Senate honors retiring Hendrix for leadership at Mental Health Department

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Randy Hendrix, the retiring director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, says he won’t spend his retirement years sitting around.

The comments came on Tuesday after the Senate honored Hendrix for the 20-year stretch that made him the longest serving head of a state mental health agency in the country.

“I’m 60 years old. I’m in good health. What better time for me to retire,” Hendrix said. “I fish, I hunt and I have a small farm. I’m going to raise horses and travel a lot.”

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Sen. Nolan Mettetal, D-Sardis, appeared emotional as he spoke of his admiration of Hendrix, saying the two have been friends for nearly 55 years. Mettetal said Hendrix served honorably in Vietnam then returned to Mississippi with a strong desire to help people.

“He was dependable and you didn’t have to call him but one time and you got help,” Mettetal said. “It didn’t matter what the issue was. He stepped forward and helped us all.”

The Senate passed a resolution to honor Hendrix “for his devotion to his family, his church and his community; his entire life, from boyhood to the present has exemplified the ideals of honor, service and courage.”

Sen. Billy Thames, D-Mize, said Hendrix was often the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

“The mentally ill and mentally retarded do not have an alumni association,” Thames said. “They don’t have lobbyists up here to carry anybody to dinner. They won’t be making campaign contributions, but they are the ones that have to depend on you.”

Hendrix has headed the department since 1986. He is retiring from the $144,000-a-year job after nearly 40 years in public service.

Edwin C. LeGrand III will replace Hendrix in a job that oversees some 8,700 state employees. LeGrand has worked for the Department of Mental Health for more than 30 years and for the last four year has served as deputy executive director, the agency’s second in command.

Hendrix said he knew he would be retiring this year for at least four years, so officials have had time to plan and make the transition “as seamless as possible.”

Hendrix called LeGrand “the best person for that job.”

Hendrix graduated from South Panola High School in 1964 and attended Northwest Mississippi Junior College before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Mississippi. He received a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1979.

The Senate resolution said “Hendrix’s honors and awards are almost too numerous to mention.”

The resolution is Senate Resolution 503.