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Tutwiler, Mississippi
US Post Office, Tutwiler, Mississippi
US Post Office, Tutwiler, Mississippi
Location of Tutwiler, Mississippi
Location of Tutwiler, Mississippi
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Tallahatchie
 • Total 1.3 sq mi (3.5 km2)
 • Land 1.3 sq mi (3.5 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 154 ft (47 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 1,364
 • Density 1,020.6/sq mi (394.0/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 38963
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-75040
GNIS feature ID 0678994

Tutwiler is a town in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, United States. The population at the 2010 census was 3,550.


In 1899, Tom Tutwiler, a civil engineer for a local railroad, made his headquarters seven miles northwest of Sumner. The town of Tutwiler was founded and named for him. When the railroad was built, the first depot erected was a two-story building. The railroad gave the town use of the top floor as a public school. Captain H.B. Fitch built and operated the first store in town. His wife took charge of the school, which began with five pupils.

In 1905, the town was incorporated, and W.E. Fite elected Mayor. J.O. Clay was the station depot agent. In 1900, the Illinois Central Railroad, running from Yazoo City to Lambert, crossed at Tutwiler, where the company built a railroad yard.

In 1928, a high school was built at a cost of $40,000. The town grew rapidly until 1929 when the railroad yard was moved to Clarksdale. At that time businesses and finally the population began to decline. The population in 1929 before the railroad yard was moved was 1,010 people.

Like many other towns in the Mississippi Delta, Tutwiler stakes a claim to being the "birthplace of the blues". This is the site where W. C. Handy reportedly "discovered" the blues in 1903, on a train platform in the town. Handy had heard something akin to the blues as early as 1892, but it was while waiting for an overdue train to Memphis that he heard an itinerant bluesman (legend says it was a local field hand named Henry Sloan). The man was playing slide guitar and singing about "goin' where the Southern cross the Dog", referring to the junction of the Southern Railway and Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad farther south. (The Y&D railroad was locally called the "Yellow Dog"). Handy called it "the weirdest music I had ever heard". A Mississippi Blues Trail marker honoring Handy was erected at the site on November 25, 2009. Tutwiler was also the childhood home of bluesmen John Lee Hooker and Frank Stokes.


Split of U.S. Route 49 in Tutwiler

Tutwiler is located at 34°0′53″N 90°25′54″W / 34.01472°N 90.43167°W / 34.01472; -90.43167 (34.014797, -90.431642).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), all land. Tutwiler is 70 miles (110 km) south of Memphis, Tennessee.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 142
1910 410 188.7%
1920 1,010 146.3%
1930 873 −13.6%
1940 665 −23.8%
1950 939 41.2%
1960 912 −2.9%
1970 1,103 20.9%
1980 1,174 6.4%
1990 1,391 18.5%
2000 1,364 −1.9%
2010 3,550 160.3%
Est. 2015 3,496 −1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,364 people, 410 households, and 316 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,020.6 people per square mile (393.0/km²). There were 429 housing units at an average density of 321.0 per square mile (123.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 11.80% White, 87.32% African American, 0.29% Native American, 0.37% Asian, and 0.22% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.44% of the population.

There were 410 households out of which 35.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.4% were married couples living together, 34.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.7% were non-families. 20.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.33 and the average family size was 3.82.

In the town, the population was spread out with 33.6% under the age of 18, 11.7% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 80.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $18,958, and the median income for a family was $22,857. Males had a median income of $21,364 versus $17,222 for females. The per capita income for the town was $7,177. About 32.1% of families and 38.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 45.5% of those under age 18 and 31.1% of those age 65 or over.


Tutwiler has a variety of Christian churches, including Baptist, Church of God In Christ, Protestant, and non-denominational.

Seven Catholic nuns and their staff operate community services in the town, mainly at the Tutwiler Community Education Center, which was established in 1993. They operate the site of town meetings and voting, direct outreach programs for children and senior citizens, operate a health clinic, and maintain the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson.

In 1983, a nun, Sister Anne Brooks, came to Tutwiler to manage the Tutwiler Clinic after earning a medical degree. Before Brooks came, the clinic still had racially segregated waiting rooms. As of 2010 the clinic had been operating for 27 years. In November 2010 the nuns opened a gymnasium, funded by donors from outside the area. New York Times journalist Peter T. Kilborn wrote that the facility was "worthy of a university".

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