James Young recently made history in Philadelphia, Mississippi after defeating the incumbent Rayburn Waddell by 46 votes. On July 3rd he became the town’s first African American mayor. Philadelphia, Mississippi is notorious for its history of racism. The film Mississippi Burning is based on the murders of the three civil rights workers in 1964 at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.
Born in 1956, James Young was exposed to segregation. As one of 8 children, he became the first African American student to integrate into the local elementary school. In 1976, he became a paramedic and was eventually promoted to the director of the EMT unit. In 1992, he became a Pentecostal minister.
James Young’s election represents a turning point in a town where racism was once a staple. Young credits President Barack Obama’s campaign for new voter registration among its African Americans citizens. A new term begins for Young, as well as a new chapter for the once infamous town of Philadelphia.