Lt. Governor Evelyn Gandy and Owen Cooper

The first woman to hold statewide office in Mississippi was Evelyn Gandy, elected state treasurer in 1959, then insurance commissioner in 1972, and finally lieutenant governor in 1975. She was twice defeated in races for governor. Born in Hattiesburg and a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, she was the only woman in her law school class at the University of Mississippi and the first woman to edit the Mississippi Law Journal. Active in Democratic Party politics all her life, she worked for Governor Theodore Bilbo just out of law school and was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1947. During her many years in public service Gandy supported advances in education, women’s rights, health care, and other human services. She died in 2007.

Gandy is seen here with Owen Cooper of Yazoo City, highly regarded businessman and civic leader. As executive director of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, he successfully built legislative support for rural hospitals and four-lane highways in Mississippi and helped establish Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi and Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company. He also founded Mississippi Chemical Company, a farmer-owned chemical cooperative, and First Mississippi Corporation, a venture capital company and the first state-based firm to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He was a progressive leader, supporting civil rights, Head Start, and other social justice initiatives. Elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention and was named Baptist Layman of the Century by the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

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