'Favorite son': Okolona, state mourn loss of Sen. Gordon

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – One by one, Jack Gordon’s friends, family and legislative colleagues stepped to the podium Tuesday and told stories about one of Mississippi’s great political powers.
“I loved Jack Gordon,” said Sen. Terry Brown of Columbus. “He was a great senator, a great businessman and a great Mississippian. He will be greatly missed.”
Brown was among the hundreds of people who packed First Baptist Church in Okolona to laugh at the stories and grieve over the loss of the 66-year-old state senator.
Gordon died in his hometown of Okolona on Saturday after battling a brain tumor for more than a year.
Brown pointed out that Gordon played a role in all major legislation in Jackson over the past three decades.
“Highways, education reform, mental health issues, children’s program – Jack Gordon’s fingerprints are all over it,” said Brown. “He was aware of, or managed to influence, everything that happened in the Mississippi Legislature for the past 30 years.”
Dr. David Cole, president of Itawamba Community College, said Gordon had a way of befriending people and knew how the legislative process worked.
“Okolona has lost its favorite son. Mississippi has lost one of its favorite sons,” said Cole. “He was an extraordinary man and loved his job.”
“Most people go to Jackson for a couple of years and then go home,” said Cole. “Jack Gordon loved to campaign, loved the political process and loved making it work.”
Former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, now working at Mississippi State University, praised Gordon’s business sense and his razor-sharp mind.
“He was the fiscal compass of the state Senate and he will be missed,” said Tuck. “He had the ability to grasp and remember the most complex and detailed parts of state budgets.”
Gordon served 36 years in the Legislature – eight in the House and 28 in the Senate – and was probably best known for his tenure as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Among those at the funeral service were Gov. Haley Barbour, U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, state Treasurer Tate Reeves, MSU President Mark Keenum and a host of regional business and community leaders.
Gordon’s casket was draped with a spray of red and white roses and a giant magnolia blossom.
Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Martha Estes Gordon; three daughters; one brother; and five grandchildren.
He was buried in Shannon Cemetery.