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Sparta. Mississippi - The fictional town on the police drama IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT/NBC/1988-94. The series followed the relationship of Virgil Tibbs (Howard Rollins), a black Philadelphia detective who transferred back to his hometown of Sparta, Mississippi to work with a gruff-but-fair white police chief named Bill Gillespie (Carroll O'Connor).

The citizens of Sparta, Mississippi included:

  • Carroll O'Connor as Chief/Sheriff Bill Gillespie
  • Howard E. Rollins Jr. as Det. Virgil Tibbs
  • Alan Autry as Sgt./Capt. Bubba Skinner
  • Anne-Marie Johnson as Althea Tibbs
  • Lois Nettleton as Joann St. John
  • Joe Don Baker as Tom Dugan
  • Denise Nicholas as Harriet DeLong
  • David Hart as Dep./Sgt. Parker Williams
  • Hugh O'Connor as Dep./Lt. Lonnie Jamison
  • Geoffrey Thorne as Dep./Sgt. Willson Sweet
  • Randall Franks as Off. Randy Goode
  • Crystal R. Fox as Sgt. Luanne Corbin
  • Carl Weathers as Chief Hampton Forbes

Cast of 'In The Heat Of The Night
Members of the Sparta Police Department

Theme Song Lyrics

In the Heat of the Night.
I’ve got troubles on the wall.
In the Heat of the Night.
Must be an ending to it all.

But hold on
It won’t be long If you be strong
And it’ll be alright.
In the Heat of the Night.

The series was based on the characters in the novel written by John Ball and the Norman Jewison directed Oscar®-winning feature film In the Heat of the Night (1967) starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. Sidney Poitier later reprised his role of Virgil Tibbs in the motion pictures They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), and The Organization (1971).

Scene from the 1967 film 'In The Heat Of The Night'
Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier

The TV series was filmed on location in the towns of Hammond, Louisiana and in Covington, Georgia. However, the town of Sparta, Illinois is where the real story behind the story In the Heat of the Night took place (changed to Sparta, Mississippi for the motion picture).

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