Committed hog and rooster barbecueBy CHARLES DUNAGIN GUEST COLUMNIST,
I’ll miss Steve Holland in the Legislature.
I’ve never lived in his Northeast Mississippi legislative district, and, to my recollection, never even met the man. But I’ve enjoyed his colorful quotes over the years, and most of the time I agreed with how he voted.
Holland, a longtime Democrat, ran in the general election this year as an Independent. He lost the House District 16 seat to Democrat challenger Rickey Thompson, a former Lee County justice court judge, by 221 votes, not counting some affidavit ballots which were not enough to change the outcome.
Thompson is African-American, and this election was another example of how hard it is for moderate white Democrats — or in Holland’s case a moderate white former Democrat running as an Independent — to win a legislative seat in Mississippi.
The districts have been gerrymandered to the point that most of them are represented by white Republicans or black Democrats.
The colorful and sometimes profane Holland, who has been in the Legislature since 1984, noted on Facebook, “the people spoke ...and they formally silenced my legislative voice.” He says he is “100 percent supportive” of his successor.
One of Holland’s milder quotes in the Legislature was this one: “I am committed like the hog, ... The hog supplied the bacon, you know.”
There’s something to be admired about losing with humor and grace.
One of the characters I recall from my years working at the Enterprise Journal in McComb was the late Charles Ray Pigott.
Charles Ray, to put it mildly, was more than occasionally embroiled in some sort of controversy — like stringing barb wire across the Bogue Chitto River to prevent canoes and tubers from passing by his property without permission and then going to court to try to show the river was not a navigable stream. Or, legally fighting a traffic ticket for passing on a yellow line on the grounds the state hadn’t properly posted the law prohibiting it.
At some time, probably in the 1980s, Charles Ray ran for office. I don’t even remember which one, but it may have been for the Legislature.
I do recall he lost by a substantial margin. The day after the election he showed up at the newspaper office, and, to tell the truth, I dreaded talking to him because, more often than not, he was there to complain about something.
But this time he wanted to inform us that he had taken up his campaign signs which is a good thing for all politicians to do but many don’t. “And I am buying a bantam rooster to have a barbecue for my friends,” he added.
Charles Ray’s brother, Joe N. Pigott, was more successful at politics — winning elections for county prosecuting attorney, district attorney and circuit judge.
The story is told that in his early political career, Joe Pigott, a World War II hero who, among other things, had parachuted behind enemy lines and escaped captivity by the Germans, was running against a candidate openly supported by a Magnolia restaurant owner.
The restaurant owner had been driving around with a loudspeaker on his car urging people to vote for Pigott’s opponent. He was taken aback when Pigott walked into his restaurant and handed him some money and told him it was for gasoline so he could keep on making the rounds — implying, of course, that it was doing Pigott more good than his opponent.
Judge Pigott, who could be stern at times, had a sense of humor. He often joked that he was in the Army with Eisenhower.
In a March 2007 interview that aired on National Public Radio, the then retired judge recounted the frequent appearances in his court by the late Willie Earl “Pip” Dow.
“You didn’t have to try him,” Pigott said. He always pled guilty, and he was a likable person. He would write me letters and he wrote me one time and he said, ‘Judge, I feel like I’ve been up here long enough this time and I would appreciate it if you would write to the Parole Board and see if they’ll let me out.’ Well I did, and they did.”
But Dow’s freedom was short-lived. Pigott recalled telling Dow at his next court appearance how disappointed he was after giving him another chance. And Dow said, “Well, Judge, I’m disappointed in you....When I was here four years ago, you were sitting in that same chair, wearing that same robe, making that same speech. I figured a man of your caliber ought to at least be on the Supreme Court by now.”
Pigott said he sentenced him to three years instead of the five he had intended. Dow attended the portrait hanging ceremony for Pigott after the judge retired and told Pigott that he had retired too. He had no more convictions afterwards.