Legacy of a public servant

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

City Manager Jim Luke brought a copy of a column by Sid Salter, a state-wide columnist, Mississippi State University alumnus and public relations manager for MSU, by the Picayune Item Monday morning.

The column was about Luke’s uncle, Eph Cresswell, U.S. Sen. John Stennis’ longtime chief of staff. I say the column was about Cresswell, but at least half of it was taken up with Stennis, as, actually, it probably should have been.

As Stennis’ faithful chief of staff for more than 30 years, Cresswell worked, mostly hidden, in the long shadow of his boss. The two men crafted legislation over those years that had a tremendous impact on Mississippi, as well as the nation. Adjacent to Picayune, and technically in Hancock County, is Stennis Space Center, a federal facility that Sen. Stennis, with help from his aide Eph Cresswell, brought to Mississippi that has had a tremendous impact on Pearl River County and Hancock County.

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Though Luke is from Pearl River County and is Picayune city manager, Cresswell’s only connection to this area was his nephew and his family. Luke said Cresswell and his family were all born in and around Durant in Holmes County.

Another major project Sen. Stennis, with Cresswell’s behind the scenes help, brought to the state is the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which has had a tremendous impact well to the north of Picayune and may have an even greater one as years pass.

Luke is proud of his uncle’s part in these developments, though, as good aide should be, Cresswell was always in the shadow of Sen. Stennis. This area also has reason to be thankful for Cresswell. As a good public servant he carried the water for his boss when he was pulling the political levers that created the space center.