By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Tuesday’s Mississippi gubernatorial inauguration in the chamber of the House of Representatives was the first to be held inside since 1980.
Driven inside by rain, the ceremony was different from those traditionally held outside on the steps of the state Capitol. The traditional 19-gun salute, for instance, was scratched and no longer could people working in downtown Jackson meander over to watch the event.
“Everybody was packed in,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian.
When the colors were presented by the Mississippi Highway Patrol or when the Mississippi Boys Choir or Mississippi Mass Choir performed, members had to literally maneuver their way through the front of the chamber to find a place to stand.
The first row in chairs set up in the chamber included former Gov. William Winter, former Speaker Billy McCoy, former Lt. Govs. Amy Tuck, Eddie Briggs and Brad Dye and members of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Winter was the only former governor to attend the ceremony. Outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha were part of the ceremony.
Former Speaker Tim Ford also attended. McCoy and Ford, two Prentiss County natives who occupied the office of speaker from 1988 until 2012, spoke for a long time before the ceremony began to new Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton.
In his speech, Bryant did not acknowledge all of the dignitaries, but did recognize Ford and of McCoy said, “I am honored by your presence today and thankful for our years of service together.”
Former Rep. Ed Perry of Oxford, who also served a term as House clerk, is currently helping Gunn with his transition to the speaker’s office. Perry pointed out it did not rain during the ceremony, meaning it could have been held outside.
Bryant and his wife, Deborah, seemed OK with moving indoors. The extended Bryant family sat in the House gallery, instead of being on the massive platform that was built to seat more than 1,000 people for the outside ceremony.
When the new first lady got to the speaker’s podium where the oath of office was delivered and her husband gave his inaugural address, she looked up to the south gallery where her family members were seated and gave a smile and a wave.
In 1980, the inaugural ceremony for Winter was slated to be held on the steps of the old Capitol because the new Capitol was undergoing extensive renovations and was closed. But rain forced the event into the old Capitol’s House chamber, which is much smaller than the House chamber in the new Capitol.
“It was just packed,” Winter remembered. “It was kind of a messy day. But we made it.”
So did the Bryants.