star Todd Pinkston. Various health and community-driven organizations will also be represented during the parade.

Upon entering Town Square, participants of Franklyn L. Tate Community Health Day will be privy to a slew of health-related exhibitors who will provide information on how to adopt and sustain a healthier lifestyle.  Agencies promoting adult and kid-friendly extracurricular activities will be on hand. The crowd can also expect electrifying exhibitions from Pinkston and the jump rope troupe who aims to inspire the return of jump roping as a sport within area schools to lower Mississippi’s obesity rate.  There will be a few surprises in store, plus tug-of-war battles between area media. Some of the city’s finest from the Hattiesburg Police and Fire Departments will adopt a team which is sure to continue their epic tug-of-war rivalry.

Near the conclusion of the event, citizens will have access to a mouth-watering display of fresh fruits and vegetables provided by J and J Produce Company and donated roasted peanuts from Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant. Lunch will be provided by Subway Restaurant and beverages from Coca Cola Bottling Company and Brown Bottling Group who have all assisted this endeavor since 2011, along with many other city-sponsored events. O’ Charley’s will provide a few freshly baked apple pies and sandwich platters. Other snacks will be available thanks to All Brands Foods. In years past, some people have walked away with treadmills, stationary bikes, bicycles, gym memberships, and Southern Miss homecoming tickets just for showing up. The same is to be expected on Oct. 19. Also, participants of the recent Mississippi Mayor’s Let’s Play Challenge will have their chance to win a “26 mountain bike for their efforts to help the city win a KaBoom playground in an effort to beat obesity.

“Franklyn was a person who strived for excellence daily-mentally and physically-as well as my friend,” said Mayor Johnny DuPree.  “As we strive to earn Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s Healthiest Hometown designation and a grant award of $50 thousand next year, we believe this annual event provides a wonderful opportunity to win the award, plus honor Franklyn’s life and tireless efforts to enhance the families of this area. I am very proud of how the community has responded;  many public and private sectors are playing a major role in ensuring this year’s event is life-changing for citizens especially with the co-funding of the double-dutch troupe’s visit to the Pine Belt,” said DuPree.

Since 2011’s designation as a “Healthy Hometown” by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, health agencies and businesses have joined the City’s fight against obesity. The list of people wanting to play a key role in the move to a healthier Mississippi continues to grow.  This year’s sponsors and exhibitors thus far are:

  • All Brands Foods (sponsor)
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (sponsor)
  • American Cancer Society
  • Anatomies (sponsor)
  • Antonelli College
  • Area Development Partnership (sponsor)
  • Bancorp South Bank (sponsor)
  • Bourne Brothers Printing (sponsor)
  • Brown Bottling Group (sponsor)
  • Caffee, Caffee & Associates
  • Citizens Bank (sponsor)
  • Coca Cola Bottling Company (sponsor)
  • Cotton Blues (sponsor)
  • Domestic Abuse Family Shelter
  • Drayer Physical Therapy Institute
  • Eubanks Produce Company (sponsor)
  • Electronic Caregiver Mobile Unit
  • Enterprise Car Rental (sponsor)
  • Fit Fine & Fabulous
  • Forrest General Hospital (sponsor)
  • FOX 23 (tug-of-war)
  • Good Twin, Bad Twin Talk Show (sponsor)
  • Hattiesburg American (tug-of-war)
  • Hattiesburg High School March Band (performer)
  • Hattiesburg Hot Yoga (performer)
  • Healing Touch and Spa
  • Heart South
  • Home Depot
  • J and J Construction
  • J and J Produce Company (sponsor)
  • Jump In’ Gymnastics & Tumbling (performer)
  • La Leche League
  • Lenny’s Sub Shop (sponsor)
  • Leroy Hill Coffee Co Inc. (sponsor)
  • Living Water Natural Healing & Health Solution
  • Logan’s Roadhouse Restaurant (sponsor)
  • Magnolia Travel Agency (sponsor)
  • M & M Media Group (sponsor)
  • MS Ballroom Association (performer)
  • MS Organ Recovery Agency
  • MS State Dept. of Health\Southeast Public Health District VIII
  • MS State Dept. of Health\ Office of Preventive Health
  • Neel-Schaffer  (sponsor)
  • Nick Floyd and Associates
  • O’ Charley’s (sponsor)
  • Oseola McCarty Youth Development Center
  • Obesity Coalition
  • Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services
  • Play It Again Sports (sponsor)
  • Plexus Slim
  • Purple Dragon School of Martial Arts
  • Regions Bank (sponsor)
  • Sacred Heart Catholic School
  • Sherwin-Williams (sponsor)
  • Shoe Carnival (sponsor)
  • Soccer Locker (sponsor)
  • Southeast MS Rural Health Initiative
  • Speedy Printing & Signs (sponsor)
  • Stretch-n-Grow
  • Subway (sponsor)
  • Susan Light Foundation
  • Target (sponsor)
  • Taylor Rental (sponsor)
  • Tiger-Rock Martial Arts
  • The First Bank(sponsor)
  • Thompson Engineering (sponsor)
  • Trustmark Bank (sponsor)
  • UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • United Blood Services
  • United Healthcare Group
  • United Way of Southeast Mississippi
  • USM College of Health
  • USM School of Nursing
  • Vitamins Plus (sponsor)
  • Walgreens(sponsor)
  • Wal-Mart (sponsor)
  • WastePro Recycling (sponsor)
  • William Carey University Medical School
  • WHLT 22 (tug-of-war)
  • YMCA
  • 24 7 Fitness Studio (sponsor and exhibitor)
  • 32 Degrees (sponsor and exhibitor)

Please stay tuned to and the City of Hattiesburg’s social media pages for further updates. To learn how you may participate in the event, please contact City of Hattiesburg Public Relations Coordinator Chinika Hughes at 601.545.4508 or via email at

To learn how you may join the walking parade, please contact Linda Montgomery, administrative assistant to the City of Hattiesburg Fire Chief, at 601.582.3311 or via email at The parade is open to any individual or organization that strives daily to enhance the community’s mental, physical and environmental state.



State Democrats congratulate Mayor DuPree

( In a prepared statement, Rickey  Cole, Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, issued the following statement in response to the certified results of last week’s mayoral election in Hattiesburg.

“On behalf of all Democrats in Mississippi and around the country, I congratulate the Honorable Johnny L. DuPree, his family, friends and supporters upon his re-election to serve another term as Mayor of Hattiesburg.  We are proud of Mayor DuPree, and we know that he will continue to lead Hattiesburg with the same quiet dignity and unswerving dedication that have been the hallmarks of his long career as a public servant,” said Cole in the news release.

According to Cole, the campaign was hard-fought and the struggle was long.

“We congratulate all those who worked so hard to win the battles.  We especially appreciate attorneys Precious Martin and Brandon Jones, whose dogged determination through the court trial and through the conduct of the most recent election made it possible for democracy to prevail.  These men are examples of what true patriots really are,” said Cole in a prepared statement.

“We salute all the elections officials who worked under enormous pressure and did their very best.  From the precinct poll workers to the election commissioners to the government observers sent from Jackson and Washington, we appreciate the tremendous efforts made to afford the people of Hattiesburg a free, fair and honest election,” according to Cole.

“Now that the election results have been certified, it is time for all citizens to come together.  Let us all congratulate the victor, say kind words to the vanquished, heal the wounds of division, and enter into a constructive conversation on how we can all move forward in unity for the betterment of all,” said Cole.