On November 11, 1926 the U.S. numbered highway system was adopted and it was then that the southeastern portion of Bankhead Highway became known as U.S. Highway 78. The new Highway 78 began in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and ended at Second Street in downtown Memphis. It was during the Great Depression, when the U.S. and state governments put men to work that a new Highway 78 was built through Itawamba County. It was not until 1939 that the last section of this road was completed with the last section being in Itawamba County (the section from Fulton, eastward to the Alabama State Line).
On Thursday, September 28, 1939 opening celebrations were held in Fulton in Itawamba County and in Hamilton, Alabama in neighboring Marion County. A front-page article in the September 28, 1939 edition of the Fulton News Beacon reads: “A large crowd came to Fulton this morning for the opening of the highway celebration, including a caravan of 75 cars from Tupelo, headed by mayor J.P. Nanney. The program of the day is crowning of queen and king at 9 a.m. at Fulton; ceremony at Hamilton, Ala., at 10 a.m., ribbon cutting ceremony at the Alabama-Mississippi state line at 12 noon; luncheon at Fulton at 1 p.m. ceremony on court square at 2 p.m., and an old time dance festival and street dance at 8 p.m. Pictured is the printed program for the event (click image for larger view).
An article appearing in the Commercial Appeal in Memphis reads in part: “Tribute to the vision of Senator John Bankhead, Sr., of Alabama, who 33 years ago advocated Federal aid for development of the Nation’s road system, was paid today (Thursday) by distinguished sons of Alabama and Mississippi at the formal opening of the all-paved Bankhead Highway (United States 78). Ceremonies were held at Hamilton, Ala., at the Alabama-Mississippi line and here (Fulton) celebrating completion of the final 15-mile gap in the 3,600-mile system from Washington through the Deep South via Memphis, thence to the Pacific Coast, said to be the longest paved roadway under one name in the world.”
The Commerical Appeal article goes on to tell of the visiting dignitaries to Fulton including Alabama senator, Speaker Will B. Bankhead and Senator John Bankhead, and also Governor White of Mississippi. According to the article, the day-long program opened in Fulton with the crowning by Governor White of the king and queen of “United States Highway 78” – Harold Stubblefield and Ann Kilpatrick, both of Fulton.