JACKSON – Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor of Holly Springs, who died unexpectedly Monday morning, played a key role in enacting the historic 1987 Four-Lane Highway Act as a member of the state Senate.
He also was instrumental in passing legislation to bring the massive Nissan manufacturing plant to central Mississippi before being elected transportation commissioner in 2003.
The Benton County native died Monday while attending the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Biloxi.
Minor, 68, collapsed in his Biloxi hotel room and was rushed to the Biloxi Regional Medical Center after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was pronounced dead a little after 9 a.m.
“It was a complete shock,” said state House Transportation Committee Chair Warner McBride, D-Courtland, who said he talked to the Marshall County Democrat regularly – as recently as this past Thursday – on transportation issues.
“He was always concerned about doing what he could to meet the people’s needs,” McBride said.
State Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, praised Minor for listening to the transportation needs “of our area and helping us when he could. He was a good man and dear friend.”
Minor won the open seat of transportation commissioner in 2003, replacing Zack Stewart who retired. He won a three-person Democratic primary with 54 percent of the vote and then garnered more than 57 percent in the November general election.
He won re-election in 2007, facing a challenge in the primary, but no general election opposition.
He represented the northern part of the state, including all of Northeast Mississippi, on the three-member commission.
Before being elected transportation commissioner, Minor served two stints in the state Senate – from 1980 until 1988 and the from 1992 until he was elected transportation commissioner.
He left the Senate in 1988 to run unsuccessfully for county office in Marshall County, but made a successful return to the Senate in the 1991 election.
“We came to the Legislature together,” said House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi. “I have never met a more honorable man. His word was his bond. He was a tireless worker for the state of Mississippi.”
Key role in four-laning
In the late 1980s, both McCoy and Minor served as vice chairs of the Transportation committees in their respective chambers and played key roles in the passage of the legislation that led to the four-laning of more than 1,000 miles of highway in the state, including many in Northeast Mississippi, such as U.S. Highways 78, 45 and 72.
Then in the early 2000s, McCoy, as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Minor, as chair of Finance, worked together to craft and pass Advantage Mississippi, the legislation that created the incentives that lured Nissan to central Mississippi and eventually Toyota to Blue Springs.
Before the era of mandated open conference committees, Minor and McCoy met publicly to hash out the legislation, which McCoy described “as the boat we still sail on to bring business and industry to the state.”
Minor and McCoy split on another major piece of legislation – the Adequate Education Program. McCoy worked to eventually pass the legislation that set up a new funding formula for local school districts. Minor was a leader in the opposition to the bill in 1997.
In the Senate, Minor was known as an influential member, but not as one of the chamber’s best communicators. When he spoke in the chamber, he did so in a loud voice, but with a rapid-fire delivery, often making it difficult for members to understand.
“He was a bulldog,” said Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall of Madison, who served with Minor in the Senate and later on the commission where the two disagreed on several issues, including who should serve as the executive director for the commission.
“Once he made up his mind he was right, he was not going to change,” Hall said. “Clearly we did not agree on some things, but we agreed on most. He was a friend.”
Minor and his brothers also started a plumbing business that evolved into hardware stores in north Mississippi.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal Jackson Bureau