Governor honors Gandy

Published 7:43 pm Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gov. Haley Barbour has ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff to honor the memory of Evelyn Gandy, whose storied political career helped shape Mississippi policies and carve a path for women in public service.

Gandy, the first female elected to the statewide offices of treasurer, insurance commissioner, and lieutenant governor, died Sunday night. She was 87.

“Marsha and I join with all Mississippians in mourning the loss of Ms. Gandy, whose dedicated service made her one of the most significant public servants in state history,” Barbour said Wednesday in a news release.

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Barbour ordered the flags flown at half-staff beginning at sunrise Thursday and ending at sunset Friday. Gandy’s body will lie in repose in the state Capitol on Thursday and she will be buried Friday after services in Hattiesburg.

Her body will be placed in the Capitol rotunda beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday and a memorial service is scheduled for noon. Details about the service have not been released.

Gandy, who never married, is survived by several cousins. Her sister and constant companion, Frances Gandy, died in July.

In 1943, Gandy was the only woman in her graduating class at the University of Mississippi School of Law. She opened a law practice in 1947, only to close it after she was elected to the Mississippi House later that year. She took office in early 1948.

In 1960, she became the first woman elected state treasurer; 12 years later she became the first female state insurance commissioner. In 1976, she became the state’s first female lieutenant governor.

Gandy fell short in two bids for the governorship, in 1979 and 1983, both times losing in a primary runoff for the Democratic nomination. She returned to her law practice in Hattiesburg in 1983.

Former colleagues say she was determined to be fair to those she served, and she displayed a quiet demeanor that belied her political strength.

“She was absolutely a public servant in the classic sense of the words,” said Jackson attorney John Corlew, who served in the Senate from 1976-80 when Gandy was lieutenant governor.

“She had no interest in doing anything but the utmost for the public good. There were no ulterior motives. There were no political considerations. She was like that for her whole career.”

Gandy had suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a disease similar to Parkinson’s disease, said Carroll Ingram, a law partner of Gandy’s who also served in the state Senate while Gandy was lieutenant governor.