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Meridian is the sixth largest city in the state of Mississippi, in the United States. It is the county seat of Lauderdale County and the principal city of the Meridian, Mississippi Micropolitan Statistical Area. Along major highways, the city is 93Â mi (150Â km) east of Jackson, Mississippi; 154Â mi (248Â km) west of Birmingham, Alabama; 202Â mi (325Â km) northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana; and 231Â mi (372Â km) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee.
Established in 1860, at the intersection of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway of Mississippi, Meridian's economy was built on the railways and goods transported on them, and it became a strategic trading center. During the American Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman burned much of the city was burned to the ground, in the Battle of Meridian(February, 1864).
Rebuilt after the war, the city entered a "Golden Age" it become the largest city in Mississippi between 1890 and 1930, and a leading center for manufacturing in the South, with 44 trains arriving and departing daily. Union Station, built in 1906, is now a multi-modal center, giving access to the Meridian Transit System, Greyhound Buses, and Trailways, averaging 242,360 passengers per year. Although the economy slowed with the decline of the railroad industry, the city has diversified, with healthcare, military, and manufacturing employing the most people in 2010. The population within the city limits, according to 2008 census estimates, is 38,232, but a population of 232,900 in a 45-mile (72Â km) radius and 526,500 in a 65-mile (105Â km) radius, of which 104,600 and 234,200 people respectively are in the labor force, feed the economy of the city.
The area is served by two military facilities, Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field, which provide over 4,000 jobs. NAS Meridian is home to the Regional Counter-Drug Training Academy (RCTA) and the first local Department of Homeland Security in the state. Key Field is named after brothers Fred and Al Key, who set a world endurance flight record in 1935. The field is now home to the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard and a support facility for the 185th Aviation Brigade of the Army National Guard. Rush Foundation Hospital is the largest non-military employer in the region, employing 2,610 people.
Among the city's many arts organizations and historic buildings are the Riley Center, the Meridian Museum of Art, Meridian Little Theatre, and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. Meridian was home to two Carnegie libraries, one for whites and one for African Americans. The Carnegie Branch Library, now demolished, was one of a number of Carnegie libraries built for blacks in the Southern United States during the segregation era.
The city has been selected as the future location of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center (MAEC). Jimmie Rodgers, the "Father of Country Music", was born in Meridian. Highland Park houses a museum which displays memorabilia of his life and career, as well as railroad equipment from the steam-engine era. The park is also home to the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, a National Historic Landmark. It is the world's only two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie in existence. Other notable natives include Miss America 1986 Susan Akin, James Chaney â€“ an activist who was killed in the Mississippi civil rights workers murders in 1964, and Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics headquartered in Meridian. The federal courthouse was the site of the 1966-1967 trial of suspects in the murder of Chaney and two other activists; it was the first time a white jury convicted a white official of a civil rights killing.