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Lexington, Mississippi
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
Nickname(s): L-Town
Location of Lexington, Mississippi
Location of Lexington, Mississippi
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Holmes
 • Total 2.5 sq mi (6.4 km2)
 • Land 2.5 sq mi (6.4 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 233 ft (71 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 2,025
 • Density 825.6/sq mi (318.8/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 39095
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-40600
GNIS feature ID 0672434

Lexington is a city in and the county seat of Holmes County, Mississippi. The county was organized in 1833 and the city in 1836.

The population was 2,025 at the 2000 census and estimated at 1,609 in 2015. It has declined with the growth of industrial agriculture. Many people have left the rural county to seek work elsewhere.


Incorporated in 1836, the city of Lexington was founded by European-American settlers after most of the Choctaw people, who had long occupied this area, were forced to cede their land to the United States and remove to the Indian Territory. The new settlers initially developed riverfront land along the Yazoo and Black rivers for cotton plantations, primarily worked by enslaved African Americans. The slaves were brought by planters with them from the Upper South or transported in the domestic slave trade. In total, more than one million African Americans were transported to the Deep South, breaking up many families. The African-descended slaves soon constituted the majority of the Holmes County population.

On court days, the town served as a trading center for the county and attracted retail merchants. Lexington was a destination in the 1830s of some German-Jewish immigrants, who often became merchants. They were joined much later in the century by Russian Jewish immigrants. The Jewish community built Temple Beth El in Lexington in 1905; it closed in 2009 because of declining population. During the plantation era, the city was bustling, as planters grew wealthy from the booming demand for cotton in the North and Europe.

Among the early settlers in the 1830s was German-Jewish immigrant Jacob Sontheimer, who first worked caring for an elderly planter. After being bequeathed land, Sontheimer later became a merchant in town. His two daughters, Rose and Bettie, also became merchants, managing the Sontheimer business. He was joined by other Jewish immigrants from Germany, totaling about 20 by the late 1870s and 50 by 1900. In the later years Jewish immigrants also came from eastern Europe to Lexington. They developed tailoring and grocery businesses; the Lewis Grocery Store developed into a major wholesaler in the state.

After the Civil War, freedmen in Holmes County, who constituted the majority of the population, joined the Republican Party and elected several county sheriffs and other local officers. They sought education and some became landowners, clearing land in the bottomlands and selling their timber to raise money for purchase. This progress was before 1890, when they were essentially deprived of the vote by the state legislature passing a new constitution, which created barriers to voter registration and forced them out of politics for decades into the late 20th century. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, financial recession and lack of political clout meant that many freedmen lost their land; within a generation they had regressed to the status of sharecropper and tenant farmer.

20th century to present

Edmund F. Noel, an attorney in Lexington who was a son of planters Leland and Margaret Noel, was elected as state legislator and later as District Attorney. In 1906 he was elected as governor of Mississippi, serving through 1912. His house at North Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its distinctive architecture, as the Gov. Edmond F. Noel House.

In the early 20th century, Mississippi planters recruited Chinese immigrant workers to satisfy the demand for labor, and some came to Holmes County. As the area suffered from the boll weevil infestation, the cotton crops suffered. Mechanization reduced the need for farm labor, leading to a decline in county and town populations from the 1930s on. Many African Americans left the South for northern and midwestern industrial cities, seeking more opportunities and escape from the violence of lynchings and Jim Crow rules.

Lexington was distinguished by two nationally known women: Arenia Conelia Mallory, a young African-American music teacher from Illinois who had joined the Church of God in Christ and became president of its affiliated Saints Academy in Lexington, expanding its programs and developing the school along a model of academic excellence, and founding an associated junior college during her long tenure, when she also served in national Presidential appointments in the federal government; and Hazel Brannon Smith, a white woman based in Lexington who owned and published several rural newspapers and promoted integration and change in the civil rights era, winning a Pulitzer Prize for her editorials.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), all land.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Lexington has a humid subtropical climate, in common with the vast majority of the American South.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 656
1860 887 35.2%
1870 744 −16.1%
1880 798 7.3%
1890 1,075 34.7%
1900 1,516 41.0%
1910 2,428 60.2%
1920 1,792 −26.2%
1930 2,590 44.5%
1940 2,930 13.1%
1950 3,198 9.1%
1960 2,839 −11.2%
1970 2,756 −2.9%
1980 2,628 −4.6%
1990 2,227 −15.3%
2000 2,025 −9.1%
2010 1,731 −14.5%
Est. 2015 1,609 −7.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,025 people, 725 households, and 503 families residing in the city. The population density was 825.6 people per square mile (319.1/km²). There were 802 housing units at an average density of 327.0 per square mile (126.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 31.36% White, 67.26% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.64% Asian, and 0.69% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.98% of the population.

There were 725 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 26.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the city, the population was spread out with 28.5% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,163, and the median income for a family was $29,732. Males had a median income of $25,750 versus $17,328 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,614. About 32.7% of families and 37.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 54.5% of those under age 18 and 28.4% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2010 Census, the racial composition of the city was:

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