Reopening Quitman County Rural Access Hospital

November 8,  2021

Quentin Whitwell, CEO Panola Med
P: 662.388.0700


(MARKS, MS) It is miraculous! The local stakeholders and residents of Quitman County are awaiting the highly-anticipated reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the county’s rural access hospital, scheduled for November 12, 2021 at 10:30 a.m.

When the Quitman County rural critical access hospital closed in 2016, it was a devastating blow to the community. Clamoring for hope, Marks/Quitman County, Miss. recently got a full-service grocery store back and has set its sights on local tourism, especially with the 2018 grand opening of the Amtrak station in Marks. Caught by a vision for renewal, a local hospital operator approached the County leaders with a message, “Let’s re-open the hospital and bring back jobs so that we can save lives.” Quentin Whitwell grew up in Oxford some forty miles away and with two business partners saved the bankrupt neighboring hospital in Batesville, Panola Medical Center, in March 2019 when that facility was set to close at midnight. He saw Quitman County as an outpost that needed robust healthcare services. Having served in the State capital city of Jackson as a City Councilman, rural healthcare came naturally — help people in service.

Marks, is the county seat of Quitman County, a small rural town with less than 2,000 residents, has a deep-roots in agriculture and civil rights history. Marks/Quitman County served as the starting point of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, an effort to gain economic justice for those who suffered from poverty. Due to this national civil rights history, Quitman County is  designated as part of the Mississippi Freedom Trail. In 2011, Marks was selected from over 200 sites viewed as one of the thirty locations in Mississippi to receive a historical marker by the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force.

Many of its current residents live below the poverty line. Because of out-migration, the land and its people have suffered in recent years. Healthcare is scarce, and the local hospital closed in October of 2016. COVID-19 has wrecked the area boasting 1,042 cases and 27 deaths this year as the aptly named “Delta variant” swept through its population.

The Panola Med team partnered with the Board of Supervisors to establish Quitman Community Hospital. To the board, it is a statement to take back their community and restore it to its glory. For Quentin, it’s a message that nothing is impossible when people work together, and local bank President Peyton Self did not hesitate to answer the call. Armed with a one-million-dollar loan secured by the County and provided by the Citizens Bank of Marks, Quitman Community Hospital will open its doors again fully functioning as a medical-surgical hospital with an around-the-clock Emergency Department.

Racing ahead, the Panola Med team has hired nurses and providers, techs, and staff. Over 500 applicants have sent in resumes from locals to as far as Boston. The old hospital has been restored with supplies, equipment, and beds. By meeting the State and Federal guidelines of a critical access hospital, the City of Marks and Quitman County are poised for a brighter future.

The phone number for the new Quitman Community Hospital is 662-388-0700.



Quitman County Hospital Returns


September 8, 2021

Quentin Whitwell, CEO Panola Med


Closed Critical Access Hospital in Marks, MS Slated to Reopen

(MARKS, MS) – The hospital in Quitman County closed on October 31, 2016, as the county’s largest employer with 99 people. Without healthcare, despondency has grown with in the unemployed. Current acute healthcare situations have worsened due to the length of time it takes to receive critical medical and healthcare services in neighboring counties, which is at minimum a 30-minute drive.

With the county’s resolve to reopen, a partnership has been created with nearby Panola Medical Center. A path has been cleared for the Quitman Community Hospital to reopen by vote of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning. The hospital will have the capacity to provide emergency care as well as beds for acute patients, including those with COVID-19.

Manuel Killebrew, President of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors stated that he is “elated that the board, Delta Medical Foundation and Panola Medical Center in Batesville are forming a partnership to reopen the hospital.” Killebrew went on to say, “This means that 75-100 good paying jobs will return to the county, and it goes without saying, we need a hospital close by to provide medical services for our citizens.”

Panola Medical Center was re-established by its acquisition from a bankrupt estate and has improved its bottom line, grown its services and become a partner with local industrial and government partners. Quentin Whitwell, CEO and Chairman of the Board, made a statement about Panola’s influence and the Quitman re- opening. “Serving our patient populations in the North Delta region is our mission. Providing exceptional care for better health is our driven passion.”

“By reopening this hospital, the loss of jobs in the community will be reversed and the citizens of Marks will have renewed energy to grow the economy in the area,” stated Senator Robert Jackson, who represents the State of Mississippi, District Eleven, which includes Quitman County. “I am pleased to have brought the Panola Med operators to the Board and that this new relationship has been forged.”

“The practical care we give every day needs follow-up and ease of access to specialists that can tend to higher acuity levels. But having a launching point from our own hospital will save lives and create new outcomes for patients,” said Lonnie Moore, a local Nurse Practitioner who also owns the former hospital building, and the president of Delta Medical Foundation.

Quitman County is located in the Mississippi Delta. This is a rural underserved county with the racial makeup of 27.3 % whites, 70.9% blacks and 1.8 % others. It has a median annual household income of $25,383 and a poverty rate of 35.6%, making it one of the poorest counties in the United States. The 2020 Census data shows Quitman County population declined by -17.40%. This county went from 8,223 to 6,792 residents living in this county, the largest percentage of lost population out of the 82 counties located within the State of Mississippi.

Recent data from the National Rural Accountable Care Consortium ranked Quitman County 79th for health outcomes, 79th for health behavior, and 77th for health factors out of the 82 counties in Mississippi. This data also indicates that the county struggles with health issues such as 58% of the adult population dealing with high blood pressure, 45% with high cholesterol, 31% with heart disease, and 17% with diabetes.

In recent years, Quitman County has shown glimmers of promise and resilience. In April 2021, the closed SuperValu reopened as an independently-owned Jeffcoat’s Family Market. In May 2018, the ribbon cutting was held for the opening of the newest Northwest Regional Amtrak stop in Marks. And, due to the county’s rich 1960s civil rights history, ties to four National Historic Native American Mounds, iconic blues artists and country music late great Charley Pride, and a National Wildlife Refuge, Quitman County is becoming a nascent tourism destination.

Having the Quitman Community Hospital back up and running will make a significant difference in the quality of life for its residents, and help change the trajectory of the exodus of the county’s population.


Quitman County Receives $400K to Restore Historic Courthouse

In the near future the citizens of Quitman County will be able to get onto an elevator to access the second floor of the historic courthouse to attend public meetings and court proceedings. Obtaining this elevator was made possible through the Board of Supervisors’ submission of a proposal and resolution for the renovations of the 110-year-old courthouse building.

With this information, Senator Robert Jackson submitted a Senate Bill to request funds during the 2020 Mississippi Legislature Regular Session for this project. The renovations include exterior repairs and painting; installation of an elevator, and window restoration.

The elevator is crucial to the building to allow citizens with disabilities to access the upper level as the board continues to work to improve the accessibility and bring the courthouse into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The board members are appreciative to Senator Jackson for submitting this proposal to the Senate. Thanks to the Senator’s hard work and efforts, Quitman County was awarded $400,000.00 in bond funds for the project.

The Quitman County Courthouse was constructed in 1911 when the county seat was moved to Marks. Since then, the Courthouse has served the community as a very important building to the County, City of Marks,

and other municipalities. The two-story courthouse was designed by the Chamberlin and Associates Architecture Firm in the Neoclassical style and was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1990.

The Board has made it a priority to improve the quality of services and the experience of its citizens at the Courthouse. Property improvements to dedicated parking around the courthouse square have recently been completed, and with bond funding the Board of Supervisors will continue to make improvements.

Belinda Stewart Architects (BSA) of Eupora, Mississippi will work with the Board on this project. They specialize in the restoration of historic buildings and have extensive experience with planning and construction. BSA has worked with the Quitman County School District on the restoration of Phase One of the Marks Rosenwald School, which is now complete. In 2019 BSA helped the school district receive additional funds from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for Phase Two of the Rosenwald Project.

The Board feels that they are a valuable partner in this significant project for the renovation to the Quitman County Historic Courthouse. To stay up-to-date with its progress, visit or the Quitman County MS Facebook page.

Quitman County to Host Amtrak Station Ribbon Cutting

This project has been in the making for nearly three decades, and finally, in less than a month, the City of New Orleans Northbound Amtrak Train #58 will sound its whistle at a distance and slowly bring its engine to a stop on the tracks at the new Northwest Regional Amtrak Station at 285 Cherry Street in Marks, Mississippi.

Interior and National Park Service Grants

Interior and National Park Service Announces $12.6 Million in Grants
to Preserve African American Civil Rights History

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service today announced $12.6 million in grants for 51 projects in 24 states that preserve sites and highlight stories related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century.

The Marks Mule Train and MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Interpretive Trail received $50,000.

Learn More

50th Mule Train Anniversary Event

Quitman County to Celebrate 50th Anniversary
of Mule Train March With “Rebuild the Dream” Symposium

(MARKS, MS) – In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., walked and marched down Highway 3 in Marks, Mississippi. Few would have imagined then that decades later the same main thoroughfare would bear his name. Dr. King’s three visits to Marks and Quitman County in the 1960s were during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement that highlighted social and political discontent and led to cataclysmic changes in our nation. While in Marks, Dr. King visited schools and homes of local leaders and spoke at several churches, rallying support from ministers, community leaders, and volunteers to help launch the second War on Poverty.

One of his lasting legacies, among many, is that of the Mule Train from Marks to Washington, D.C., as the centerpiece of the Poor People’s Campaign. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of these significant events, and organizers have planned a commemoration to honor all those who participated and their sacrifices. The four-day “Rebuild the Dream” symposium, scheduled for May 10-13, 2018, is designed to memorialize and celebrate those efforts.

Dr. King chose Marks as the starting point for the Poor People’s Campaign after witnessing heart-breaking poverty on a trip to the Mississippi Delta with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy. The idea of the campaign to help fight the systemic poverty in the Delta had been suggested to Dr. King in the fall of 1967 by Marian Wright, director of Mississippi’s NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. This came after Ms. Wright, a 27-year-old Yale Law School graduate, convinced Senator Robert F. Kennedy and other lawmakers to travel to Mississippi as part of the Senate subcommittee’s look at War on Poverty programs. Their shocking findings of hunger in the population were well publicized throughout the country and deeply affected Senator Kennedy, which eventually helped bring the issue of food insecurity to light.

It was Sen. Kennedy’s idea to pressure Congress to act on food assistance programs, and Ms. Wright passed the suggestion on to Dr. King to mobilize a mass of poor people to come to Washington and stay until their voices were heard. Dr. King’s goal was for 2,000 people in dire economic situations to meet with government officials in the nation’s capital to help find solutions for the lack of jobs, fair wages, and equitable education opportunities that was pervasive in many places around the nation, but particularly in the Delta.

The march on Washington, D.C., was scheduled to take place in May of 1968, even though many thought the goal was too ambitious. After Dr. King was assassinated in April, Rev. Abernathy was determined to continue plans for the march. The first group of approximately 350 demonstrators left in early May by bus, and the second group left on May 13, in a caravan of more than fifteen mule-drawn wagons. By this time, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had taken the lead, using the opportunity to take their message throughout the South on the way to Washington. When they finally arrived, they met more than 50,000 others who cared enough about this cause to join in the demonstration.

Key commemorative activities that are part of the “Rebuild the Dream” anniversary include a community-wide prayer breakfast and evening reception followed by a banquet; a re-enactment of the students/teachers march by the Madison S. Palmer High School drama class; workshops and panel discussions on confronting persistent poverty, healthcare disparities, civil and human rights issues, and racial and economic equity. Other activities planned are tours along the Marks Mule Train Trail and the mule-wagon rides re-enactment featuring iconic Civil Rights speakers as well as a picnic in the historic Marks Roadside Park. The culminating event for the four-day symposium will take place on Mother’s Day, May 13th, with a gospel concert featuring the GRAMMY®-winning Mighty Clouds of Joy.

The organizers of “Rebuild the Dream” symposium are partnering with Dr. Charles Steele, the national president/CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and extending invitations to the SCLC leaders and activists who were in Marks during spring of 1968 to help organize the Marks Mule Train and the Poor People’s Campaign. Some of the well-known activists who participated were Ambassador Andrew Young; Reverend Jesse Jackson; Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr.; Sidney Poitier, actor-film director and Academy Award winner; and Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and civil rights activist. Marian Wright, who eventually married one of Senator Kennedy’s aides, Peter Edelman, should also be recognized for her trips to the Delta as well as her tenacity in keeping the issues from fading away.

Dr. Hilliard L. Lackey III, historian, author and professor at Jackson State University is leading the organizers of the event. He has been a champion of promoting this history for the past forty-nine years. Part of his life-long mission has been to “Rebuild the Dream” to make sure this piece of civil rights history is remembered. Dr. Lackey said, “King’s visits to Marks were not hollow. The seeds he planted fifty years ago in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta have germinated.” He sees Dr. King’s dream as composed of teachable layers of tribulation that are not only unfolding, but intensifying the vision of King’s dream.

Tickets to the Mighty Clouds of Joy concert are $15, but all other events are free and open to the public. A special invitation is issued to those who took part or witnessed this occasion to participate in planned key events and help commemorate this era of civil rights that impacted millions of Americans through the educational, nutritional, healthcare, and housing programs that took root as a result of the 1968 Marks Mule Train and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign.


Velma J. Benson-Wilson
PR Liaison – 662.388.1550 or 662.326.3520

Dr. Hilliard L. Lackey, III
Chairperson – 601.979.2434 or 601.955.8073

Marking the Mule Train Workshop

Marking the Mule Train Flyer

View Flyer PDF

On February 27, 2016, Quitman County held a workshop to interpret and commemorate the “Mule Train”, Marks’ contribution to the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.

The workshop, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and organized by Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center and Department of History, featured interactive centers and exhibits on the Mule Train and Marks.

The goal of the workshop was for the community to tell the MSU team what they wanted to see happen in Marks to mark the Mule Train.

View our Photo Gallery to learn more about this workshop.


Marking the Mule Train

mule-train-markerNEA Our Town Planning Grant

Marking the Mule Train:
Placemaking for Marks, MS

This project will consist of a 12 months planning period to develop a comprehensive cultural master plan featuring an interpretive trail and center in Marks, MS. The master plan will highlight and interpret sites of the historic 1968 Poor People’s Campaign “Mule Train.” within Marks. The Mule Train was a wagon train pulled by mules organized by the SCLC starting in Marks, MS and ending in Washington D.C. The protestors joined 3,000 others nationwide at “Resurrection City”, a tent city on the Washington Mall to protest the condition of the poor in the U.S. Marks had been visited twice previously by Dr. Martin Luther King and became a symbol to him of the plight of the poor.


Freedom Trail Marker News Release

Visit Mississippi will unveil the 20th marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail at 12 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 at 1098 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Marks, Miss. The marker commemorates the Mule Train/Poor People’s March, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read full article:

‘The City’ is coming to Marks

Amtrak service will stop in Delta town as early as spring 2016

The announcement that Amtrak will add a flag stop at Marks in the heart of the Delta is already generating quite a buzz in the Delta and beyond. Marks Mayor Joe Shegog recently did an interview with CNN about the stop in the middle of the Delta for people to hop off to visit Blues Trail sites and other attractions in the area.

Read full article: MS Business Journal