Hugh Lawson White: Forty-fifth and Fifty-first Governor of Mississippi: 1936-1940; 1952-1956
Hugh Lawson White was perhaps the wealthiest man to hold the office of
governor in Mississippi’s history, certainly in modern times. An
industrialist and lumberman, Governor White was also among the oldest
men elected governor —and he was certainly among the largest. When
he was elected to a second term in 1951, Governor White was age seventy
and weighed two-hundred and seventy pounds. Governor White often boasted
of his voracious appetite and claimed that seafood was his favorite food.
During Governor White’s first administration, the state adopted the Balance Agriculture With Industry program and offered economic incentives to new industries locating in Mississippi. Governor White also initiated the first long-range highway construction program which increased the number of miles of paved highways in Mississippi from 922 in 1936 to over 4,000 in 1940. The state highway patrol was organized and the homestead exemption law was also passed.
Between his first and second term as governor, White served a four-year
term in the Mississippi Legislature, from 1944 to 1948. In 1951, he became
one of only three individuals in the 20th century to be elected governor
for a second term. Theodore Bilbo and Kirk Fordice were the other two.
The 1951 governor’s campaign was also the first time in the state’s
history that a woman ran for governor. The woman candidate in that race
was Mary Cain, the fiery editor of the Summit Sun.
After his second term ended in 1956, Governor White returned to private business. He died on September 19, 1965. The 7,000-acre Wildlife Management Area in Marion County and the Hugh White State Park at Grenada are named in honor of Governor White.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted January 2004
McLemore, Richard A. A History of Mississippi, II, (Jackson, 1973) 110-119, 145-157.
Biographical sketch in The Clarion-Ledger, September 8, 1951.
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