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Department store walls tell stories of Tupelo and Mississippi
By Tom Adkinson
April 16, 2021

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of travel stories spotlighting destinations and activities to consider in a time of coronavirus and to inspire safe outings elsewhere.)

elvis mural tupelo mississippi
Elvis mural in Tupelo. Image by Tom Adkinson.

TUPELO, Mississippi – The red brick walls of Reed’s Department Store at the corner of West Main and Front streets in downtown Tupelo tell two nuanced Mississippi stories. Facing West Main Street is a mural of a young Elvis Presley, while around the corner and facing Front Street is a mural of Mississippi’s state flag.

The mural of Elvis fits the motif of much of Tupelo because the world-famous entertainer was born here. Nationally recognized graffiti muralist Ryan “ARCY” Christenson painted it during the 2018 Tupelo Elvis Festival. (A fun fact: ARCY incorporates Mickey Mouse ears in his murals as a treat for his children.) Directly across the street is Tupelo Hardware, the store where Elvis’ mother bought him his first guitar.

new mississippi state flag
New Mississippi state flag. Image by Tom Adkinson.

The mural of the Mississippi flag might be seen simply as a statement of state pride if you didn’t know it became official only in January 2021. Its design was chosen by referendum to replace one that had included the battle flag of the Confederacy. The previous design was the last state flag in the U.S. to include the Confederate emblem.

A commission selected possible flag designs, voters statewide made their choice and the legislature made it official. Mississippi is the Magnolia State, and the new design’s major element is a magnolia blossom. Around it are 20 stars that indicate Mississippi was the 20th state in the Union, and a golden star recognizing Mississippi’s Native American tribes is at the top of the design.

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(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

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