Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, left a deep imprint on the Mississippi Legislature during 36 years of service – eight in the House and 28 in Senate – and his death late Saturday removes both long tenure and expansive knowledge of every process, personality and issue spanning four decades.
Gordon unabashedly loved being a legislator – and he knew how to use the influence that came with understanding the process required of committee chairmen, especially the Appropriations Committee, generally considered the most important of major committee chiefs. He was chairman for 12 years during his span of Senate service, a long time and many billions of dollars passing through state government as legislatively directed.
Gordon, after serving from 1980 to 1992 in the Senate, was defeated by Crowell Armstrong of Houston, but in the 1995 elections Gordon reclaimed the seat and held it without serious electoral opposition until his death.
Gordon’s trademark characteristics were relentless work and equally ardent campaigning. He thrived on both, longtime colleague, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said Monday.
Bryan, who has served in the Senate since 1984, said it is not surprising that Gordon, after his illness was diagnosed, returned full-speed-ahead to the Senate as soon as possible and maintained the work on legislation until he could not.
Bryan recalled a story about Gordon when he was first named Appropriations chairman when Lt. Gov. Brad Dye presided in the Senate. Bryan said Gordon told colleagues, “I may not know as much today about appropriations as some people in this chamber, but by the time legislation is ready for action I will know more than anybody else.”
Bryan said Gordon made good on that commitment and maintained his knowledge base for the rest of his legislative career.
Gordon had a reputation for collegiality, especially with legislators from the Northeast Mississippi region, a trait that has unfortunately diminished as narrow partisanship has expanded in the House and Senate during recent terms.
Gordon consistently responded to what one legislator described as the “drum beat” of public opinion, and major policy causes often made significant gains in part because of Gordon’s leadership.
Hundreds of people saw his determination late in 2010 when he made remarks at a rally on Itawamba Community College’s Tupelo campus in support of adequate mental health funding in the 2012 state budget.
Gordon liked to do it his way, and he was never shy about calling issues as he saw them. He also often found money when others said there was none.
Our region will miss his voice, work and insights.
NEMS Daily Journal