MISSISSIPPI'S FIRST LADY OF POLITICS
December 26, 2007
As you no doubt know by now, Evelyn Gandy, the iconic steel magnolia that has been called the "First Lady of Mississippi Politics" died this past Sunday at the age of 87. As the first woman to be elected to statewide public office in Mississippi as State Treasurer, State Insurance Commissioner, and Lt. Governor she began her life in public office 60 years ago when she was elected in 1947 to the State House of Representatives. Her public political career ended with close losses for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination in 1979 and again in 1983. She was well known for her graciousness, tough-minded integrity, and love for the people of Mississippi.
Thursday she is honored with a State Memorial Service in the Capitol Rotunda and Governor Barbour has ordered state flags to be flown at half staff until after her funeral in Hattiesburg Friday.
If you will indulge me in a personal note. I was honored to have been one of Evelyn Gandy's many cousins. In recent years we visited and shared many precious moments together. My wife and I were at her bedside the evening before she died and she was truly at peace knowing that things were right with her maker and that she had fought the good fight. In one of our recent visits, she told me that she had spent her life studying the history and people of Mississippi, because she knew that it was her destiny to serve them and help them in any way she could. She was quick to point out that her sister Francis, who preceded her in death just a few months ago also made great contributions in numerous appointed positions of social work, helping the underprivileged in our state.
They were quite a pair and together made a lot of history in the last half of the 20th century in the state they so loved. While I may be privileged to be related to the Gandys by blood, in a larger sense, the entire state was their family. Evelyn and Francis lived up to the family creed that you can do anything you set your mind to do and that you have an obligation to help those who most need it in a big way.
While Evelyn was more comfortable on center stage, she would be the first to tell you that Francis was truly, as the song says, the "wind beneath her wings." We are all far better for having had them in our midst.