Three Simpson County Volunteer Fire Departments took possession of new fire trucks throughout the year: Harrisville, Magee and Mendenhall.
January 2 – Ten cadets graduated from the Simpson County Law Enforcement Office Training Academy, a partnership between Copiah-Lincoln Community College Workforce Education and Simpson County Sheriff’s Department. Each participant completed over 350 hours of training in areas pertinent to law enforcement.
January 9 – Simpson countians elected several new officials in the November 2019 election. Sheriff Paul Mullins, Supervisors Mitchell Chatman and Donny Welch, Circuit Clerk Witt Fortenberry and Tax Assessor Jamie Brewer were sworn in January 4, 2020.
January 16 – Simpson County School Board agreed to transfer ownership of the Washington Street Park to the City of Magee. In return, the school district will receive free use of the ball field for 15 years together with the use of the girls’ softball field.
January 23 – Simpson County Lake was closed once it had been completely drained. The project is being done to make repairs to the dam, which was designated as high hazard by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The repairs and renovations are expected to take three years.
February 6 – Simpson County native Martinas Rankin, offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, played in Super Bowl 54. The Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20.
February 20 – Simpson County School District saw an increase in graduation rates at Magee and Mendenhall High Schools for the two previous school years. According to Dr. Robert Sanders, SCSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, both schools are on track to show an increase for the 2019-2020 school year as well.
February 27 – Simpson County Academy Cougars won the state Class AAAA Boys Basketball 2019-2020 division championship, defeating Hillcrest Christian 61-43.
March 5 – Simpson County Board of Supervisors approved a watered-down version of a resolution recognizing the county as a “Second Amendment Safe Haven.”
Magee Public Library received five awards during the annual Team Development Meeting of the Central Mississippi Regional Library System held February 7, including library and individual awards. Magee won 2020 Branch of the Year, Large Division, beating out Brandon, Flowood, Forest, Pearl and Richland libraries.
March 12 – The first of several articles appeared on the newly identified corona virus, COVID 19. The World Health Organization (WHO) designated it a pandemic in March. The Center for Disease Control described it as a respiratory illness spread from person to person.
March 19 – Magee Chamber of Commerce held its 64th annual banquet in which Diane McPhail was inducted into the Magee Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.
The Simpson County Board of Supervisors began the search for a new ambulance service after AMR gave the county notice it would no longer provide service to Simpson County effective July 1. AMR had intended to reduce its existing service from three to two ambulances. Supervisor Brian Kennedy asked the board instead to entertain offers to increase coverage from three to four ambulances. This request did not fit the AMR business model.
March 26 – Because of the corona virus outbreak, Governor Tate Reeves issued an executive order closing all public schools until April 17 to allow officials the opportunity to evaluate the effects of the virus. Schools improvised and began offering on-line coursework or paper package pick up for students.
Magee Parks and Recreation director David Dunn stated that all organized sports would be cancelled until further notice and would follow the same schedule as the schools. Additionally, the Magee Board of Aldermen implemented a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
April 2 – In keeping with the Governor’s school closing order, Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) followed suit, suspending all activities until further notice, affecting both Magee and Mendenhall sports and band programs.
Nick Lee, former assistant principal at Mendenhall Junior High, was hired as the new headmaster of Simpson County Academy. He fills the position vacated by Billy Wayne Hankins.
April 9 – Governor Reeves announced a state wide shelter in place order effective April 3 and running through April 20 in an effort to stem the reach of COVID19. Magee and Mendenhall businesses and city offices put in place their own efforts to assist. Some offices closed completely, offering services by phone. Magee’s Walmart began controlling access to its store by offering one way in and out and limiting the number of customers at any one time.
April 16 – While Magee proper continued to maintain a curfew, the City of Mendenhall declined to do so. A motion to do so was presented but died due to lack of a second.
Simpson County physicians, urgent care centers and after hours clinics adapted to the corona virus issue by instituting telehealth or telemed services. Patients could be seen by their provider either by telephone or video chat, keeping both patient and staff safe.
April 23 – On Tuesday, April 14, Governor Reeves announced all public schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year but continue with distance learning options.
Robbie Barnes, president and CEO of PriorityOne Bank, was appointed to serve on Restart Mississippi, the Governor’s Commission for Economic Recovery, established in April 2020. The group boasts members from all over the state.
April 30 – Simpson County School District hired Dr. Brad Blake as the new principal of Magee High School following the retirement of Dr. Tom Duncan. Blake left the position of an assistant principal in Vicksburg City Schools. His goal is to bring MHS to a “C” rating by year end 2021 and at least a “B” within three years.
On April 24, Governor Reeves signed an executive order, Safer at Home, replacing the previous shelter in place order, effective through May 11. The order relaxed restrictions on some businesses allowing some economic recovery to begin. The businesses were required to follow CDC and Mississippi State Health Department guidelines.
The Simpson County Board of Supervisors approved ASAP Emergency Ambulance Services by a unanimous vote to begin services in Simpson County July 1, 2020. ASAP replaces AMR, which notified the board in January that they would be reducing their available services to the area.
May 7 – Robert Knight was named new assistant principal of Mendenhall Junior High School, replacing Nick Lee, who left to take the headmaster’s position at Simpson County Academy. Knight graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in education leadership from University of Southern Mississippi.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Simpson Center announced that it will offer summer classes on line only, according to Dr. Dewayne Middleton, vice president of the campus. While the shutdown continued, construction on the new Career Technology Building progressed. It will house the Automation and Control Program, Early Childhood Education Technology Program and the new Welding Program.
May 14 – The Magee Courier/Simpson County News published its annual section to honor the seniors of Simpson County. This year’s section offered articles addressing moving forward in light of COVID 19 along with a time line of events during their lifespan.
Governor Reeves extended the Safer at Home order to May 25; however, barbershops, salons and gyms were allowed to reopen providing they adhere to the strict CDC guidelines.
Mendenhall High School students Montrel Johnson, Vontrel Johnson, and Eric McKenny were chosen to represent the school at the American Legion Boys State. (The program was canceled as a result of the coronavirus.)
May 21 – The old Scafe Hotel across from the Boswell Regional Center campus in Sanatorium was destroyed by fire on Monday, May 17, and deemed a total loss. The hotel was used to provide accommodations for those visiting residents of the tuberculosis preventorium, now known as Boswell. Most recently the hotel has been used as a halfway house for former inmates. No injuries were reported.
On a three to two vote, the Simpson County School Board moved forward with a plan to offer a consolidated county high school. The facility would combine Magee and Mendenhall high schools and locate in the former Pioneer building at the intersection of Highways 49S and 28W in Magee.
May 28 – Even though Governor Reeves extended the Safer at Home order until June 1, he did announce that outdoor sports practices could resume, and school gyms and weight rooms could reopen. CDC guidelines must be followed.
Magee Mayor Dale Berry expressed his support of the consolidated school district at the May 19 Magee Board of Aldermen meeting.
Magee and Mendenhall Public libraries reopened to the public Tuesday, May 26, with curbside service only. Services include book and DVD check out and return; copying, faxing, printing and notary services. Computer usage was not yet available.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association executive committee met and determined that summer athletics would resume June 1, adhering to the CDC guidelines regarding COVID 19.
June 4 – Magee General Hospital (MGH) emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in only two years. Administrator and CEO of MGH, Greg Gibbs said, “We are pleased to be finished with the bankruptcy. Moving forward, we will be proactive to the changes in rural healthcare so Magee General can thrive instead of just survive.”
Simpson County Academy hired new boys’ baseball and girls’ softball coaches. Kelly Greer has been coaching since 1992, including former stints at Mendenhall and Magee high schools. His most recent position was athletic director of Florence High School. Meggan Windham, wife of Matthew “Zip” Windham, has coached for seven years. After only her second season of coaching she was named District Coach of the Year. Both coaches are excited and looking forward to the new starts.
June 11 – Biglane Heights Subdivision opposed opening traffic to their subdivision through McNair Springs which would have provided easier access to a church that has purchased land on which to build a new facility. Robert Pierce, spokesperson for Biglane Heights, expressed concern regarding traffic and noise during the June 2 Magee Board of Aldermen meeting. The property is owned by BridgePointe Baptist Church, currently located in downtown Magee.
June 18 – On Friday, June 12, Simpson County Sheriff’s Office lost one of their own killed in the line of duty. Deputy James Blair suffered multiple gunshot wounds after transporting Joaquin Blackwell to Region 8 Mental Health Facility. Blackwell fled the scene. He was found the following day near Region 8 and apprehended without incident. The Mississippi Highway Patrol and Rankin County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the manhunt.
Deputy Blair, 77, is survived by his wife, Dorothy Joyce, seven children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He worked in law enforcement over 50 years and was described as one of the hardest working deputies with the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Paul Mullins attested to his strong work ethic, kind heart and willingness to help others.
July 2 – On June 28, the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill to change the state flag and remove the Confederate battle flag emblem. In 2001 a new flag was designed and presented by way of a vote to the citizens of Mississippi. It was defeated with almost 64 percent of the population voting to retain the old state flag. This time, the legislature would make the decision rather than a state wide vote.
July 9 – According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Simpson County saw a significant increase in COVID 19 cases during the month of June, making it a hot spot for the virus.
July 16 – Modern Healthcare reported during the second week of July that Simpson County is ranked the number two site of increases in viral cases in the state, second only to Grenada County, which saw a 22 percent increase while Simpson saw an 18 percent increase. One possible reason for the increase in Simpson County is the number of people being tested for the coronavirus.
The Biglane Heights traffic closure continued to plague the Magee Board of Aldermen during the July 7 meeting. Opposing viewpoints were presented by Pastor John Lockett in favor of opening the road. Robert Pierce continued to represent the subdivision and their denial of traffic flow through it. No final decision was made at this meeting.
The Simpson County School Board opted to table discussion of a bond issue at the July 9 meeting of the board. Given the climate surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic, board members unanimously agreed that too much uncertainty existed for the issue to pass at this time. At this same meeting, members also discussed the reopening of schools in light of the continuing corona virus pandemic. After much discussion, a special meeting was called for July 23 to discuss opening schools for the 2020 – 2021 school year.
July 23 – The Simpson County School Board met in person and virtually on July 20 to determine a plan to reopen schools for the upcoming school year, including a start date of August 10 instead of August 6. Three options were given to board members: return to a traditional classroom method; a hybrid model where groups would alternate between on-campus and virtual learning; and virtual classes only. Ultimately the board opted for traditional or hybrid with hopes of returning to on-campus classes only as soon as COVID 19 case numbers would allow.
July 30 - Simpson County Academy set the opening of the new school year for August 7. Students could attend on campus or virtually; however, once the decision is made for virtual learning students must complete the semester that way.
August 6 – Before Simpson County Schools opened its doors to students, Magee High School implemented a quarantine of a group of female athletes due to one member testing positive for COVID 19. The quarantine period ran from July 30 – August 13 and included all females participating in volleyball, basketball and softball.
August 13 – The Star Theatre in Mendenhall, once a staple of downtown and featured in the film My Dog Skip was auctioned off for $3,000. Previously it had been donated to the city with hopes of restoring the run down building. This proved unsuccessful. The board decided it would be in the best interest all to auction it.
August 20 – Magee and Mendenhall Public libraries reopened to the public with a limited number of patrons at any one time, based upon CDC guidelines. Masks were required. A limited number of computers were available due to social distancing requirements.
August 27 – Simpson County Board of Supervisors anticipate the need for a 4.5 mill increase as a result of a decrease of 0.14 in valuation. A public hearing for adoption of the new budget is set for September 15, 2020, at 9 a.m.
In the battle of the Cougars Simpson County Academy took down Columbia with a 39-12 win during the season opener.
September 3 – Local businessman Benny Hubbard was appointed by Lt. Governor Delbert Hoseman to serve on the Medial Care Advisory Committee, which advises the Division of Medicaid about health and medical care services in the state. Hubbard is co-owner of Advanced Care Health Management in Magee.
Simpson County Board of Supervisors met to discuss how federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funds can be spent. The county qualified for nearly $500,000 in CARES funding.
Simpson County School Board approved an order for purchasing computers for all county public school students and faculty with an 80 – 20 matching grant. The total cost is $1.6 million to cover the purchase of Chrome Books and necessary software.
September 10 – The “Friday Night Lights” special section featured Magee Trojans looking for retribution this season, in spite of COVID 19 setbacks, with a projection of having the talent to win big during the 2020 – 2021 season.
Mendenhall Tigers opened their season against the Columbia Wildcats hoping for revenge over last year’s opener. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell to the Wildcats 28-46.
September 17 – Several members of Magee High School football team, cheerleaders and teachers are under two week quarantine due to COVID 19 exposure. None will be allowed to return to school until September 21.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College is named one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a survey by The Great Colleges to Work For ® program.
October 1 – Simpson County Public Schools will return to the traditional classroom setting beginning October 21, according to Superintendent Greg Paes. The students will attend classes four out of five days weekly with Wednesday set aside for cleaning and sanitization purposes.
Magee High School’s new Trojan Field House officially opened September 25 with a ribbon cutting. Nearly 100 guests were on hand for the event including Simpson County School Board members and high school staff.
The General Election held November 3 included not only the presidential election but also the vote on the proposed new design of the state flag for Mississippi. Federal and state legislative elections are included along with medical marijuana measures.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College made its annual report to the Simpson County Board of Supervisors that included announcing the opening of the new 23,412 square foot, $6.2 million Career-Technical Building on the Simpson County campus.
October 15 – Mendenhall Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in the county to be certified with the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which reports crime data and statistics to the FBI.
October 29 – The weather cooperated this year for the annual Magee Chamber of Commerce Crazy Day. And even in the midst of a pandemic there were many food and merchandise vendors along with the 80’s cover band, Hairicane, the Car Show and inflatables for the children. While there was a decrease in attendance, all who were present appeared to have a great time.
November 5 – The Simpson County School District and members of the administrative staff were sued in federal court over a mask worn by a Simpson Central school student that stated “Jesus Loves Me.” Lydia Booth, 9 years old, had worn the mask to school previously without issue. However, on a subsequent occasion Booth was told by Principal Dr. Antoinette Woodall that she had to remove it and wear one provided by the school. Booth complied. Besides Woodall, Superintendent Greg Paes and Asst. Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Robert Sanders were named in the suit filed by parents Matthew and Jennifer Booth based on restriction of religious liberty.
The Simpson County Cougars lost to the Starkville Academy Volunteers in the first round of playoffs, 21-26.
November 12 – Mendenhall and Magee set dates for traditional Christmas parades in December. This year’s theme for Mendenhall was “Maskerade” and will be Thursday, December 3, 6 p.m. Magee will host their parade on Tuesday, December 8, 6 p.m. with the theme “Songs of Christmas.”
Former Simpson County Sheriff Donald O’Cain died Monday, November 9, following a lengthy illness. His career in law enforcement spanned nearly six decades.
Results from the General Election November 3, showed President Donald Trump handily winning Simpson County. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Michael Guest also carried Simpson County. All three won in the state. Additionally the featured flag design carried, along with approval of the medical marijuana measure.
The Magee Trojans remained undefeated this season with a 43-0 win over the Yazoo County Panthers.
November 19 – The Mendenhall Area Chamber of Commerce made a public declaration by way of a letter to the Simpson County School Board of no support for a consolidated high school located in Magee at the former Pioneer Health facility. However, they are open to consolidation provided it is more centrally located in the county.
Magee Trojan quarterback Chandler Pittman was selected as a Mr. Football recipient for the 2020 season. The program is a partnership between Mississippi High School Activities Association, Mississippi Association of Coaches and the New Orleans Saints.
Due to an increase in COVID 19 cases at Simpson County Academy the decision was made to provide distance learning only to clean and sanitize the facilities. Initially the closure was set for one week - November 11 – 15. With the increase, however, the school remained closed the week before Thanksgiving break.
November 26 – Fontaine McNair was appointed by Governor Reeves to the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB), whose mission is to develop and implement a strategy to maximize the state’s education, training, and employment service resources in support of economic development. McNair is PriorityOne Bank’s Simpson Division president.
After defeating the Raleigh Lions 35 – 0, Magee Trojans will play Columbia for the 3A South State Championship. The Mendenhall Tigers will face the Poplarville Hornets for the 4A South State Championship after winning against the Sumrall Bobcats, 26 – 19.
December 3 – Governor Reeves continued to monitor the COVID 19 statistics and placed an additional 19 counties under a mask mandate, bringing the total to half the counties statewide, 41 of 82. Simpson County was not under the mandate at this time. The counties included continue to see a higher average in new cases over a shorter percentage of time than the state.
The Magee Trojans defeated the Columbia Wildcats, 14-6, winning the 3A South State Championship. The Trojans then took aim at the 3A State Championship and will play Noxubee County Tigers Friday, December 3, 11 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. The Mendenhall Tigers fell in their quest for 4A South State Champions losing to Poplarville Hornets, 6-35.
December 10 – In a 49-26 defeat over Noxubee County Tigers, the Magee Trojans brought home the trophy for the 3A State Championship. With this win the Trojans snapped a 20 year championship drought. Quarterback Chandler Pittman was named MVP.
December 17 – Simpson County School Board reported that 11 of the 60 bus drivers for the system have either tested positive or are under quarantine for COVID 19. According to District Superintendent Greg Paes, if numbers continue to climb, it may be necessary to change to virtual learning. However, classes ended Friday, December 18, for Christmas break and it was his intention to resume traditional classes when students return spring semester.
December 24 – Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 19, was observed at Mendenhall City Cemetery with families, friends and volunteers in attendance. National Wreaths Across America Day is a coordinated wreath-laying effort at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., as well as at cemeteries in all 50 states and abroad. This year 1.7 million wreaths were placed at 2,557 participating locations. This is the third year that the Mendenhall Cemetery has participated in this national event as an official location.