Newton County has been home to numerous film and television productions that have provided impact to culture and society. Not only have the productions brought economic benefits to the community, but they have attracted people from all over the world to come and visit. Shows like The Vampire Diaries and movies like Remember the Titanshave enthralled audiences for decades, but one program that has left an indelible mark on the community is In the Heat of the Night. This television series, centered in the town Sparta, Mississippi, details the story of a local police department solving crimes amidst the backdrop of social change in the southern United States. Many sites and memories of the show have become well known around the country, and even the world.
With the show centering on the activities of the local Sparta Police Station, the actual building became a recognizable fixture in living rooms across the country. The building in reality served as the Newton County Library during the time of filming, located on historic Monticello Street near the Square of Covington. Visiting the location today can transport you back in time to the police station of Chief Bill Gillespie. One of the most popular attractions in Newton County is the Covington Square, which served as the square of the fictional Sparta. As you walk the square today, following the steps taken by characters of the highly successful show, be sure to go inside some of the stores and restaurants.
Two of the main characters of the show, Police Chief Bill Gillespie and Virgil Tibbs, have their homes located in Downtown Covington. Both the Tibbs and Gillespie’s homes are still standing today. Although private property, both structures are featured in the self-guided location tour, available at the Visitor Information Center, and are easily seen from the sidewalks. Another sight that most viewers would recognize would be the historic Newton County Courthouse, which served as the Sparta Courthouse on the show, with many scenes taking place within the building. A slice of history is also preserved outside of the courthouse, where the production has a star in Covington’s famed Walk of Stars.
As decades have passed and television productions have come and gone, the impact of In the Heat of the Nighton the Newton County community cannot be overstated. The show has come to live on through recognizable locations and verbal history told by county residents. Come visit Newton County and Covington to walk the streets of “Sparta”.