History of APA Mississippi

By Corrine Fox, FAICP

In the beginning we were few…a few private consultants, a few state employees, and perhaps a few others. The Mississippi planning and development districts had not been established, nor had the State Research and Development Center.

In the fall of 1963, a small group of five or so planners met one afternoon after a seminar sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to discuss the need for an organization in Mississippi that could provide an opportunity for professional development and camaraderie. A gentleman from HUD in Atlanta, whose name was Jim Bitting, met with the group and told us about Georgia’s involvement in an organization called the American Institute of Planners (AIP).

Soon our group of planners began to meet quarterly for fellowship and to listen to speakers on a broad range of topics. These early meetings were usually banquet style, with a speaker and spouses in attendance. At a well-attended meeting, there might have been thirty people present.

Due to the small number of professional planners in the state at that time, the national organization determined that there were not sufficient members to be classified as a separate chapter. Mississippi was given “section” status as a part of the Southeast Chapter of AIP. At that time the Southeast Chapter was comprised of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

As the years progressed, the Mississippi Research and Development Center was formed in 1965 and the ten planning and development districts were formed in the late 1960s. These two planning-related entities brought additional professional planners to the state and our numbers grew.

In the late 60s and early 70s, the Southeast Chapter of AIP was divided into more chapters and Mississippi became a “section” of the Alabama-Mississippi Chapter. This continued for several years and close relationships were formed with our neighboring state of Alabama through joint meetings and conferences. Later, we were able to gain the classification of a separate chapter.

Since its beginnings, the American Institute of Planners had been the “professional” arm of the wider planning organizations that included the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO), whose membership included elected officials and planning commissioners. In 1978, AIP and ASPO merged into the American Planning Association. The professional arm of that organization became known as the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Since the merger, the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association has consistently had an average of one-hundred members or more. This is largely due to the membership of local planning commissioners and elected officials in the national organization. APA Mississippi has also progressed from those evening banquet meetings with one speaker to two- and three-day conferences with outstanding programs by national speakers and close to one-hundred attendees.

Today, more than fifty-five years after the organization of APA Mississippi, we can be extremely proud of our accomplishments and look forward to growth and achievements over the next fifty years.