Ray Mabus: Sixtieth Governor of Mississippi: 1988-1992
Although Ray Mabus was the youngest governor in America at the time of his inauguration on January 12, 1988, he had accumulated an impressive record of public service and academic achievements.
Born October 11, 1948, in Choctaw County, Mississippi, Raymond Edwin Mabus had earned three degrees: a bachelor of arts from the University of Mississippi, summa cum laude; a master’s in political science from Johns Hopkins; and a law degree from Harvard, magna cum laude. He had been offered a Fulbright Scholarship, had held a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and had traveled widely throughout Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Latin America.
In addition to a two-year tour of duty in the United States Navy aboard
a guided-missile cruiser, Mabus had also served as a law clerk in the
United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and as a legal counsel to
a subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee. As legal counsel to
Governor William Winter, he was instrumental in the drafting and enactment
of the Education Reform Act of 1982, a stricter law against driving under
the influence of alcohol, and an open records law.
In 1988, while not yet forty years old, Ray Mabus was elected governor
on the slogan, “Mississippi Will Never Be Last Again.” The
campaign was long and vigorous. After emerging as the Democratic nominee,
Mabus overcame strong opposition from Republican Jack Reed in the general
Because of the gubernatorial succession amendment ratified in 1987, Governor Mabus was eligible for a second term. However, his effort to become the first governor to serve two successive terms in over one hundred years was not successful. Governor Mabus won the Democratic nomination but lost to Republican Kirk Fordice in the 1991 general election.
Governor Mabus was appointed U. S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton and served in that position from 1994 through 1996. He returned to Mississippi and was engaged in business in Jackson until his appointment in May 2009 as the 75th U. S. Secretary of the Navy by President Barack OBama.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted January 2004; updated May 2009
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register, (1988-1992), 111.
Brinson, Carroll. Our Time Has Come, Mississippi Embraces Its Future (Jackson, 1988).
Mullins, Jr., Andrew P. Building Consensus, A History of the Passage of the Mississippi Education Reform Act, 1982 (n.p., 1999).
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