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He condemned the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision, but in 1983 he switched and voted for an extension of the Voting Rights Act.
[From the Clarion-Ledger, April 25, 1995]
STENNIS FRIENDS RECALL LEADER'S HUMAN QUALITIES
(By Mac Gordon)
HIGH OFFICE DIDN'T STEAL COMMON TOUCH, THOSE WHO KNEW HIM SAY
DeKALB-JOHN C. STENNIS was remembered in his hometown Monday as a gentleman, and a man of the highest integrity.
But retired farmer James "Red" McCoy, 79, who has known the Stennis family all his life and whose late mother-in-law helped raise the 41-year U.S. Senator, described STENNIS more succinctly.
“He was number one around here,” said McCoy, sitting glumly on a bench in front of Sciple's Grocery just off the square surrounding the Kemper County Courthouse.
STENNIS, who died Sunday of complications from pneumonia, was considered a regular kind of guy by most folks here in the piney, red clay hills of east central Mississippi.
He certainly lived like most folks. Take his unpretentious house on the southern edge of town. A U.S. Senator, for whom aircraft carriers and space centers are named, has a big faded-green hot water heater standing in the middle of the kitchen and window air conditioners perched all around.
"He was just glad to have that hot water heater. He wanted everybody to see it,” laughed retired pharmacist John T. Reed, 63, who lives across the Mississippi 39 entrance to the 1,073-population town from the STENNIS home.
Bobbie Harbour, who ran STENNIS's DeKalb office the final 13 years he served, said STENNIS always enjoyed coming back to the neat residence that she hopes will be preserved in his memory.
"He always said that he had a house in Washington but a home in Kemper County,” Harbour said.
Harbour said STENNIS was rarely marked in his hometown as one of the Nation's mightiest politicians. In fact, STENNIS was sometimes not even recalled as a member of the U.S. Senate.
“One time a visitor came to town and asked this elderly man sitting around the square how he could locate Senator STENNIS. The local man said, 'I don't know a Senator STENNIS. Now we have Judge STENNIS here.' A lot of people remember him that way,” Harbour said, harkening to the decade STENNIS spent as a circuit judge before winning a special election to the Senate in 1947.
Harbour said locals had long expected STENNIS' death. But that didn't make it any easier to take.
"We always thought he would be there,” she said.
DeKalb lawyer Jimmy Spinks, 48, recalled STENNIS as being strong enough to survive serious gunshot wounds outside his Washington home in 1973.
"We had a prayer service at our church for him because we didn't think he would make it. But he was of strong stock. He had taken care of himself,” Spinks said.
STENNIS' character, said Spinks, was such that “he never had any bitterness about that (shooting). I don't know that he ever mentioned it.”
Harbour said she hopes Mississippians will remember STENNIS in November when they decide whether to place term limits on members of Congress.
"I think Senator STENNIS, Senator Jim Eastland and Congressman Jamie Whitten are probably the best argument Mississippi has against term limits,” Harbour said of the trio that accumulated vast power during their combined 130 years in Congress.
[From the Reflector (Mississippi State University), April 25, 1995)
SENATOR JOHN C. STENNIS DIES AT AGE 93
(By Alison Stamps)
A MAN TO REMEMBER
As Mississippi reflects on the life and accomplishments of its great statesman and former Senator, JOHN C. STENNIS, Mississippi State also suffers the loss of one of its most revered alumni.
STENNIS, 93, died of pneumonia Sunday in Jackson.
The body will lie in state Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Old Capitol in Jackson and at DeKalb Presbyterian Church from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, a graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. at Pinecrest Cemetery in DeKalb. Jackson's Southern Mortuary Services is handling arrangements.
STENNIS, born August 3, 1901 in Kemper County, came to Mississippi A&M College in 1919 and received his bachelor of science degree in general science.
According to Rex Buffington, STENNIS' press secretary of 10 years and executive director of MSU's Stennis Center for Public Service, the steps of Lee Hall are where STENNIS found "his sense of purpose, the calling to which he would devote his life.”
Buffington said STENNIS was in his sophomore year when he sat alone to think on the steps, and he heard through an open window professor A.B. Butts giving a lecture on government. His heart was moved towards public service, and Mississippi was granted Senator STENNIS.
STENNIS also met his wife of 55 years at MSU. He was in his senior year delivering a telephone message to Miss Coy Hines, who was attending a meeting of home demonstration agents on campus.
“JOHN C. STENNIS could never walk past the spot on campus, near where the student Union now stands, where he met ‘Miss Coy' without pausing to recall that fateful day and how it enriched his life. He would also wonder at how many other romances were begun on the campus, some lasting for a lifetime, others for only a brief period, but all special in their own way,” Buffington said.
He never lost his love for MSU, and he became involved in the Mississippi State Alumni Association serving as president of the organization from 1940–1941.
Director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at MSU Marty Wiseman said STENNIS fit the "psyche” of Mississippi State.
"He was just right—so much integrity and stature,” Wiseman said. "He was genuinely proud of Mississippi State.”
Wiseman said STENNIS would never say anything negative about another person or thing—even the University of Mississippi.
Wiseman said he would see STENNIS grin and chuckle when asked about MSU's rival, but Wiseman said he would always say that he was “a Senator for Oxford, too."
“While we will miss his presence, we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to following the example that he set in his thousands of actions as a servant to the citizens of his beloved Mississippi, Wiseman said.
“I was really grateful I had the chance to know him," David Dallas, STENNIS' former staff member-in-residence, said. “I know he's in a much better place now.”
Dallas said he never got the chance to meet either of his grandfathers, so STENNIS became the grandfather he has never had. He added they had fun in their relationship.
Dallas said STENNIS never disappointed people and that "he was a true statesman.”
"Whether as a State legislator, a judge, a U.S. Senator or finally as a university teacher, Senator STENNIS was determined to give an honest day's work for those who placed their trust in him,” Wiseman said.
“It's a sense of loss even though his career was over,” Wiseman said, “because he was such a symbol.”
Wiseman said STENNIS showed that one could have integrity and still be a politician.
Wiseman said integrity was very important to STENNIS—whether in Starkville or in Washington, DC.
Dallas agreed and said, “If there was just one more JOHN C. STENNIS in Congress, there would be a greater sense of integrity in the Senate.”
STENNIS was not only recognized throughout the State he represented, but he was also well known and respected nationally.
Dallas said STENNIS received a copy of John F. Kennedy's “A Profile in Courage," and the President (to the best of Dallas' memory) had written to STENNIS in the cover, “A Senator of Courage in the finest tradition of its State.”
“I don't think the Nation has produced another such statesman,” Dallas said.
He added that STENNIS not only saw the important issues of Mississippi, but was a “trustee” of the State.
Dallas said he was not “a poll person,” but did “what he felt was right for Mississippi and the United States."
“The wealth he might have never occurred to him,” Wiseman said, adding STENNIS was finicky with his dollars—whether his own or the taxpayers'.
Wiseman said STENNIS will be missed, but he added his presence will live on through all he accomplished and through the John C. Stennis Institute of Government.
"It is a heavy but proud burden that we (the Stennis Institute of Government) bear as we strive to daily follow the principles set before us in the life of Mississippi's most admired public servant-Senator JOHN C. STENNIS,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman said the Institute often receives phone calls about problems rural, small towns are having, and a staff member travels to help those who may be in need. He said STENNIS felt if the problem was big enough for the call, it was large enough for someone to go down and see the problem in person—thus, the Institute's staff continues the STENNIS greatness by getting personally involved.
“This is 80 percent STENNIS inspiration–nobody is too small,” Wiseman said.
(From the Reflector (Mississippi State University), April 25, 1995)
A LIFETIME SPENT IN THE SERVICE OF HIS FELLOW MISSISSIPPIANS
(Special to the Reflector)
After receiving a bachelor of science degree in general science in 1923 from what was known as Mississippi A&M College, U.S. Senator JOHN CORNELIUS STENNIS spent his life as a public servant to Mississippi and the country.
STENNIS received a law degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and came home to practice law in DeKalb. In 1928, he was elected to serve in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
From 1931–1937, STENNIS was a district prosecuting attorney. He became the youngest circuit-court judge in Mississippi in 1937 and continued his work until 1947, when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat.
With the campaign slogan, “ I will plow a straight furrow right down to the end of my row. This is my political religion,” STENNIS defeated five opponents and began his 41-year U.S. Senate career, serving from President Truman to President Reagan.
STENNIS retired in 1988, but not before he made an impact on Mississippi and Washington, DC.
In 1958, the same year he was named as MSU's first “Alumnus of the Year," STENNIS was named chairman of a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee. In 1969 STENNIS was named chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and served in this position until 1980.
STENNIS also impacted the State as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee when helping to obtain funding for harbor and Mississippi River projects. In 1987 STENNIS was named chairman of this committee and became President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
In 1965 STENNIS was appointed (and then named by fellow members as chairman) to the first Senate Select Committee on Standards and Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee.
One of most visible accomplishments came in 1970 when STENNIS urged Congress to begin construction on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
he was later rewarded for his services to Mississippi and to the United States when President Reagan announced a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be named for the Senator. In 1993 the USS Stennis was christened at Newport News, Virginia.
[From the Clarion-Ledger, April 26, 1995)
HUNDREDS PAY RESPECTS TO STENNIS
(By Emily Wagster)
THE POWERFUL SENATE LEADER NEVER FORGOT HIS ROOTS, MOURNERS SAY
Hundreds of mourners Tuesday filed past the casket of JOHN C. STENNIS at the State's Old Capitol, remembering him as a State legislator, district attorney, judge and, finally, one of the most powerful U.S. Senators of his time.
J.K. Morgan recalled STENNIS in another important role: Boy Scout master in Kemper County.
"It was 1925, 1926, 1927, along in there," said Morgan, now 80 and living in Jackson. “We had only 10 or 11 Boy Scouts. He would take us out once a year to a pasture on the edge of a small creek. We would spend the night and have a meeting. He was a good man."
STENNIS, 93, died Sunday of complications from pneumonia.
He will be buried today after graveside services at Pinecrest Cemetery in his native DeKalb.
STENNIS was first elected to the Senate in 1947 and retired in 1988. He shaped national policy as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman during the Vietnam War and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman in 1987 and 1988. In January 1987, his colleagues elected him Senate President Pro Tempore, making him third in line to the Presidency.
On Tuesday, mourners remembered STENNIS as a man who never forgot his Mississippi roots.
U.S. Representative Gene Taylor, first elected to Congress after STENNIS' retirement, said he talked to STENNIS in 1989 about meetings the Senator conducted in Hancock County in the late 1950s. STENNIS had to convince people to give up their homes and land for what became a NASA research facility that bears his name—the John C. Stennis Space Center.
“The thing that struck me was that 30 years later, he could still remember the names of the people he talked to at that meeting,” Taylor said.
Lt. Governor Eddie Briggs of DeKalb, several state legislators and State Supreme Court justices were among those paying their respects Tuesday. Many mourners never met STENNIS but felt touched by his work.
"It's just a blessing that he had a record so long,” said Jimmie Evans of Jackson. “I know the Lord guided his work.”
STENNIS was only the second Mississippian to lie in state at the Old Capitol this century. The first was J.P. Coleman, Governor from 1956 to 1960, who died in September 1991.
(From the Associated Press, April 26, 1995)
LONGTIME SENATOR REMEMBERED AS A MAN OF FAITH
(By Gina Holland)
JOHN C. STENNIS, the Mississippi Democrat who gained immense clout over military matters during 41 years in the Senate, was remembered today as a “man of faith."
About 300 people, including congressional leaders and an emissary for President Clinton, attended a graveside service. STENNIS was buried on the crest of a hill, next to his wife, at Pinecrest Cemetery.
A single trumpeter played “America the Beautiful” as mourners gathered around the wood casket draped with red roses.
STENNIS died Sunday in Jackson after being hospitalized for pneumonia. He was 93.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), called STENNIS “a very rare person” who "had much respect from both the Republican side and the Democratic side. He was viewed as a statesman.”