He knew Bilbo

August 10, 2006

From an email received today:


I enjoy receiving the Independent News weekly and reading your observations and analyses. Whether political, economic, community related, cultural and/or religious your writing and theories offer a well reasoned counterpoint to all the other sources, and I find that very refreshing and worthwhile. Please allow me to offer you encouragement in the continuation of your efforts.

I am a fellow Mississippian which is another reason I’ve been interested in the views of the Independent News.

The article_ Reform Candidate _in today’s News ( Outtakes )served to attract my attention strongly for several reasons. I’m old enough to remember “The Man”. The comparison of Donovan to Bilbo was brilliant; it definitely struck a chord; excellent derivative on your part reflecting some good research in preparation.

Those portions of your article which traced some of Bilbo’s political history in Mississippi particularly tweaked my interest as they served to inspire the recall of my personal connections and that of my family to this scenario.

My maternal grandfather was Dennis H. Murphree of Calhoun County, Mississippi. He was elected in 1912 to the Mississippi House and represented Calhoun County for years. In 1923 he moved his family to Jackson where he established a general insurance agency as his primary means of support.

Following his move to Jackson, he soon campaigned for and was elected Lt. Governor. He made three such successful campaigns for that office, seemingly able to be elected at will. He ran for Governor twice against two of the state’s political giants, Hugh White and Theodore G. Bilbo. In both cases he faced not only his opponent’s political machines and minions, but some other unusual and heavy odds.

Although he never was elected to the Governorship, he served as Governor twice. Early during his term, the then Governor Whitfield died. As Lt. Governor my grandfather succeeded to the office of Governor and served out the majority of that four year term.

He ran against Bilbo in 1927, the year of the great flood which involved him directly in the disaster for a period of six weeks and more during the most critical time of the campaign. He even personally went about the flooded rescuing stranded victims of the flood. He lost the race by a narrow margin to Bilbo.

My Grandfather was widely respected and admired as a man of great integrity and principle. He was apparently devoid of a vengeful or judgmental inner self, but his disapproval and lack of respect for Theodore G. Bilbo was profound, and not without more than ample justification.

My Grandfather violated the tradition long established wherein the outgoing Governor rode in the inaugural parade in the same automobile. Rather than ride with Bilbo and risk any assumptions that he approved of him in any manner, he insisted upon, and did in fact ride in a separate vehicle!

Dennis Murphree was not given to swearing, and as a matter of fact I recall only one time when he crossed this line within my earshot.

The occasion arose as my grandfather and others were gathering to attend the funeral of Bilbo. Standing to the side nearby I overheard someone with knowledge of my Grandfather’s distaste for Bilbo the person, ask, as though he couldn’t believe Dennis Murphree would attend Bilbo’s funeral, what possible reason he would do so. It was then, for the first and only time I heard him use any swear words, without hesitation Grandfather replied, “ I just need to make certain the son-of-a-bitch is dead!”

Bill Ford


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