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Meridian, Mississippi is the county seat of Lauderdale County and the sixth largest city in the state. The city is situated along major highways, ninety-three miles east of Jackson, Mississippi, one hundred and fifty-four miles west of Birmingham, Alabama, two hundred and two miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana, and two hundred and thirty-one miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. Nearby communities include Alamucha, Arunde, Bailey, Chunky, Cliff Williams, Graham, Lockhart, Lost Gap, Marion, Nellieburg, Obadiah, Schamberville, Suqualena, Toomsuba, Topton, and Vimville. The city was established at the intersection of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and the Southern Railway in 1860, which led Meridian to become an important center for trade. Because of its strategic importance, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman burned most of the city to the ground during the Civil War Battle of Meridian in February of 1864. After the war, the city quickly rebuilt and was the largest city in the state between 1890 and 1930. Although the railroad has declined in recent years, the city’s economy has diversified, with health care, military, and manufacturing industries. During the 1960s, Meridian was the site of considerable Civil Rights and Klan activity, including the murders of three prominent Civil Rights workers, for which seven Klansmen, including a deputy sheriff, were later convicted, that being the first time that a white jury had convicted a white official in a civil rights killing. Alvin Childress, who played the lead role in the Amos ’n’ Andy Show, was born in Meridian in 1907. Winfield Dunn, the 43rd governor of Tennessee, was also a native of Meridian, as was Fred Phelps, founder of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.

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