top of page

Starkville, Mississippi Named
“The Best Small Town In The South”

Mac Gordon

Donuts on Cake

STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI, THE SOUTH’S BEST SMALL TOWN--- Starkville, home to Mississippi State University, is so much more than just a small college town. With multiple historic districts, great food all over town, and an active art scene, Starkville is worth a visit this Summer.

Starkville, you are amazing.

I never believed I would write those four words, but there they are and I mean them.

Starkville has recently been rated “The Best Small Town In The South.” I suspect that the town’s citizens and several hundred thousand alumni of Mississippi State University just exclaimed “Hail State!” and rightly so.

I also suspect that Oxford residents and several hundred thousand alumni of the University of Mississippi just screamed, “You must be kidding me!”

Residents of Hattiesburg and alumni of the University of Southern Mississippi diplomatically said, “Meh,” and moved on with life.

The reaction in Oxford over this piece of news must’ve shocked locals because they’ve always believed it was the South’s (if not the nation’s) best small town.

Well, not so much, at least for now. In a survey conducted by USA Today, a sister to The Clarion-Ledger, Starkville won this accolade over several other small southern towns, including Oxford.

The website — a group of Alabama newspapers, including those in Birmingham and Mobile —- quoted a USA Today higher up of saying this:

“Home to Mississippi State University, Starkville is much more than just a college town. You’ll find a thriving arts scene, multiple historic districts, many opportunities for bird-watching, and plenty of great food. Don’t miss checking out the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, a treasure trove of artifacts and correspondence.”

The article added:

“Look, Starkville -- or its nom de plume “StarkVegas” -- is a fine town. The home of Mississippi State University, a certain writer (Warren Kulo) went to school there, as well as a son who graduated last year, and has watched it grow over the years. It has a vibrant downtown entertainment area, ample shopping and dining and many historic points of interest.”

USA Today’s article went on to say that indeed, “There are a lot of great small towns scattered around the southern United States, including some right here in Alabama: Fairhope, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Vestavia Hills, Madison, to name a few. Throw in other towns from neighboring states, such as Oxford, Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs in Mississippi; or Palm Beach, Anna Maria Island and Cedar Key in Florida, along with countless other towns spread across the South, and it seemed the editors at USA Today’s ‘10 Best’ had their hands full in determining the “Best Small Town in the South.

“Once they chose the finalists and their readers voted, the winner was -- Starkville, Mississippi,” said the national newspaper, which is big on contests such as this one.

A similar survey determined that Oxford is, drums please, “The Best Small COLLEGE Town In The South.” So, the hometowns of these fine Mississippi’s public universities can both crow. noted that neither Tuscaloosa nor Auburn made the lists.

I saw how amazing Starkville is on our recent trip there for the graduation from MSU of grandson number two, Logan Henry. First grandson Bronson Henry had already graduated from State, and grands three and four, Nicholas Henry and Hayes Henry, will follow their brothers to graduation. While there, I toured the town and was amazed at the progress made in recent years.

In a sportswriting career with the Jackson Daily News, Tupelo Journal, Meridian Star and the Ole Miss Spirit, I must’ve covered well above a hundred events at Starkville and Mississippi State (including Ron Polk’s debut as baseball coach; ask me about it sometime). I enjoyed Starkville but I don’t recall it being as thriving, exciting, handsome or amazing as it is today, including the MSU campus.

Some hearty “Hail States” are due, indeed. Congratulations, Starkville.

---Mac Gordon is a native of McComb. He is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at

Donuts on Cake
bottom of page