Reeves sworn in as governor

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A delegation from Bogue Chitto — with Tate Reeves’ maternal grandmother leading the way — converged on the Capitol Tuesday to watch the ginger politician become the 65th governor of Mississippi.

“There was a good showing of friends and family from Lincoln County,” said Denise Moak Kent, who is Reeves’ second cousin on his mother’s side.

Kent lives in Bogue Chitto, where Reeves’ parents Dianne Magee Peeples and Terry Reeves graduated high school. She brought Reeves’ grandmother, Idelle Magee, to the daylong party in Jackson. They were joined for the inauguration by many other friends and family members from Lincoln County and Walthall County, where Reeves’ wife, Elee, has her roots.

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During his inauguration, Reeves, a Republican, pledged to provide economic opportunities for all people in the state and to defend a “loving culture that underpins our quality of life.”

Reeves, 45, succeeds Republican Phil Bryant, who served two terms.

Reeves served two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms before that as the elected state treasurer. He took the oath as governor before family, friends, lawmakers and other officials in the House chamber of the state Capitol.

The building was crowded and festive, with brass bands playing patriotic music and people standing in clusters to watch the inaugural ceremony on large video screens set up in the marble hallways.

“A culture of love and kinship has knitted Mississippi families together, and tied them to each other, for ages,” Reeves said. “It is what makes us special in a fast-paced and transient world. I will defend that culture against the erosion that frays societies.”

Kent said the family enjoyed the inauguration and seeing Reeves take the oath of office.

“We’re all very proud of him,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful day, family being there together and being there to support him.”

After the closing prayer, Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, made the motion to dissolve the joint session of the Legislature, which gathered for Reeves’ inauguration.

Currie said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn requested her for the assignment, which is an honor. The Senate and the House hold a joint session only once a year for the state of the state address, or twice when there is an inauguration.

She dissolved the joint session a few years ago as well.

“I am the first woman to ever be asked to do it,” she said.

Currie was disappointed that the parade, flyover and a 19-gun salute was canceled Tuesday because of the rain. She blamed the bad weather for a lower attendance for the festivities as well.

The inauguration ceremony was instead held in House chambers Tuesday.

“I hate it for Tate and their family. It’s their special day,” she said. “With the weather, he misses out on the pomp and circumstance.”

Currie said with everyone staying indoors, it was too crowded to pick out many familiar faces. She spotted Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox and Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing.

“He had a good showing from Lincoln County,” she said.

Reeves, the oldest son of Terry Reeves, gave props to his dad during his inauguration speech.

The elder Reeves grew up in Bogue Chitto, crammed into a two-bedroom home with 10 siblings.

He created a small business in 1975 and grew it into a multimillion-dollar company with more than 100 employees.

Reeves said his father personifies the American dream and that he taught him the importance of hard work to reach success.

He also promised to ensure that state government reflects “the love we have for each other,” including taking care of foster children and special-needs children.

It will mean cleaning up the prison system “to provide for the safety of our citizens and the human dignity of all within the system,” Reeves said. “It will mean making sure state government is not causing more problems than it solves.”

Mississippi has among the lowest teacher salaries in the United States. Reeves and legislative leaders have all said they want to enact a teacher pay raise this year.

“I am committed to elevating our public schools,” Reeves said in his inaugural speech. “That means a pay raise for every teacher — and a new mission to give us more national board certified teachers per capita than any state in the nation. You will note that I did not say more than anyone in the Mid-South. I didn’t say number one in the Southeast. I said No. 1 in the nation.”

Reeves was the 32nd lieutenant governor of Mississippi. He is the 12th lieutenant governor to become governor of the state, and is the only one to have served two terms as lieutenant governor before being elected to the higher office.

Reeves defeated fourth-term Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and two lesser-known candidates in November.

Republicans this term have maintained control of the Mississippi House and Senate. With Hood out of office and replaced by a Republican, the GOP now holds all eight statewide offices.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.