342 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI casinos, Mississippi underwent a sudden boom in gaming. The relatively tiny Splash Casino was the first new establishment to open in the Mississippi Delta, just north of Clarksdale, drawing in thousands upon thousands of patrons. Splash Casino quickly fell into the shadows, however, as Tunica County took the lead—and the lion’s share of the purse strings—by drawing in major gambling corporations from Atlantic City and Vegas to transform the former planting fields into miles of neon-lit entertainment venues and hotels. World-class restaurants and big-name entertainers caused visitors to flock to the Mississippi Delta from surrounding states and, eventually, international origins. In two decades, Tunica County reaped almost $760 million from casino revenues. Although there have been signs of an industry slowdown in recent years, casinos in the Delta have become gaming and entertainment destinations for vacationers across the country. There have also been some positive changes to the Delta’s racial and economic structure. Public schools in the Delta are no longer segregated by law, and a few schools contain a good mixture of white and African American students. Delta State has the state’s most racially diverse student body of all of Mississippi’s eight public institutions of higher learning. In Merigold, the Hayes Cooper Center for Math, Science & Technology opened in 1990 as a groundbreaking magnet school with a 50 percent African American and 50 percent white enrollment in every kindergarten through sixth grade classroom. The public school, which has for the past three decades topped Mississippi’s standardized test scores and school ratings, was chosen by Congress as a model for the federal Technology in Education Bill; it also earned the model practices and mentorship status by the Southeastern Regional Education Board for its innovative science and technology educational practices. Success Stories Delta natives have made great contributions to the worlds of sports and entertainment. In the 1960s and 1970s, no Mississippi athlete was more renowned than Archie Manning. A star in basketball, baseball, and football at Drew High School, the humble redheaded kid from Sunflower County went on to play football and baseball at the University of Mississippi from 1967 to 1971. Manning captivated the state as he led the Ole Miss Rebels football team to victories in the Liberty and Sugar Bowls. Manning was twice a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as college football’s most outstanding player. When his Ole Miss playing days were over, he became the second overall pick in the 1971 National Football League (NFL) college draft. Selected by the New Orleans Saints, Manning played for thirteen years in the league and was selected twice to play in the Pro Bowl. Manning, who remains a beloved sports icon in his home state, is recognized nationally for his work in sports media and the athletic successes of his sons Peyton and Eli, who have won a combined four Super Bowl championships. Although he was born in East Mississippi, football legend Jerry Rice honed his craft at Mississippi Valley State during the early 1980s. In 1985, the San Francisco 49ers selected Rice with the sixteenth pick in the first round of the NFL draft. Rice also played with the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks, but he made his name with the great 49ers squads of the 1980s and 1990s. As a wide receiver for the 49ers, Rice broke numerous records, was a perennial All-Pro, and won three Super Bowls. He earned the Most Valuable Player award for Super Bowl XXIII when the 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals. Rice retired from professional football in 2005. Five years later, Rice was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2010, the NFL Network conducted a survey of past and present NFL coaches, players, reporters, and executives to compile a list of the 100 greatest NFL players of all time. This panel of experts selected Rice as the greatest player in NFL history. Since the 1970s, athletic success in the Delta has not been limited to men. At Delta State University, the women’s basketball program has been a national powerhouse, particularly from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Margaret Wade, a retired Cleveland High School coach and physical education instructor at Delta State, took the reins of the Lady Statesmen in 1973. With the help of admissions recruiter Melvin Hemphill, Wade landed the best women’s basketball talent in the state. Best of all was Lusia Harris, a six-foot, three-inch African American center from Minter City in Leflore County. Less than a decade after the university desegregated, Harris had become a star on campus and was the nation’s best player. She averaged twenty-six points and fourteen rebounds over her career, World-class restaurants and big-name entertainers caused visitors to flock to the Mississippi Delta from surrounding states and, eventually, international origins. In two decades, Tunica County reaped almost $760 million from casino revenues.