Miss. Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor dies

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bill Minor, Mississippi’s northern district transportation commissioner and former state senator, died of a heart attack Monday while he was on the Gulf Coast for a national conference. He was 68.

Funeral arrangements were pending in Minor’s hometown of Holly Springs, said Mississippi Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Adams. His body was being flown there Monday.

Minor was attending an annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi. He collapsed in his hotel room and was taken to Biloxi Regional Medical Center about 8 a.m., then was pronounced dead of a heart attack shortly after 9 a.m., said Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove.

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Minor, a Democrat, was first elected as one of three transportation commissioners in November 2003, and his district encompassed the northern one-third of the state.

Before being elected to the commission, Minor served 20 years in the Mississippi Senate, representing Marshall, Benton and DeSoto counties.

Former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, who presided over the Senate during Minor’s final term, said he was loyal and trustworthy.

“He was recognized as a leader of impeccable character, and he earned the respect of those on both sides of the aisle,” Tuck said. “Being a businessman, his heart was in economic development and job creation.”

Dick Hall, the central district transportation commissioner, had been at the conference in Biloxi but left before Minor died. Hall, a Republican, said he considered Minor a friend even though “we had our political differences.” The two served together in the state Senate, and Hall said Minor was a serious legislator and commissioner.

“He a very strong-willed individual,” Hall said. “Once he made up his mind, he was a bulldog.”

Minor served in the Senate 1980-88, then from 1992 until he was sworn in as transportation commissioner in January 2004.

While he was in the Senate, Minor served as vice chairman and then chairman of the Highway Committee and helped pass the 1987 Four-Lane Highway Program that’s credited with improving roads throughout the state. Minor later served as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, which handles bills for taxes and bonds, and on the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, which outlines state spending priorities.

Minor often voted across party lines when he was in the Senate. During debates, he was known for his loud, impassioned and extensive explanations of bills. Still, in 2002, he gave one of the most succinct, all-purpose summations when he told his colleagues: “The bill does what the bill does.”

The current chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Democrat Warner McBride of Courtland, said Monday he was stunned to learn of Minor’s death. McBride said Minor was a man of integrity who kept his word.

“He really knew how government works and was always interested in getting results,” McBride said. “He was interested in making things happen that would help Mississippians.”

Minor was born and reared in Benton County, graduated from Hickory Flat High School and attended Northwest Mississippi Community College. He and his brothers formed a plumbing company that grew into a chain of hardware stores in northern Mississippi, according to his MDOT biography.

Gov. Haley Barbour issued a statement saying Minor had a “long and distinguished” career. Barbour said he and his wife, Marsha, are praying for Minor’s family.

Hall said Minor will be missed on the political scene.

“He was going to tell you what was on his mind, whether you liked it or not,” Hall said. “I admire that in anybody.”