Hattiesburg mayor tells local group he may run for governor

Published 3:36 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny L. DuPree, after his keynote speech to the Picayune Minority Business Group’s community black history program on Thursday night, said that he is considering the possibility of entering the Mississippi governor’s race.

DuPree, in his third term as mayor, is the first black mayor of Hattiesburg, one of the state’s largest, most prosperous cities, 60 miles north of here.

DuPree, a Democrat, spoke at a black history program honoring black Picayune area businesses at St. Matthew’s Baptist Church.

The event was well-attended and ministers from throughout the Picayune area were recognized, along with black businesses.

“Yes Sir, I am considering it. It is a known fact that I am. I don’t have a deadline; it’s almost two years away,” DuPree said, while talking to church members and attendees after his speech. The governor’s election is in November 2011.

“Whatever decision we make, we want to make sure that it is what God wants us to do,” said DuPree, who besides being mayor, is a former Hattiesburg school board president and three-term member of the Forrest County board of supervisors, before winning his first term as mayor in 2001.

DuPree is a popular mayor in Hattiesburg and his connections with the Obama administration are widely known. He said on Thursday he had just returned from a visit to the White House before he spoke in Picayune.

He said he and his wife, Johniece, who accompanied him to Picayune, will visit China in the near future looking for business contacts that will help Hattiesburg.

During his 30-minute speech, DuPree asked the ministers and those attending to “pray for me” as I make this important decision.

After his speech, he told the Item, “It’s what the people want, too. I am talking to the people and they are talking to me. We are also doing a lot of praying. Just like tonight, I asked the people here to be in prayer with us about this decision.”

DuPree told the black businessmen and church members that they would go nowhere without a plan for the future and practicing cooperation and working as a team. “You have to know where you are going before you can get there,” he said, prompting responses of “yes” from the crowd and applause.

He said he gave up a good position with a major U.S. corporation and struck out on his own, but added, “I had a plan, and I knew where I was going, and with the help of God and my family I was successful.”

DuPree is a successful Hattiesburg businessman.

His political career began in 1987 when he was appointed to the Hattiesburg school board and on which he served until 1992. In 1992 he was elected to theboard of supervisors and served three terms, being elected mayor in 2001 and unseating a three-term incumbent.

He is now in his third term as Hattiesburg’s mayor. He and his wife, Johniece, have been married 37 years and have two daughters, April and Monica. DuPree is a deacon at the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Hattiesburg.

He also has a doctoral degree from Jackson State University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.

In asking the group to pray with him and his family about whether or not to run for governor, DuPree said, “We are just asking for you to be in prayer with us. I know what prayer can do. My wife is a cancer survivor because of prayer. So we know what prayer can do.”

The group has a membership list of 62 black businesses in Picayune and surrounding areas.

Dr. Debbie Moore, proprietor of Moore Chiropractic Clinic in Carriere, aided by assistant Dr. Sheena Acker, honored 42 historic black businesses during the ceremonies before DuPree spoke, and the Weems Chapel Inspiration Angels performed along with the St. Matthew’s Church Choir.

The 42 businesses honored by the organization were:

Blue Heaven & Sandwich Shop, Picayune Colored Gym, Bender’s Barbershop, Bogan’s Bus Service, Brown Funeral Home, Blue Note Cafe, Williams Stump Hauling, Baylous Funeral Home, Hayward Malt Stand, McCann’s Cleaners, Mrs. Jefferson Beauty Salon, Woodson Boxing Co., Rose Lee Beauty Salon, Hair’s Cleaners/Tailor, Bender’s Cleaners, Roy’s Grocery, Jones’ Barbershop, Baker’ Grocery, W&W Combo, Greely’s Grocery, Sewell’s Grocery, McLaurin Grocery, Robinson’s Grocery, Williams Shoe Repair, Walker’s Fish House, Fat’s Grocery, Baker Movie House, Abrams Malt Stand, Stems Barbershop, Coopers, Red Onion, Snyder’s Grocery, Drummond, Barbershop Abrams, Beauty Shop; and old school hot spots: Busy Bee Cafe, Blue Flame Cafe, Coopers, Jewel’s, Picayune Colored Gym, Carver High School and Carver Gym.

Drs. Moore and Acker said that PMBG is planning another program for next year.

Dupree is secretary of the National Conference of Black Mayors and served as the president of the Mississippi Municipal League.

He and his wife have one grandson, Chandler DuPree Taylor.