- The Water Tower in Improve, Mississippi
The cover photograph for this issue of Southeastern Geographer, taken at mid-morning on a warm day this past June, depicts the old, yet still functioning water tower in Improve, Mississippi. This tiny settlement—an unincorporated community by standards of the U.S. Census Bureau—is located on State Highway 44 near the eastern boundary of Marion County roughly equidistant between the larger (and incorporated) communities of Sumrall and Columbia. Perched on the divide between the Pascagoula River watershed to the east and the Pearl River watershed to the west, Improve commands a prominent ridge of the Citronelle uplands, which stretch across the southern, interior portion of the state. For those not familiar with it, the Citronelle Formation, made up of quartzite sands and gravels, as well as iron- and aluminum-rich sediments, is the parent material of the ubiquitous red soils that underlie the hilly parts of the Piney Woods of South Mississippi.
The population of Improve totals no more than a few hundred people and shares many characteristics with countless other small, rural communities in the state and across the American South. Although never a boom town, its built landscape hints at modestly greater fortunes in the past. Just up the road from the water tower is an old gym where successive generations of students attending Improve High School played basketball and made a reputation for themselves as a formidable team across the region. Improve High School has long since closed its doors and local students today must travel to Columbia to attend the county schools there. Likewise, the farms, pastures, and pine plantations that line Highway 44 and the smaller roads leading to and from Improve contain elements of an historic landscape that crystalized in the early decades of the twentieth century after the old growth longleaf pine forests were removed. The present-day inhabitants of Improve, or at least some of them, are descendants of the Anglo and African-American families who came to the area during the logging boom and who stayed on after it passed them by. During our short stay in the community, we did not have an opportunity to ask whether things have improved there since those early days. [End Page 381]
This is the last issue of Southeastern Geographer our editorial team will publish before handing over the reins of the journal to the new team based at the University of Georgia and led by Hilda Kurtz and Deepak Mishra. Over the last four years, we have worked hard to build on the notable accomplishments of previous editors and, in our own small way, to improve the journal. The final judgment regarding whether or not we have done so we will leave to those who read the journal and those who are dedicated to the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG). For now, however, we would like to recognize the many individuals who have extended helping hands to us over the last four years. First of all, we would like to thank our editorial committee for their help with reviewing articles and for their insights when we asked for their help with difficult editorial decisions. We also would like to thank the many manuscript reviewers not serving on the editorial board who provided vital service to the journal by reading and reviewing submitted manuscripts. We are grateful to all the past and present officers of SEDAAG over the last four years for their continuing support of Southeastern Geographer and for their commitment to its long-term success. We are, of course, grateful to every researcher who submitted a manuscript to us. We always did our best to find suitable reviewers for each manuscript and to come up with the most fair and informed decision we could regarding their suitability for publication. Finally, we would like to thank the many readers of this journal who to us seem to be among the most dedicated members of any research community we are acquainted with. You are the heart and soul of Southeastern Geographer and it is your dedication that will ensure that this journal...