Pascagoula is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi, United States. It is the principal city of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area, as a part of the Gulfport–Biloxi–Pascagoula, Mississippi Combined Statistical Area. The population was 26,200 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Jackson County.
Pascagoula is a major industrial city of Mississippi, along the Gulf Coast. Prior to World War II, the town was a sleepy fishing village of only about 5,000. The population exploded with the war-driven shipbuilding industry. Although the city's population seemed to peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Cold War defense spending was at its height, Pascagoula experienced some new growth and development in the years before Hurricane Katrina. Today, Pascagoula is home to the state’s largest employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding, owned by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems — "America’s Shipbuilder." Other major industries include one of the largest Chevron refineries in the country; Signal International, an oil platform builder; and Mississippi Phosphates.
Naval Station Pascagoula was located on Singing River Island and was homeport to several Navy warships as well as a large Coast Guard contingent. However, Naval Station Pascagoula was decommissioned as part of the 2005 BRAC recommendations and ceased operations in 2006.
The city is served by three airports: Mobile Regional Airport, which is located in nearby Mobile, Alabama; the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, about 40 miles west of Pascagoula; and the Trent Lott International Airport, located within Jackson County.
The mayor of the city is Matthew Avara.
There were 9,878 households out of which 34.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 18.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 27.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.9% under the age of 18, 12.0% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 101.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,042, and the median income for a family was $39,044. Males had a median income of $30,313 versus $22,594 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,891. About 18.1% of families and 20.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.4% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.
The first settlers of Pascagoula were Jean Baptiste Baudreau Dit Graveline, Joseph Simon De La Pointe and his aunt, the Madame Chaumont
Local legend says the Pascagoula tribe chanted and waded hand-in-hand into the Pascagoula River, drowning together rather than become enslaved to an enemy tribe, the Biloxi. Thus, the legend of the "Singing River" was born. It is said that on still summer and autumn evenings, the sad song of the Pascagoulas can still be heard near the river.
Pascagoula has been home or host to many notable people, including the pirate Jean Lafitte; the infamous Copeland Gang; “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson; General (later President) Zachary Taylor; Confederate General and Congressman David Emanuel Twiggs; Union Admiral David Farragut; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who is said to have penned "The Building of a Ship" while in Pascagoula (although his stay is more local folklore than truth); and Nobel Laureate in literature William Faulkner who is believed to have written "Mosquitoes" while summering in Pascagoula. The world renowned rhythm and blues band The Nite Riders also got their start in Pascagoula in the 1950s. Many of the original members still perform together in local casinos.
Pascagoula gained notoriety on October 11, 1973 when two local fishermen, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, claimed to have been abducted by aliens from a Pascagoula pier. The media frenzy that followed touched off national interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials unparalleled since the Roswell incident. In 1983, Hickson wrote a book about his ordeal entitled UFO Contact In Pascagoula.
Pascagoula also gained dubious national attention in the 1980s, when novelty singer/songwriter Ray Stevens featured the town in his hit, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival." Stevens admits, though, that the song may have been set in any Southern town.This is also the spot where a little girl was found thrown into the Dog River on Dec.5 1982, just three weeks before Christmas. The little girl thought to be between 18 months to two years old has never been identified, even to this day 25 years later.The unidentified toddler is buried in Jackson County Memorial Park. Deputy Moore and his wife stepped forward and made sure the little girl was given a proper funeral and burial in 1982. Approximately 200 people attended the young girl's funeral.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina's 20-foot storm surge and 30-55 foot seawaves devastated Pascagoula, much like Biloxi and Gulfport and the rest of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Katrina came ashore during the high tide of 6:12AM, 2.1 ft more. Nearly 92% of Pascagoula was flooded. Most homes along Beach Boulevard were destroyed, and FEMA trailers are now an omnipresent sight. Due to the major media focus on the plight of New Orleans and Biloxi-Gulfport in the aftermath of Katrina, many Pascagoula citizens have expressed feeling neglected or even forgotten following the storm. Most Pascagoula residents did not possess flood insurance, and many were required to put their homes on pilings before being given a permit to rebuild.
United States Navy officials announced that two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers that were under construction at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula had been damaged by the storm, as well as the Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.
Hurricane Katrina damaged over 40 Mississippi libraries, flooding the Pascagoula Public Library, first floor, and causing mold in the building.