Meridian Star

February 11, 2014

Discovery of graves affects hospital parking plan

The Associated Press
Associated Press

JACKSON — JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The discovery of what could be as many as 1,000 graves on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center has officials rethinking the location parking facilities and other facilities.

UMMC had planned to build a parking garage east of the dental school. Officials tell The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/1iX18g7 ) that testing in the area revealed 1,000 graves. Officials believe some were patients from the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum a century ago.

The former Mississippi Insane Asylum operated on the site from 1855 to 1935.

"None have names," Dr. James Keeton, dean of the medical school, said of the graves.

Paying for reburials elsewhere would cost about $3,000 apiece, or $3 million total, he said.

"We can't afford that," Keeton said.

New plans include building the parking garage next to the dental school, he said.

Others plans may have to change, too.

Medical center officials had hoped to use the property west of the dental school for future expansion, but Keeton said they might have to rethink that approach, because other bodies may lie beneath the earth — former slaves, TB victims and possibly even Civil War dead.

UMMC recently announced construction of the $11 million American Cancer Society Hope Lodge on land that could contain more gravesites.

For that reason, UMMC officials said both the lodge and a new Children's Justice Center would likely have to be relocated on the 164-acre campus, where both space and parking seem to be growing scarce.