Honorable man who cares about the state

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 21, 2014

By Will Sullivan

Guest Columnist 

I went to a meeting at City Hall recently to hear Sen. Thad Cochran make a campaign address, and as I sat there I could help but remember the first time I met him.

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The year was 1972 and he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican, a rare breed of politician in Mississippi at that time. I was a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger and assigned to interview him for a story.

I don’t remember who his opponent was, or even if he had more than one opponent. Also-rans are never remembered by anyone other than their families and close friends.

I met him at his campaign office and during that interview I learned two things that have always stayed with me about Thad Cochran.

First was that he is naturally friendly with none of the bombast typical of politicians. Two was that he is very intelligent.

Over the years that followed was to learn a great deal more about Thad Cochran.

In my mind, the two most important things I learned are that where he is concerned the word “honorable” is not just a title or part of a title, it is an accurate assessment of his character.

The second is that he cares a great deal about Mississippi and is determined to help his home state in every way he can. Neither of those things can be said about very many politicians.

One of the very few other politicians that have impressed me that way was a man who would later run against then Senator Cochran after first serving a term as governor where he made major – and good – changes to the perception many outside of Mississippi had about this state and guided to passage in the State Legislature the first – and badly needed – reform of the state’s education system. Of course I am talking about former Gov. William Winter, a Democrat. Frankly, I so admire both men that I can no longer remember which I voted for in that election.

Being a liberal, it is reasonable to say I voted for Governor Winter, but by then being the farm editor at The Clarion-Ledger and knowing all that Senator Cochran, even as a freshman senator, had meant to farmers here, it is also reasonable to say I voted for him. I know for certain that I have voted for Senator Cochran in every other election in which he has run, though he most certainly is far more conservative than I.

That this state has two such phenomenal politicians, though of different parties, says a great deal that is good about the state. What is sad here and all around the country is that such men are extremely rare.

These two men care about their state and their constituents and will do all in their power to help their state and their constituents – and remain always honorable men, even in opposition to each other.

Personally, I feel honored to have known them and covered them both at some point in their long and distinguished careers. And I know whom I will vote for in the upcoming senatorial election.