By Marty Russell

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

More than three years into his term and after much controversy on the state level, President Clinton announced Thursday that Calvin “Buck” Buchanan, an Okolona native, is his choice for Northern District U.S. attorney.

Buchanan, 38, currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Oxford headquarters of the Northern District. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would become the first African-American to hold the post and would fulfill Clinton’s original intent to appoint at least one African-American to one of the state’s two U.S. attorney posts.

If he is confirmed, however, and Clinton loses his re-election bid, Buchanan’s tenure in the $116,000-a-year post could be short.

“I feel good about the nomination,” Buchanan said, but he admitted, “I would have enjoyed being nominated earlier in the cycle.”

The announcement late Thursday culminates more than three years of speculation and dissent within the state Democratic Party over the appointment. Clinton had originally asked his state campaign co-chairmen, former Gov. William Winter and former U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, to recommend a nominee.

A committee was appointed that recommended three candidates for the job, but one withdrew from the race, another, a white attorney from Leland, was interviewed but never nominated and the third, Tupelo attorney Emanuel Smith, withdrew after some personal tax problems were made public.

Smith’s appointment reportedly was derailed by then state Democratic Party Chairman Ed Cole because of Smith’s support of Republican Jack Reed Sr. of Tupelo in the 1987 gubernatorial race.

When Smith dropped out, Circuit Judge Barry Ford of Pontotoc was named to replace him but by late 1994, Ford said he had been told he was no longer under consideration following an interview in Washington.

At that point, sources said, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who was elected when Espy became Secretary of Agriculture, took over the selection process.

Buchanan said Thursday he didn’t know who from the state actually nominated him but said he knew Thompson was involved in the process.

Buchanan’s appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The state’s two senators, both Republicans, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

“I don’t anticipate any roadblocks,” Buchanan said of the confirmation process. “But there could be some naysayers out there.”

Buchanan has served as an assistant U.S. attorney since 1990. Prior to that he served more than seven years in the U.S. Army as a prosecutor, defense counselor and civil counselor.

Since former U.S. Attorney Robert Whitwell resigned in 1993 on orders from Attorney General Janet Reno, assistant U.S. Attorney Al Moreton has served as acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District.

Click video to hear audio