Walthall County, located in southern Mississippi, in the longleaf pine belt on the Louisiana border, developed out of sections of Pike and Marion Counties in 1914, making it of one the newest counties in the state. Its name derives from the Confederate general and US senator Edward Cary Walthall. The county seat is Tylertown.
In the 1920 census, Walthall had 13,455 residents, including 7,789 whites and 5,666 African Americans. Walthall depended on agriculture for economic growth, focusing first on cotton and later on cattle. In the first decade of the county’s existence, 55 percent of Walthall farmers owned their land.
In 1930 Walthall County’s population grew to 13,871, with white residents only slightly outnumbering African Americans. Walthall was very much a rural county, with no urban population and only 80 industrial workers in eight manufacturing establishments. Tenant farmers operated more than half of Walthall’s thirty-four-hundred farms. Like many South Mississippi counties, Walthall farmers concentrated first on dairy cattle, then corn, swine, and cotton. Walthall had a very small immigrant population—one person from England, one from France, and two from Greece.
Born in Tylertown in 1931, Paul Pittman became publisher of the Tylertown Times in 1957 and continued in that role until his death in 1983. Pittman also helped establish the county’s first radio station, WTYL, and took part in Democratic Party politics.
African Americans in Walthall County have a long history of establishing community organizations—initially churches and schools, a chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s and 1930s, and an active chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that challenged local segregated schools immediately after the US Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. C. C. Bryant, an important community activist and civil rights organizer in Pike County in the 1950s and 1960s, was born in Walthall County in 1917.
Two figures important in changing Mississippi education spent significant time in Walthall County. Cleopatra Thompson, a professor at Jackson State from the 1940s through the 1970s, spent part of her early career teaching at the Walthall County Training School. Surgeon Verner Smith Holmes grew up in Walthall County and went on to become a member of the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, opposing Gov. Ross Barnett’s efforts to prevent the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962.
Walthall County’s population remained stable through the 1950s, though the nature of employment shifted. While jobs in agriculture declined, manufacturing employment rose. By 1960 22 percent of all workers in Walthall County held industrial jobs, mostly in the apparel industry, and 35 percent worked in agriculture. In 1960, 13,761 people called Walthall County home.
Like most counties in southern Mississippi, Walthall County’s 2010 population was predominantly white and had grown slowly since the 1960s. The county’s population of 15,443 was 53.4 percent white and 44.5 percent African Americans.
- Mississippi State Planning Commission, Progress Report on State Planning in Mississippi (1938)
- Mississippi Statistical Abstract, Mississippi State University (1952–2010)
- Charles Sydnor and Claude Bennett, Mississippi History (1939)
- University of Virginia Library, Historical Census Browser website, http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu
- E. Nolan Waller and Dani A. Smith, Growth Profiles of Mississippi’s Counties, 1960–1980 (1985)
- Walthall County Chamber of Commerce website, www.walthallcountychamber.org