By Sid Salter
STARKVILLE – Calvin Coolidge is credited – with some competition from Millard Fillmore – as being the dullest, blandest American president. That’s probably a bad rap.
Coolidge, called “Silent Cal” in his day, is credited with the quote back in 1925: “The chief business of the American people is business.” Fair enough. If there’s a more succinct statement in favor of capitalism, I haven’t heard it.
But Coolidge won his reputation as a dull president based in great measure on his reticence to speak and the fact that he didn’t like to campaign or otherwise rub elbows with the people. There was a reason for that, too: “I’ve never been hurt by anything I didn’t say,” Coolidge said.
In the annuls of government and business in the last half century, few men have embraced those two Coolidge-isms more than BancorpSouth chairman Aubrey B. Patterson. Patterson will be the main course during the 23rd anniversary Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation Celebrity Roast on Feb. 7 at the Jackson Marriott.
The annual event is held under the auspices of the MPA Education Foundation, which was established in 1983 to provide internships and scholarships for aspiring journalists and grants for instructional programs at in-state universities and colleges.
Prior honorees during the three-decade history of the MPA roast have included Sen. Thad Cochran, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, former Gov. Haley Barbour, Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi State University president Mark Keenum, former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, the late U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, journalists W.C. Shoemaker, Rick Cleveland and Bill Minor, the late Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin and the late entertainer Jerry Clower.
Patterson’s “roasters” include: Bryant; Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds; Mississippi Economic Council president Blake Wilson; Community Development Foundation president David Rumbarger of Tupelo; and Pulitzer Prize-nominated Clarion-Ledger editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey.
Patterson, 69, has served as chairman and chief executive officer of Tupelo-based BancorpSouth since 1991 until late last year, when he announced his retirement as CEO and Dan Rollins was named to succeed him. He remains BancorpSouth’s chairman. He had previously served as president and CEO from 1983-1991. He currently serves as a board member for the Mississippi Board of Institutions of Higher Learning and is a former director for North Mississippi Health Services, Inc.
He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and earned his master’s degree from Michigan State University. He was elected to the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame in 1997.
The 23rd annual Roast to benefit the MPA Education Foundation will be held Feb. 7 at the Jackson Marriott Downtown. A reception will be held at 6 p.m.; dinner begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $80 each or a table of eight is available for $600.
For all his reputation for low-key leadership, Patterson is genuinely a nice man – and as Coolidge observed, people like him don’t earn public recognition for nothing. As “Silent Cal” said: “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is the reward for what he gave.”
I look forward to Patterson’s “roasting.” Behind that quiet exterior, prior interviews revealed to me a sharp businessman with a surprising sense of humor. My prediction is he’ll give as good as he gets while on the hot seat.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org