If you find yourself stuck in Jackson, Mississippi’s Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN) with some time to kill, never fear! There’s plenty to do to while away the hours until your flight. This blog post will give you a rundown of the best things to do at the airport.
History of Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport
You’ve arrived at Mississippi’s largest airport. From here, you can travel with American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, or United Airlines. This airport facility was established in 1963 to serve both commercial and military air passengers. The original buildings were named for the active mayor of the City of Jackson, Allen C Thompson, and were generally known as Thompson Field.
Jackson Municipal Airport was a pioneer among airports constructed with parallel runways versus cross-wind intersecting runways utilized by the smaller aircraft operations. The cross winds have less impact on the larger planes; therefore, this innovation results in more efficient landings and take-offs.
When the United States Customs Service designated Jackson Municipal Airport as an “International Port of Entry” in 1989, the facility became an international airport. Then, in December 2004, Jackson’s City Council voted to rename the commercial airport and honor the slain civil rights advocate Medgar Evers, the NAACP’s first field officer in Mississippi.
The current name is Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN). Travel + Leisure’s 2021 rankings placed this airport as #4 on the best domestic (U.S.) airports list. Let’s explore why.
Food Options at Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport
If you’re looking for something to eat, there are plenty of options at JAN. You’ll find the Farish Street Market and the Mississippi Blues & Tap restaurants in the West Terminal near the gates for Delta Airlines. In the East Terminal, enjoy all-day dining at Capital City Tavern. And no trip to an airport in the South would be complete without getting your hands on some southern-style pralines. Look for these sugary pecan treats at Pearl River Marketplace, near the ticketing counters.
Explore the Airport
Medgar Wiley Evers Pavilion
The Medgar Wiley Evers Pavilion is the perfect spot to learn more about the airport’s history or simply relax and watch airplanes moving on the tarmac. The pavilion is on the second level near the ticketing booths.
This pavilion is an educational museum space with vintage photos, art pieces, and sculptures. This is an ideal place to unwind, learn, and think, especially during a short layover of only a couple of hours.
In the exhibit, the statue of children captures the attention. In fact, it is the centerpiece of the entire display. The “Reconciliation: A Work in Progress” is a statue of two young girls. Their faces show hope for a brighter future, and their posture is that of friendship. The one dressed in dungarees is facing toward the outside of the building, facing the west. The other is posed with an arm around her friend and looking ahead toward the visitors to the exhibit.
Artwork in the Airport
Art lovers will enjoy walking through both concourse hallways. On the second level’s West Concourse, watch for the large graphics of Elvis, Oprah, and other notable celebrities with ties to Mississippi.
The East Concourse has a tucked-away photography exhibit at the far end of the concourse, beyond all gates. This eclectic realism exhibition carries viewers into a fantasy of valid landscapes with super-imposed images.
Shopping at Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport
This airport in Jackson, Mississippi, has several shopping options to help you pass the time. If you need some new reading material for your flight, stop by one of the airport’s three newsstands. Or, if you forgot to pack something essential, look for the Hudson News shops. Need last-minute gifts for your loved ones back home? You’re in luck—check out the Made in Mississippi shop at the front entrance to the airport on the second level.
Who was Medgar Evers?
Born in Newton County, Mississippi, on July 2, 1925, Medgar Evers left high school at 17 to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he served until his honorable discharge in 1946. When Evers returned from military service, he soon realized that fighting for his country didn’t guarantee equal rights. His earnest journey as a civil rights advocate began when he was denied voting access at a local election after years of military service.
Evers subsequently attended Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, which had high school and college courses. While there, Evers first completed high school and remained at the college to pursue a major in business administration.
Impact of Brown v. Board of Education on Medgar Ever’s Career
In 1954, the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Evers became one of the first African-Americans to apply to the University of Mississippi Law School. When his application was denied on a technicality, Evers turned to the NAACP for guidance. This conversation led to a job as NAACP’s first field officer in Mississippi. During this time, Evers initiated new chapters, organized voter registration campaigns, and chartered protests to desegregate public use areas in the state.
Medgar Evers’ Role in Ole Miss University Desegregation
The ongoing advocacy was pivotal, and eight years later, James Meredith was the first African-American student enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 1962. James Meredith’s admission to Ole Miss resulted from a Supreme Court mandate. However, a campus riot ensued when Meredith tried to register for classes. United States President John F. Kennedy dispatched more than 30,000 National Guardsmen to quell the riot.
In the ongoing confrontations, two bystanders were killed (Paul Guihard, a French journalist, and Ray Gunter, who was visiting with a friend), 206 marshals and soldiers were wounded, and some 200 individuals were arrested.
Death Threats and Assassination of Medgar Wylie Evers
Before 1962, Evers was involved in two high-profile Mississippi civil rights cases. His investigations into the 1955 death of Emmett Till and the 1960 civil rights activist Clyde Kennard’s conviction were cornerstones of his civil rights work. When Evers’ involvement in the integration of Ole Miss gained national media coverage, the death threats and other hostile actions against him accelerated.
White supremacists made several attempts on Evers’s life before the fatal bullet on June 12, 1963. Byron de la Beckwith assassinated Medgar Evers with a single bullet into his back, just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s televised speech in support of civil rights.
Due to his honorable military service, Medgar Evers is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.” ~ William Faulkner
When it comes time to board your flight, you’ll be glad to know that it’s a quick trip through the security screening. There are separate routes for the east and west concourses, and the processing team is quite efficient and friendly too! Even if you only have a few hours, make the most of your time.
So, sit back and relax—you might enjoy your layover at the Medgar Wylie Evers International Airport more than you thought possible!
If You Go:
Jackson – Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport
100 International Drive, Suite 300
Jackson, MS 39208
Nearby Hotels: (from Booking.com)
Home2 Suites By Hilton Jackson/Pearl, Mississippi
Sheraton Flowood The Refuge Hotel & Conference Center
Nearby Things to Do
Amazing Let’s Roam Jackson Scavenger Hunt: Pretty Mississippi!
Zombie Scavengers Game – Jackson, MS
Mississippi Writer’s Room at the Eudora Welty Library
Two Mississippi Museums – 222 N. State Street
Learn about more nearby attractions in this article, “Jackson, Mississippi: Blues, History and a Good Time” on GoNomad.com