Mike Tonos 5/7/09
No cause released in Melton death
The Jackson mayor had a history of heart problems, but the family isn’t releasing any information.
By HOLBROOK MOHR
Associated Press Writer
JACKSON (AP) — Right or wrong, Frank Melton did things his way.
The flamboyant Jackson mayor refused to back down, whether he was posting pictures of drug dealers on billboards or leading a sledgehammer attack on a duplex he considered a crack house.
If nothing else, he was passionate, maybe too passionate, especially in his unorthodox fight against crime.
Melton died early Thursday, two days after he was whisked from his home in an ambulance just as the polls closed in his unsuccessful re-election bid.
Melton was 60. Funeral arrangements are incomplete and his family has not released a cause of death. He had a history of heart problems and reportedly refused to be considered for a transplant.
His death denied federal prosecutors another chance to try to put him behind bars. He was to stand trial Monday for leading a 2006 vigilante-style raid on the duplex, which he said was a haven for drug dealing and prostitution. A judge indicated Thursday the case would be dismissed.
Melton’s death was the final chapter in a fascinating and sometimes bizarre life.
He came to Mississippi from Tyler, Texas, in the 1980s to take over Jackson NBC affiliate WLBT-TV. His wife, Ellen, a pediatrician, and two children stayed behind, prompting vicious rumors about his personal life.
He brushed aside the criticism and quickly made a name for himself with a commentary piece called “The Bottom Line” in which he called out criminals and city officials he considered ineffective. “And that, my friends, is the bottom line,” became his catch phrase.
Melton was appointed to head the Mississippi narcotics agency in 2002 and elected mayor by a landslide in 2005.
He passed out cowboy hats to city council members, saying it was time to run the “thugs” out of town. He cruised the inner city in the police department’s mobile command center, sporting black fatigues and a bulletproof vest and carrying guns.
But those who knew him say he’ll be remembered as much for his less public acts.
He took dozens of troubled youngsters into his home in an upscale, gated community. And when impoverished families couldn’t afford to pay for a funeral or school, he often picked up the tab. His favorite place was an inner city YMCA where he taught swimming and mentored children.
Melton, who died with his wife by his side, had been running a subdued re-election campaign as he prepared for his second federal trial for the duplex raid. Unofficial results show he came in third of nine candidates in the Democratic primary. He was rushed to the hospital minutes after polls closed Tuesday.