General Steven L. Melançon

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, August 4, 2013

General Steven L. Melançon (U.S. Army, Ret.), beloved husband and cherished father, passed away peacefully in his home on Aug. 2, 2013. His modest manner and generous spirit hallmarked a life unselfishly dedicated to family, community and country.

Gen. Melançon was a talented individual whose curiosity and sense of adventure led to expertise in a variety of fields. He was a decorated pilot, an accomplished attorney, a skilled woodworker, a master storyteller, an expert genealogist and was more technologically savvy than those half his age. He never did anything part way, whether it was researching family history in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., learning how to blacksmith in rural Alabama, or properly balancing the elements of an organic garden in his own backyard. He was a true renaissance man.

Gen. Melançon was born in Clinton, La. to Lona A. and Louis A. Melançon and spent his formative years in Bogue Chitto. In 1963, a chance encounter in downtown Brookhaven at the Haven Movie Theater concession stand introduced him to the love of his life, the future Veda Janice “Jan” Nevels Melançon.

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He began his military service in 1965 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and shortly thereafter married his sweetheart. He served in various military assignments in Europe and two tours in Vietnam where he earned the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. The majority of his active duty was in field artillery and aviation units. His assignments included a myriad of command and staff positions up to Headquarters Department of the Army staff, including more than six years of battery level command and serving as the operations officer of a mechanized infantry battalion. He received numerous awards and honors including the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with “V” for Valor, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. From the Mississippi National Guard, he also received the Mississippi Magnolia Medal and the Mississippi War Medal.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, and his law degree from the University of Mississippi.

From 1979 to 1988, Gen. Melançon practiced law in his hometown of Brookhaven. In addition, he served a term in the Mississippi House of Representatives and was on the Judiciary, Military Affairs, Agriculture and Public Buildings and Grounds Committees. He was instrumental in revamping Mississippi’s archaic Justice of the Peace court system and left the legislature having helped to establish an efficient and trustworthy small claims court. He also considered one of his greatest accomplishments there as having been able to get a bill passed requiring mandatory school attendance. He was the first Republican legislator elected in Lincoln County, and was a past chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party’s Executive Committee.

In 1983, he founded the Wesley Mission/Brookhaven Food Pantry, which grew from a one man effort with him driving its bus, maintaining its building, and feeding and teaching at risk children to a food pantry that operated four days a week and provided much-needed social programs.

Gen. Melançon served the county most recently for several years as its Veterans Service Officer, a job well suited to his skill set and altruistic nature. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him as the Mississippi State Director for the Selective Service System where he served until July 2013. Prior to his retirement from the Mississippi National Guard in 1996, he served for two years as the Director for Operations for the U.S. Selective Service System. As the director, he was responsible for the registration programs for all 18-year-old males in the U.S. and for the training and readiness of 518 reserve officers and over 11,000 civilian volunteers. Prior to that assignment, he served as the Associate Director for Operations for the U.S. Selective Service System and in the Pentagon with the National Guard Bureau for five years where his most recent position was the Chief of the Initiatives and Assessments Team.

In 1995, he was inducted into the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

Gen. Melançon was a member of First United Methodist Church of Brookhaven where he was the teacher of the Fellowship Sunday School Class, a past lay leader and a certified lay speaker. He was a past president of the Lincoln County Bar Association, previously served on the Board of Directors of the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club and was a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard Association, the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and the Mississippi State Bar.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jan Melançon; daughter, Jena C. Melançon; son, Louis P. (Heather) Melançon; grandchildren, Simon L. Vlahovic, Marcus S. Vlahovic, Eloise E. Melançon and L. Theodore Melançon; special niece, Stevie L. Nevels; and half-siblings, Daniel Beavers and Ann Young.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Ray J. Melançon, and half-siblings Adolph Beavers Jr., Robert Beavers, Veronica Beavers and Gary Arceneaux.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Aug. 6, at First United Methodist Church in Brookhaven at 10 a.m. Visitation is on Monday, Aug. 5, at Riverwood Family Funeral Service, 76 Hwy 51 S, Bogue Chitto, MS from 5 until 8 p.m.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the building fund of the First United Methodist Church of Brookhaven.

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