See the stories that made an impact across Mississippi in 2022

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Our team of reporters, visual journalists and editors is always busy in a state that outhits its weight class in creating dynamic news events. From flood, to drought to crises galore, Mississippi made plenty of national headlines in 2021.

The Clarion Ledger and the Hattiesburg American were at the forefront of those stories, holding government accountable, explaining key issues, entertaining and informing.

Amidst the backdrop of the well-publicized water crisis and a lesser-known garbage crisis, Jackson State's unprecedented era of football success captivated a record number of Tiger fans to grace its home stadium. Fans were later disappointed but hardly surprised by coach Deion Sanders' departure to Colorado.

The entire sports world was shocked by the untimely death of iconic Mississippi State coach Mike Leach in December. The Clarion Ledger was the first to report his dire condition.

In Sunday's editions you will find the inaugural Impact Report Premium Edition, a special section that focuses on meaningful stories we have presented from across the country.

The Clarion Ledger and the Hattiesburg American were not shy on impactful, meaningful work in Mississippi as well. The work below is not meant to be comprehensive as the state is rich with so many interesting stories to tell, but here is a baker's dozen of topics for which we did stories that made a difference across Mississippi in 2022. Rest assured many more like these are coming in 2023.

The water crisis: How we arrived here

Nelson Fiallos has lived in his northeast Jackson, Miss., home since 2009 and has fought habitual flooding. Sandbags saved them this time, Fiallos explained Friday, Sept. 1, 2022. Now, with the city water crisis, he and his wife Elena decided to send their three children, 3, 5, and 7 years old, to Honduras to live with their grandmother for a year to keep them safe and away from the water.

It's often asked. Who's at fault in the Jackson water crisis? The Republican state leadership blames it on poor management by the Democratic-led city. The city said they have begged for help from the state for years, with such pleas falling on deaf ears. Jackson's largely Black population continually believes that had the city been majority white, the problem would have been fixed years or even decades earlier.

So who is at fault? The Clarion Ledger spent weeks combing through old records and speaking with dozens of sources to determine the answer.

As with many simple questions, the answer is a complicated one. Poor decisions a century ago, poor management for decades from city and state administrations, endless political conflict and racism surrounding white flight and school integration were all factors that led to a collapse of the Jackson water system this past fall and left many in the state's capital scrambling for the most basic of human needs — water.

Read about it here:Jackson water crisis flows from a century of poverty, neglect and racism

Independent water testing

Gov. Tate Reeves and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba lifted Jackson's boil-water notice on Sept. 15, after 49 days through which the capital city's more than 150,000 residents were left without reliable drinking water.

Working alongside the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, the Clarion Ledger first administered independent testing for various bacteria in Jackson's water, revealing that yes, the state's announcement that the water was safe to drink was indeed correct.

But bacteria is just one aspect of safe water. We also tested for lead in water, and those results, often like the water itself, were a bit murkier. Several testing sites showed a presence of lead, including at the Clarion Ledger offices. No amount of lead in water is safe to consume, especially for at-risk groups. The results showed lead was present at higher levels than the city had disclosed.

Clarion Ledger tests for bacteria:Clarion Ledger independently tests Jackson's water. Here's what we found

Clarion Ledger tests for lead in water:Clarion Ledger investigation for lead in Jackson water reveals broader issues. See results

New developments, new experiences

While many businesses struggled through the water crisis. the Jackson area also saw several new projects in 2022. Downtown Jackson saw new apartment developments in old buildings as well as its first new building in more than a decade, a Chase Bank.

Development stories are among the most impactful work a news organization can provide to help people in their daily lives. Where to shop, eat, live, transact business and recreate are always on people's minds.

Amazon opened a new business in Canton providing a major increase in jobs. The governor also announced a major new project for 2023 that would bring 1,000 high-paying jobs.

A new grocery store was also announced for Hattiesburg. Two competing golf entertainment entities announced plans for Madison and Ridgeland.

Hattiesburg grocery expansion:Foodies take note: See which chain grocery store is coming soon to Hattiesburg

Downtown Jackson development:Chase Bank building in Downtown Jackson. See why.

Golf enteratainment venues: Topgolf announces Ridgeland location; will be second golf entertainment venue in Metro area

Jobs coming with new plant:State legislature passes nearly $250 million in incentives for aluminum production plant

Emmett Till family seeks justice

Six-plus decades after his torture and murder, Emmett Till still captivates the minds of Mississippians. In March, his family asked for murder charges to be brought against Carolyn Bryant Donham, whose false accusations led to the 14-year-old’s kidnapping and lynching in the Delta region. She is the only living accomplice in the crime.

Emmett Till:Family of Emmett Till wants woman who made false accusation to be charged with murder

New waves in an old musical genre

Poplarville isn't big, just 3,000 people. But the town did play a major part in the rise of three of country music's biggest new stars. Chapel Hart, whose members are Black, found it challenging to find acceptance in a predominantly white musical genre. But they are beloved in their hometown of Poplarville and now have hit it big after making their debut on the Grand Ole Opry and on "America's Got Talent."

Chapel Hart was just one of several breakthrough acts we chronicled last year. Other's including Meridian siblings Track 45 and Hattiesburg's Adam Doleac.

How Poplarville shaped rising stars:Chapel Hart's Mississippi hometown is a mix of sugar and spice with a dash of salt

Sibling revelry in Meridian:Meridian siblings making a name for themselves as country music songwriters in Nashville

Baseball star turns to music:Adam Doleac's star about to shine even brighter with release of debut album

Final abortion clinic closing

Derenda Hancock, clinic escort, yells at anti-abortion protestors blocking drivers outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the last day the clinic is legally allowed to be open in in Jackson on Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Derenda Hancock, clinic escort, yells at anti-abortion protestors blocking drivers outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the last day the clinic is legally allowed to be open in in Jackson on Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The overturning of Roe v. Wade was a national story that unfolded in Jackson's backyard as the Dobbs case was ruled upon by the United States Supreme Court. The decision effectively rendered most abortions illegal in many states, including Mississippi and forced the July closure of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's last abortion clinic.

The seismic ruling is expected to lead to more births across Mississippi this year and led to hearings in the fall about how to help mothers who may be impacted by the ruling. The governor spoke of his new "pro-life agenda" in advance of the overturn of Roe v. Wade again when he laid out his priorities for 2023.

Jackson's last abortion clinic closes:Mississippi's last clinic performs final abortions Wednesday, ban takes effect Thursday

Governor's priorities:Gov. Tate Reeves announces his priorities for the upcoming session

A pioneer honored decades later

Civil Rights icon James Meredith stands on Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza at Jackson State University Friday, Sept. 16. Meredith attended Jackson State before going to the University of Mississippi. While popular at JSU, particularly with student-athletes, it was well known that Meredith was pushing to enroll at Ole Miss. Sixty years ago, in October 1962, James Meredith entered Ole Miss as its first Black student.

James Meredith is a complicated man. Most known for his courage as the first Black student to integrate Ole Miss in 1962, Meredith later took a bullet during a civil rights march. Sixty years after the desegregation of the state's flagship university, Meredith was honored in Oxford.

Meredith was unlike other civil rights leaders of his era, in that he also worked for and supported avowed segregationists.

He sat down with our team to reflect on his life and legacy and to talk about his final mission, which at age 89 is to bring the people of Mississippi to God.

A civil rights pioneer:James Meredith takes on his last mission, 60 years after desegregating Ole Miss

Political theater and name calling

Amid the back and forth of the water crisis, was the constant barrage of insults hurled between the governor's office and the mayor's office. At one point, the governor called the mayor "incompetent," later saying, "it's a great day to not be in Jackson."

Political issues were not limited to the water crisis. No reprieve would come for a man convicted in a two-decade-old killing despite concerns that the state was not using a proven execution method.

That came on the heels of a dominant showing by Republicans in the November election, where they orchestrated better-than-expected turnout in many areas, and even Democratic congressional nominee Shuwaski Young gave the GOP credit, while lamenting his party's organization.

More:Delay sought in upcoming Mississippi execution as condemned challenge death methods

More:A tale of two parties: Why a Mississippi Democrat said Republicans won the turnout game

More:Governor calls Jackson mayor 'incompetent,' but says city can seek its own water contract

Life-threatening weather disasters

Unusually heavy summer rains led to a near catastrophic flood. The Jackson area dodged a bullet in August as predictions of a 36-foot crest of the Pearl River were revised to a crest of 35.5 feet. Those few inches spared thousands of residents from being flooded, and our team was covering the rising waters by the minute.

As the waters receded our work picked up, looking at possibilities for flood control and turning our attention to tornadic activity throughout the state, well into the early winter.

Dangerous flood potential:Pearl River flood predictions fall, but officials warn it's not over yet

Flood control realities:'One Lake' is the latest plan to reduce Jackson-area Pearl River flooding. Will it happen?

Tornados rip across state:Tornadoes, thunderstorms, heavy winds wreak havoc throughout Mississippi

Delta farmers defrauded

Mississippi Delta farmers hauled their grain as they had for generations expecting to be paid. But in dealing with Express Grain in the Delta, many farmers never got paid. Express grain's checks bounced. Our reporting reveleaed that the company had filed fraudulent audits with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce for years, misrepresenting its financial position to maintain its grain dealing license.

Express Grain's sudden financial collapse left farmers without their crop or their pay. It's estimated farmers in and around LeFlore County lost more than $40 million in the process.

More:Bad checks and phony audits: How a Greenwood company ripped off Mississippi Delta farmers

Could JSU capitalize on Coach Prime before leaving for greener pastures?

Pat McAfee reacts to Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, left, while live on ESPN College GameDay before the Jackson State University vs. Southern game at Jackson on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
Pat McAfee reacts to Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, left, while live on ESPN College GameDay before the Jackson State University vs. Southern game at Jackson on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

Magnetic and energetic, Sanders roamed the Jackson State sidelines for one last season before bolting for the big bucks of Power 5 program Colorado in December. Before he left, Jackson State set records for attendance and its success brought ESPN College GameDay to town with millions watching Coach Prime's penchant for flair.

Jackson State was hoping to capitalize on the Prime effect by building a new stadium. Whether that will happen in the post Prime era remains to be seen.

On-campus stadium momentum:Jackson State: It's prime time to talk of a new stadium on campus. See where

Deion Sanders leaves for Colorado:Colorado gives former Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders a prime-time payday

Collared deer saga comes to a close

Maybe the most famous deer this side of Rudolph captivated readers as he swam back and forth across the Mississippi River, no easy feat for a mere mortal buck. But this was Buck No. 140, a collared deer, whose habits and habitat were being studied via a GPS tracker on his collar.

Buck No. 140 was shot in December, ending his saga. We learned that many more deer will join the study in 2023. Here's to hoping for more interesting travels.

Famous collared deer is shot:'It's one in a million': Saga ends for Buck No. 140, deer that crosses Mississippi River

Best of the outdoors:A wild year: The top 5 Mississippi outdoor stories of 2022...ICYMI

Heartache off the field

On the field, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss all had good seasons and reached FBS bowls, while Jackson State played in its second straight Celebration Bowl.

Off the field, the unexpected passing of Leach was the biggest story of the year and one that gripped the nation. It was the second tragedy of the fall for the Bulldog football program, which also lost freshman football player Sam Westmoreland to suicide earlier in the season.

Not all stories off the field were sad ones, such as the tale Stone Lott, the unofficial Director of Morale for Southern Miss football.

Situation dire for Mike Leach:Mike Leach suffers heart attack, situation dire for Mississippi State football coach | Sources

MSU coach Mike Leach dies:Mike Leach, Mississippi State football's innovative and influential coach, dies at 61

Family speaks of player's legacy:Live like Sam Westmoreland: Family recounts legacy of Mississippi State football player

Heart of USM team:He's the heart and soul of Southern Miss football — and it's time you met him

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: See the stories that made an impact across Mississippi in 2022