Local legislator passes away

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, August 4, 2013

     Brookhaven attorney, Mississippi statesman and retired U.S. Army General Steven L. Melançon died Friday at his home. He was 68.

     His daughter Jena Melançon said Brookhaven and this community were very important to her father.

     “He could have lived anywhere in the world, but he chose Brookhaven,” she said.

     She added that he dedicated his life unselfishly to family, community and country.

     “He was a man of service – to his country, to his community, to his friends and most importantly, to his family,” she said.

     His son Louis P. Melançon said, “any accomplishments I have achieved were to make him proud and let him know what a great father he was.”

     His daughter-in-law Heather Melançon recalls a warm family man.

     “I will always remember him as a man of tremendous compassion and no artifice, with a great intellect and experience. More than that I will remember a man who warmly welcomed me into his family.”

     Former Brookhaven mayor Les Bumgarner said Melançon was an important leader in the community.

     “I served with him in the National Guard,” Bumgarner recalls, “He was a great leader there and in the community. He was a great servant. He loved Brookhaven as much as anybody.”

     President of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Industrial Development Foundation Bill Jacobs said he was a long time friend and associate of Melançon.

     “I knew him best as a lawyer and a legislator who worked hard for his state and this county,” Jacobs said. “He dedicated much of his later life in the community to veterans affairs and to the Methodist church. And, something a lot of people may not know about – he was very interested in genealogy and helped restore old cemeteries that date back to the founding of Brookhaven.”

     “Without his efforts that history would have been lost,” Jacobs added.

     Melançon’s service to state and country began in 1965 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam where he flew aerial rocket artillery helicopters and became a decorated pilot.

     His military honors include two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze Stars, 25 Air Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Vietnam Service Medal. In 1996 He was inducted into the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Still, Okla.

     He served in the Mississippi National Guard where he received the Mississippi Magnolia Medal and the Mississippi War Medal.

     Melonçon began practicing law in Brookhaven in 1979 and became a noted statesman when he served Mississippi as a state representative. He was the first Republican legislator elected in Lincoln County and his family said he felt one of his greatest accomplishments during his term as a state lawmaker was getting a bill passed that required mandatory school attendance.

     Other accomplishments included his work in the re-organization of Mississippi’s outdated Justice of the Peace court system and the establishment of a more efficient and transparent small claims court.

     A proud moment for Melançon was in 2001 when President George W. Bush appointed him as the Mississippi State Director for the Selective Service System and was responsible for the registration programs for all 18-year-old males in the U.S.

     As a community activist Melançon founded the Wesley/Brookhaven Food Pantry in 1983 where he dedicated himself to driving the mission’s bus, maintaining its building and feeding and teaching at-risk children by providing social programs.

     Bumgarner said Melançon’s death came as a shock and will be a sad loss for Brookhaven.