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217 Epilogue Javitses into Eastlands, Eastlands into Barbours While Mike Espy was taking his House oath in 1987, the Mississippi Republican Party experienced its last serious attempt at wooing black voters. That year, Jack Reed, a department store owner in Tupelo, won the Republican nomination for governor. Reed, like Gil Carmichael and William Winter, had a long history as a racial moderate . During the integration riot at the University of Mississippi in 1962, Reed, as head of the Mississippi Economic Council, publicly criticized anti-integration violence and the efforts to close the state’s public schools. Later, during the United League boycott and protest against police brutality in Tupelo in the late 1970s, he worked behind the scenes to settle the crisis.1 In the 1980s, Reed served as chairman of the state board of education and supported Winter’s education reform initiatives. Like Gil Carmichael and Rubel Phillips before him, Reed saw segregation and racial prejudice as barriers to Mississippi’s economy. While such a stance was radical in the 1960s and progressive in the 1970s, it was mainstream for a gubernatorial candidate in the 1980s. Reed’s Democratic opponent, state auditor Ray Mabus, had a similar pro-education record. Reed tried to revive Carmichael’s efforts to bring black voters into the Republican Party and described himself as an independent with few party loyalties. A few black businessmen and politicians backed Reed, but no significant black support materialized for the Republican. He balanced his efforts at black outreach by supporting school prayer and restrictions on abortion , efforts to win conservative white Democrats and Republicans.2 218 | After Freedom Summer Reed lost to Mabus and scored few black votes since African Americans in the 1980s were even more firmly wedded to the Democratic Party than in the 1970s. Like the moderate Carmichael and the conservative Bramlett, Reed did better with conservative white voters. His association with the party of Ronald Reagan helped him with white voters, but not with black ones, who turned out in high numbers for Mabus. Mabus carried all of the state’s black majority counties and won with fifty-three percent of the vote even though Reed’s showing was the best a Republican candidate had done that century.3 Reed’s moderation, at least on racial issues, represented only a brief detour of the Republican Party in the 1980s and not a resurgence of moderate strength in the state organization. The 1988 presidential election , meanwhile, marked the further decline of the Democratic Party in Mississippi. Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis stumbled badly at the Neshoba County Fair. Dukakis, who spoke on the twenty-four-year anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of the slain Freedom Summer workers, avoided any direct mention of civil rights or the 1964 murders. He did so at the request of Mississippi Secretary of State Dick Molpus and other state Democrats, who once again tried to preserve a fragile balance between white and black voters and hoped to avoid a white backlash. It failed as the national media highlighted Dukakis ’s omission and the liberal governor proved unpalatable for conservative white voters in Mississippi. Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush easily won the state in November.4 The 1991 governor’s race showed the continuing conservative domination of the party and a preference for building a base of conservative whites who opposed a significantly black political party. Kirk Fordice, a construction executive from Vicksburg, carried the standard for the GOP. Fordice had become a Republican during the 1964 Goldwater campaign , and he was able to pick up the support of moderates like Gil Carmichael since he had worked as Carmichael’s Warren County chairman during his 1970s gubernatorial races.5 Race entered the 1991 campaign, at least obliquely, in the form of coded racial appeals, such as Fordice’s call for welfare reform, an issue that led Democratic National Chairman Ron Brown to criticize Fordice . The Republican also won the unsolicited support of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist organization headed by Richard Barrett , an unsuccessful gubernatorial and congressional candidate. Fordice had responded to a questionnaire from Barrett’s organization, in Epilogue: Javitses into Eastlands, Eastlands into Barbours | 219 which he responded favorably to Barrett’s call for repealing the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action. Fordice later said that the act should be repealed “if it is not going to apply nationwide,” a position not very different from William Winter’s when he was governor. He also criticized...


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