420 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI nor the New Deal solved the problem of poverty that was the legacy of one crop agriculture. The largely rural population continued to suffer from preventable diseases such as hookworm, syphilis, tuberculosis, and typhoid. In 1920, Mississippians had one doctor to serve every 1,000 people, but by 1940, there was only one for every 1,900 citizens. Midwives had provided much of the state’s medical care, but by the mid-1940s, the state had encouraged retirements and handed out fewer licenses reducing the number of midwives by over half. Mississippians remained the poorest people in America by far. In 1937, the women at a Tupelo garment plant went on strike. The owners tried to fire the six women who led the strike but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) forced the plant to re-hire them and pay their back wages. Shortly after the NLRB decision, the plant was closed. McLean wrote in The Tupelo Daily Journal: “What we have done is balance our exceedingly low agricultural income with an equally low industrial income.” Both, he said, were below what constituted a decent standard of living. By 1940, despite TVA and the New Deal programs, the Northeast Corner contained some of the poorest counties in the United States. McLean had a plan to fight the region’s poverty, but he like thousands of others in the region put their plans on hold to serve their country in World War II. The War did more to break the cycle of poverty than any other period in Mississippi’s history. But the northeast did not share in the stimulus that much of the state enjoyed from the war effort. Not one of the dozens of bases or even the prisoner of war camps that dotted the state during the war was located in the region. As a result, the Corner lost population between 1940 and 1950. When the region’s men and women went to war, they often did not return. Benton County, the only region in the county with a sizable African American population, lost the most—almost 16 percent of its people. Tishomingo County declined 8.4 percent while Itawamba lost 13.6 percent. Only Alcorn County gained people, and then only .07 percent, because Corinth had the most industry. The family farm was a dying way of life and no New Deal program would save it. Lee County, the future center of industry after the war, declined by 1.5 percent during the decade ending in 1950. In 1945, George McLean returned from military service determined to pick up where he had left off with his personal campaign to develop the human potential of the region. A native Mississippian from Winona, McLean attended the University of Mississippi, University of Chicago, Stanford University, and Boston University. He studied at various times sociology, psychology, philosophy, and religion. He intended to become a Presbyterian minister, but instead took an instructor’s position at Southwestern College (now Rhodes) in Memphis. McLean bought the Tupelo paper in 1934 and embarked on a campaign to improve the lives of the people in his community. He started by enlisting some of his fellow church members including the mayor, a bank president, and one of the descendants of Tupelo’s founders. Before the war, he worked to create multi-county organizations to improve agriculture with some success. When he returned from the war, McLean accepted an unpaid position managing the chamber of commerce. One of his first acts was to hire a national agricultural firm to study the region and make recommendations for a long term plan. The firm started with the assumption that the region had to replace its small, non-mechanized farms with industry because the small farmers could not compete with the developing factory farms. The report stressed long-term improvements to the health, skills, and education of the people to prepare them to work well in the factories yet to be built. McLean began the process by founding the Rural Community Development Corporations (RCDC), which were designed to function with the same democratic system as New England town hall meetings. He first cultivated opinion leaders of three selected communities in Prentiss, Lee, and Itawamba By the mid-1970s, Lee County began to attract mid-level and high-tech manufacturers— Tecumseh being the first.