October 2009

‘First TVA City’ pins pique public pride

The iconic sign has been pointing the way to Tupelo’s business district for decades. Now one community hopes its small-scale replicas can show the way to an improved quality of life as well.


Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed sports a First TVA City pin presented by Bill Collins, right.

Pointing east from the intersection of Gloster and Main, the original sign stands in the heart of the first city to receive electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority. President Franklin D. Roosevelt marked the occasion with a visit to Tupelo in 1934, flipping a ceremonial switch that brought the first sparks of power from Wilson Dam, near the Alabama-Tennessee state line, to the homes and businesses of Lee County in northeast Mississippi, setting the course for an improved quality of life for all the generations that followed.

Today, Bill Collins, president of Tupelo’s Willis Heights Neighborhood Association, hopes lapel-pin reproductions of the sign help point the way to a New Deal in our time as well.

Purchased with a grant from the city and selling for $5 each, the pins raise money for improvement projects within Willis Heights, a 300-acre neighborhood in the central part of town.

“Everybody who sees one wants one,” Collins says.