Thad Cochran – one of the best to ever serve Mississippi
For a man who was elected to the U.S.House of Representatives in 1972 and the U.S. Senate in 1978. Sen. Thad Cochran left quietly when he retired earlier this month. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed by Gov. Bryant to serve until the November 2018 special election. Headlines have been dominated by Cochran’s health, who Bryant would appoint to take Cochran’s place, what state Sen. Chris McDaniel would do, and the possible candidates in the special election. During almost 50 years of writing about Mississippi politics, I have met the good, the bad, and the ugly of the many politicians who have held or sought office in our state. There is no question Cochran has been and always will be one of my favorites.
I first met Cochran in 1972 when he, Trent Lott, and a college professor named Carl Butler were running for U.S. House seats and I was the state campaign manager for the very longshot, even hopeless campaign of Gil Carmichael who was opposing powerful Democrat James O. “Big Jim” Eastland. Carmichael was in the senate race because James Meredith was running as a Republican and Clarke Reed and other state leaders were horrified Meredith might be the GOP nominee for the senate in November. The Meridian car dealer was put in the primary to defeat Meredith. One of the big events of the campaign was when then Vice President Spiro Agnew was coming to Mississippi to endorse the four congressional candidates. At the time, Agnew was even considerably more popular in Mississippi than President Richard Nixon. This was, of course, before
The Clarion.Ledger’s “Public Office – Private Gain”
I have never hesitated to criticize journalists and since I started writing again I have taken a number of shots at The Clarion.Ledger. However, let’s give credit where a lot of credit is due. Last Sunday a special investigation by that newspaper’s political editor, Geoff Pender, and reporters Mollie Bryant and Kate Royals, contained an in-depth story entitled “Public Office Private Gain.” That and more is available in the CL’s online edition and we should expect more print stories about the issue next Sunday. It should be a must read by every taxpayer in our state. I’ll have more comments about this in a future post, but for now, congratulations to the newspaper and the three writers who are writing the series. Elected officials using their campaign contributions for personal use is nothing less than a complete disgrace.
Gil Carmichael, R.I.P.
I had met Gil Carmichael several times prior to his race against Mississippi’s political godfather, longtime and powerful Sen. James O. Eastland. I got to know him better when he spent most of one Sunday afternoon in 1972 at my home in Ocean Springs talking politics. At one point during that Sunday afternoon I told the Meridian Volkswagen dealer he should be spending his time campaigning on the Gulf Coast rather than chatting with me about politics. Little did I know in just a few weeks I would become Carmichael’s state campaign manager in his seemingly hopeless and longshot campaign against the powerful Eastland. Initially, Carmichael was kind of a throw away candidate for Mississippi Republicans. In the GOP primary for Eastland’s senate seat, Carmichael’s opponent was James Meredith. Yes, that James Meredith – the same Meredith who almost 10 years earlier had become the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss amidst riots, violence, and one of this state’s ugliest moments. In 1972 Republican leaders in Mississippi cringed at the thought of Meredith being the GOP nominee against Eastland. Thus Carmichael was drafted to run against Meredith. After polishing off Meredith in the
Last week, Jack Reed of Tupelo, MS passed away. He was widely hailed as one of Mississippi’s great educational and business leaders. Such praise for the successful businessman was well justified. Not as much mention has been made of the fact that in 1987, Reed ran the strongest race for governor of any Republican since Reconstruction. As a friend of mine commented, Reed’s close race against Democrat Ray Mabus probably contributed a lot to the successful campaign of Kirk Fordice, who defeated Mabus’ re-election bid four years later.
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Dec. 16, 1976 as part of Wayne Weidie’s syndicated column series, “The Political Scene,” which ran through 43 newspapers in the state of Mississippi and spanned from 1970 to 1990. Political Scene columns will be periodically republished on The Weidie Report.
On slow weeks, a political columnist can always play the “name game” for the next major political contest. In 1978 James O. Eastland’s current term in the U.S. Senate is due to expire. A number of us have been writing under the assumption that the powerful senior senator from Mississippi will retire and the state will see a real donnybrook for his successor.
Age is considered a factor, as Eastland will be 74 shortly after the 1978 election and a new six-year term would push Eastland up to 80. Recently, however, several political writers decided that any speculation regarding retirement by Eastland may be premature. The age thing doesn’t even hold much water since junior Sen. John Stennis found no major opposition for another term which will end when Stennis is 81.