Billy McCoy, a friend of education, will be missed

Published 10:52 pm Saturday, January 7, 2012

When the new Legislature begins, it will be absent a fixture of more than three decades: Rep. Billy McCoy.

The soon to be former House Speaker William Joseph “Billy” McCoy, D-Rienzi, didn’t seek re-election after eight terms in the House. It’s the end of an era.

McCoy, often described as a “yellow dog Democrat,” because of his strong ties to the party (it’s said that such partisans would vote for a yellow dog if it had a “D” behind its name), now turns the gavel over to a Republican majority.

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Perhaps equally as tellingly, his House District 3 covering portions of Alcorn and Prentiss counties — elected a Republican, as well.

McCoy, 69, carved a distinguished career the House. His father, the late Elmer McCoy, served in the House from 1936-52. …

McCoy inherited the mantle of speaker from Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, who decided not to run for re-election in 2003. Ford, the second longest serving speaker in state history, was elected speaker 1988, after the late C. B. “Buddie” Newman decided not to run for re-election after 12 years as speaker.

With Newman’s ouster, House reformers maintained that a speaker should only serve two terms to avoid a concentration of power. McCoy has now kept to that.

In McCoy’s final four years, he battled physical ills from strokes, while also standing up to a 2-to-1 GOP political juggernaut masterfully led by Gov. Haley Barbour with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant over the Senate arrayed against him and his Democratic House.

Now, the gavel passes, presumably to the GOP, which will control the Governor’s Mansion, Senate and now, House.

But McCoy will be remembered as having served with distinction as a respected Mississippi leader and true friend of education.

He has earned his retirement rest, and respect.