464 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI DeSoto was the first in Mississippi to implement a comprehensive rural county development program, which Bouchillon claimed was the first in the entire South. The success of the council depended greatly on Bouchillon’s powers of persuasion; he admitted it was often hard to convince farmers that they needed to get permission to add a room to their farm houses or telling residents of trailer parks that they must install a sewage system. In the early 1960s, Bouchillon helped write bills in the state legislature adopting building, plumbing, and electrical codes. By the time of Bouchillon’s death in 2008, DeSoto was Mississippi’s fastest growing county. Thousands of acres of land a few years ago transformed from cotton fields into dairy farms were now the sites of industrial parks and housing developments spilling out from Memphis. Other counties followed suit. In Panola County, an “Economic Development Authority” was created when state senator Charles Nix sponsored a law allowing county Boards to use eminent domain and issue bonds for the buying and developing of property. The voters of Panola County consistently approved these measures. The city of Batesville especially enjoyed robust economic growth. Ending in 1988, Batesville invested $75 million for new local industries, creating 3,256 new jobs. In Marshall County, the newly-created Economic Development Authority hired a full time county administrator and county road manager. Crucial to these successes were fundamental reforms in county government. Ever since the 1830s, the Board of Supervisors operated under the old “beat system” in which individual board members ran their own little fiefdoms, handing out patronage and controlling spending. The adoption of the “county unit” system allowed the boards to effectively govern the county as a whole with members elected at large. Under this system, modern methods based on statistical analysis and long range planning replaced haphazard decisions based on personalities. The Cultural Landscape The 1990s saw a rediscovery of the vital blues tradition of North Mississippi. Fat Possum Records, founded in Oxford in 1991 by two writers for Living Blues magazine, extensively recorded previously unknown or underappreciated blues artists. The label’s most commercially successful artist proved to be R.L. Burnside. Born in Oxford in 1926, Burnside started playing guitar at the age of sixteen, learning the unique North Mississippi Hill Country blues style from “Mississippi” Fred McDowell of Como. Characterized by a heavy In Lafayette County from 1964 to 1969, soybean production rose from 38,906 to 157,153 bushels while cotton plummeted from 18,934 to 10,835 bales. By 1976, there were only two cotton gins left in the county. By the 1990s, there was not a single cotton gin left in Marshall County. In DeSoto County, the raising of dairy cattle increasingly replaced cotton. By the 1960s, DeSoto was the leading dairy producer in the state with 16,000 head. By 1970 soybeans were the county’s leading crop. These revolutionary changes were reflected in statistics. By 1970, only 8.4 percent of Lafayette residents lived on farms, while 57.3 percent lived in urban areas. In 1950, 40 percent of Panolians were farmers or farm laborers (75 percent ofAfricanAmericans). By 1990, less than 5 percent made their living through agriculture. In Marshall County, in 1950 out of 6,330 males employed, 3,552 were farmers or farm laborers, the vast majority AfricanAmerican. By 1970, only 244AfricanAmericans were listed as farmers. The story of one man in DeSoto County illustrates these changes. Just after the Civil War, DeSoto showed little promise. The county was overwhelmingly agricultural with only three paved roads. Unregulated junkyards and trailer parks spilled across the county line from Memphis. Only three municipalities existed: Hernando, Olive Branch, and Horn Lake. The future city of Southaven was vacant farm land with a few scattered houses. A.W. Bouchillon, a Hernando alderman and businessman, recalled, “There was a real need for a county-wide road system and zoning regulations helped those roads. Businesses and industry needed to know their investment would be protected.” Bouchillon, who served bravely as an army medic in the Pacific, arrived in Hernando in 1949. The Hernando and Olive Branch municipal governments, in cooperation with the county Board of Supervisors, supported a comprehensive land use and zoning plan as the key to future prosperity. In 1958, at the urging of Bouchillon, the Board of Supervisors officially endorsed a plan and established the council. The Board agreed on one condition: that Bouchillon become the first director. He agreed to serve for six months, then continued in office for twenty years. DeSoto was the first in Mississippi to implement a comprehensive rural county development program, which Bouchillon claimed was the first in the entire South.