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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Governor Hugh Lawson White

Jere Nash, the "Blue" half of Red/Blue, blogged about David Waide, the retiring president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau and possible candidate for governor in 2011.

"... history has not been kind to candidates outside public life winning campaigns for Governor. Since Hugh White was elected in 1935, only one other businessman has won the right to live in the Mansion, and that was, of course, Kirk Fordice. Heck, since White, Fordice has been the only non-lawyer to win the state's top job."

Hugh Lawson White, who grew up in Pike County, was indeed a businessman, but he was also mayor of Columbia. He got 51.7 percent of the vote in defeating Paul B. Johnson Sr. in the 1935 Democratic runoff for governor. In 1951, at age 70, White won 51.1 percent to beat 35-year-old Paul B. Johnson Jr. in the Democratic runoff. Those were the days, of course, when our elections were decided in the Democratic primary.

In 1940, White lost a race for U. S. senator to the incumbent, Theodore G. Bilbo, the rabid racist from Pearl River County. After Senator Bilbo died in 1947, White hoped that Governor Fielding Wright would appoint him to fill the vacancy. But Wright decided not to appoint anyone, and White did not run in the special election, which was won by circuit Judge John C. Stennis of Kemper County.

Ironically, White and Bilbo were the only two in the 20th century who served two non-consecutive terms as governor. Starting in 1987, governors were permitted to succeed themselves, and Kirk Fordice was elected in 1991 and re-elected in 1995. He was the first Republican to occupy the governor's mansion in more than a hundred years. The only other elective office that Fordice held was Warren County election commissioner.

In another bit of irony, in antebellum times, there was a U. S. senator and Whig presidential candidate from Tennessee who was also named Hugh Lawson White. Our Governor White's forebears came to Mississippi from Ireland by way of South Carolina. As far as I know, there is no connection between him and the Tennessee politician.

Governor White is remembered as the creator of the Balance Agriculture With Industry (B. A. W. I.) program. A large man, he was often seen in his later years riding about Jackson in his chauffeur-driven car.

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