Completed in 1957, Lake Hico's primary use was as a cooling pond for the Rex Brown Plant, which generates electricity from steam, although the water body was used for recreation, too. Enthusiasts enjoyed fishing, boating and picnicking—but only white people.
Jim Crow-era segregation laws and customs prevented Lake Hico from interracial use until the late 1960s after the Civil Rights Movement and federal legislation officially ended segregation.
The lake then closed to the public in 1968. While some people speculate that integration was part of the reason, Mississippi Power & Light also decided to close the lake because of liability issues.
Mississippi Power & Light (now Entergy Mississippi) underwent multiple lease and payment agreements on the 16th Section land designation of Lake Hico. This designation allows school districts to own and manage land for educational purposes and lease land for non-educational usage.
Mississippi Power & Light did not want to reopen the lake because of insurance liability, it said then. Environmental issues were also a factor.
Under the administration of Mayors John Ditto, Harvey Johnson and Frank Melton, the City discussed reopening the lake for recreational use once again, yet it still remains closed. The Rex Brown Plant is still operational; however, it no longer serves as a main power grid.
In a June 1989 article in The Clarion-Ledger, then-Mayor Ditto said: "I'm certainly interested in it, and I'm sure there are a lot of people who are interested in reopening it. It could be a public resource to have a lake in the middle of the city."
Efforts to reboot Lake Hico have stymied for more than 30 years, but some city officials would like to see it reopened to the public. On Feb. 27, 2018, members of the Jackson City Council passed a resolution in support of reopening it.
During the meeting, Corinthian Sanders spoke for opening the lake to the public. He talked about how, since Entergy no longer uses the Rex Brown Power Plant as a main electric grid, it will not have as much incentive to renew its lease on the land in 2020.
Council President Melvin Priester Jr. said then that he wants this to be part of a broader discussion about an economic development and infrastructure master plan.
He cited issues such as Entergy needing to decommission the plant and also environmental issues.
"I'm not sure what the best use is," Priester said, "... and we have to make a decision as a community what we want to do."
Entergy Senior Lead Communications Specialist Mara M. Hartmann said in an email that the company is evaluating all options for the Rex Brown plant and Lake Hico.
"The cooling pond is necessary for the successful operation of the plant, and it plays a key role in providing energy to meet the needs of our customers," she wrote. "As with all of our power plants, we continually evaluate the best role for each one."