By Patsy R. Brumfield
FULTON – Retired lawyer Tom Childs remembers his friend, former Gov. Bill Allain, as someone who never said anything bad about anybody.
He had a right to after a vicious 1983 campaign, which would have broken a lesser man, Childs admits.
Allain, 85, died Monday in a Jackson hospital suffering from pneumonia. A Jackson memorial service begins at 3 p.m. today.
“When I think about him, the first thing I think of is that he was a man of great faith,” said Childs of Fulton, who worked with Allain at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office in the early 1970s before Allain was elected AG in 1979.
“He also was a man of courage, compassionate and he believed in the goodness in the people of Mississippi.”
Allain, a Democrat, was governor from January 1984 to January 1988, after serving one term as attorney general. He was known for strengthening the executive branch of state government and for appointing significant numbers of women and minorities to top jobs.
Allain was Childs’ supervisor in two divisions at the attorney general’s office, where Childs said Allain’s mere presence “inspired others to do their very best.”
He said Allain’s character could be seen through his desire for government to be open, inclusive and accountable.
History will remember that as attorney general, Allain successfully sued to remove legislators from the boards and commissions that oversee state agencies.
Early in 1983, Allain asked Childs to run his statewide campaign for governor.
“He was very persuasive,” Childs said with a laugh, noting that Allain told him the campaign likely would see the most work in June and July.
Childs said he didn’t extricate himself from the campaign until December.
“But, you know,” he said, “I really appreciated the trust he had in me.”
Childs said he and Allain never spoke about the tumultuous campaign once it was over despite Democrat Allain’s strong win over Republican Leon Bramlett after defeating former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy in the Democratic primary.
But Childs said he still remembers how vicious Allain’s general election opposition was.
“Those last two weeks were especially difficult,” Childs said. “The death threats were real … every day, evacuating the headquarters from bomb threats.
“It was psychological warfare on behalf of those people making the accusations.”
Allain’s opponents tried to smear him with salacious claims of sexual relationships with male prostitutes.
Childs termed the allegations “totally unfounded” from “the powerful, big-monied people” that the Allain-driven reforms shook from positions of influence.
In the end, Childs said, “I am sure he was greatly hurt, but he practiced forgiveness. I don’t see how he did it.”
Childs said he remembers the night of Allain’s victory for the governorship and his friend’s humility.
“I remember the sincerity of his look,” he recalled. “He felt like he had a big job before him and he was ready to do it.”
During his first year as governor, Allain pushed to put the board-commission structural changes into state law. He also backed a constitutional amendment to allow governors to succeed themselves for a second four-year term.
Voters approved the amendment in 1986, but Allain chose not to seek a second term the following year.
In 1996, Allain came to a Fulton banquet to praise Childs as Itawamba County’s Citizen of the Year.
After leaving office, Allain remained in the Jackson area, returned to private law practice and rarely sought public attention. He continued to serve Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at Jackson shelters, and friends say he enjoyed lively discussions about the law.
Childs said he last saw Allain in August on a visit with former Nettleton mayor Brandon Presley, now representing north Mississippi on the Public Service Commission.
“His mind was just as sharp, he was bed-ridden and of course he had serious medical problems, but we talked about a lot of current events,” Childs recalled.
Presley will deliver the eulogy at today’s State Capitol memorial service for Allain set to begin at 3 p.m.
Presley admits he was inspired to public service by Allain’s concerns for regular people and his willingness to fight for them.
“My spine gets a little more steel every time I think about Gov. Allain’s impact on changing state government,” Presley said Thursday.