Hancock county and Jackson were the only two large counties which comprised the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1817 when Mississippi became a state at the First Session, First General Assembly (1817-1818). The great Seal of Mississippi was adopted and is described in the Laws of the State as follows:
“The seal of the state, the inscription of which shall be “the great seal of the state of Mississippi,’ around the margin, and in the center an eagle, with the olive branch and quiver of arrows in his claws.”
Seventy-seven years passed after statehood for Mississippi before a Coat-of-Arms was adopted. A committee to design the coat-of-arms was appointed by legislative action on February 7, 1894. The committee recommended “a shield in color blue, with an eagle upon it with extended pinions, holding in the right talon a palm branch and a bundle of arrows in the left, with the word ‘Mississippi’ above the eagle; the lettering on the shied and the eagle to be in gold; below the shield two branches of cotton stalk, saltierwise, as submitted design, and a scroll below extending upward and on each side three-fourths of the length of the shield; upon the scroll, which is to be red, the motto be printed in gold letters upon white spaces, as in design accompanying, the motto to be “VIRTUTE ET ARMIS.”
Hancock County, now designated a Bird Sanctuary, attracts many beautiful songbirds, however, none so dear to the hearts of our residents as the Mocking Bird, adopted as our State Bird under Chapter 326, Laws of Mississippi of 1944. This bird is the subject of paintings and sculpture, and it is renowned for its ability to “mock”, or reproduce the sounds and songs of many other birds. One naturalist reported a mockingbird imitated 32 different kinds of birds in a short period of ten minutes! The mockingbird, friend of the gardener, also eats insects and weed seeds and is classified as “a friend to man.”
Children of the State of Mississippi were given the privilege of selecting the State Flower. Only children were permitted to vote in the election, which was held in November 1900. The children sent in 23,278 votes of which the magnolia received 12,745 votes. The cotton blossom ran a poor second with 4,171 votes, and the cape jasmine trailed with 2,482. The Law of Mississippi of 1952 (Chapter340) made official the Magnolia as Mississippi’s State Flower.
It was not until April 1, 1938 that the Mississippi Legislature, and by a large majority vote, officially designated the Magnolia as the State Tree. Although there are 35 kinds of magnolia that grow wild in the United States, we think of the “southern magnolia” with its large glossy dark green leaves and large white snowy flowers as our official tree. In the late 70’s small magnolias were planted some five miles along Highway 90 from the Bay Bridge to Waveland.