Dick Molpus

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Richard "Dick" Molpus
Born (1949-09-07) September 7, 1949 (age 65)
Nationality American
Occupation Politician - Businessman
Known for Civil rights advocacy

Richard "Dick" Molpus (born September 7, 1949) is a former Democratic Secretary of State of Mississippi and businessman.[1]

Early life[edit]

A Philadelphia, Mississippi native and a 1971 Business Administration graduate of the University of Mississippi, Molpus served for a number of years as Vice President of Manufacturing for Molpus Lumber Company.

Political career[edit]

In 1980, he was Governor William Winter's first appointee and was selected as Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Federal-State Programs,[2] an agency in disarray from the previous administration. For his work in reducing staff and bringing managerial efficiency to that troubled agency, he was selected in 1983 as Mississippi's Public Administrator of the Year by the American Society of Public Administrators.[2]

Dick Molpus was among several younger staff members, including future Governor Ray Mabus, known as the "Boys of Spring" who helped guide Governor Winter's historic Education Reform Act of 1982 to passage.[2] In 1983, he successfully ran statewide for Secretary of State of Mississippi against seven opponents. He was re-elected by significant margins in 1987 and 1991.[3] Mr. Molpus took the Secretary of State's Office from an agency that was a tax drain of $200,000 to a profit maker of over $2,000,000 per year.[2]

As Secretary of State he also served as Lands Commissioner of Mississippi and, in that capacity, supervised more than 600,000 acres (2,400 km2) of 16th Section commercial, residential, and timber property that had been set aside in the early 19th century to raise money for the public schools. By forcing renegotiation of some 5,000 below market leases, he increased, by more than $24,000,000, the amount of revenue to the public schools from those properties during his tenure.[2]

He also successfully led efforts in the Mississippi Legislature for sweeping lobbyist law reform that required lobbyists to report all money spent on public officials. In addition, he proposed and led to passage substantial election law improvements, including allowing citizens to register to vote by mail.[2]

On June 21, 1989, Molpus officially apologized to the families of murdered civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner at an Ecumenical Memorial Service at Mount Zion Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.[4] For this act, he received death threats but has cited it as his proudest moment.

In 1993, he was recognized by his peers and was elected President of the National Association of Secretaries of State.[2] As President of that organization, he founded Project Democracy, an effort chaired by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to increase voter participation in the United States.

In August 1995, he won the Democratic Nomination for Governor of Mississippi. In November of that year, after a strongly contested race, he lost to incumbent Republican Kirk Fordice.[2]

Post-political career[edit]

On January 8, 1996, after completing his third term as secretary of state of Mississippi, Molpus began a timberland investment management organization, The Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC.

Dick Molpus and his wife, Sally, were the founders of Parents for Public Schools, which now has chapters in 18 cities in 13 states across the United States.[2] That organization steadfastly supports local public schools and works with parents to ensure high standards for those schools. He is a former President of National Parents for Public Schools. He received from the H. Council Trenholm Memorial Award from the National Education Association in 2004 for his work on behalf of public schools.

In 2005, he was honored as an inductee into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame,[5] and in 2008, he was honored as a Visionary Public Servant by the Mississippi Center of Justice at their annual Champions of Justice dinner. He was Co-Chairman of the successful 2006 Jackson Public School Bond Campaign that brought $150MM in renovations and new schools to Jackson. In addition, he serves as treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Harwood Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Bethesda, Maryland, that seeks to spark fundamental changes in American public life. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Education Foundation, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He recently became a member of the Board of Directors of MDC, located in Durham, North Carolina, which helps organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from economic opportunity. He also serves as a board member of the New York City-based Andrew Goodman Foundation, which focuses on voting rights and justice issues.

In 2007 he became the founding Chairman of the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities,[6] a $200MM endowment funded by the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement. The endowment is focused on improving forest health and assisting timber-reliant communities in the U.S. Molpus is also a founding board member and executive committee of the National Alliance of Forest Landowners (NAFO), which is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic and environmental values of privately owned forests through policy advocacy at the national level.

In 2013 he was inducted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.

Daily Show coverage[edit]

On February 20, 2013, he was lampooned by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show for failing, as Mississippi Secretary of State in 1995, to file paperwork to make Mississippi the last state in America to ratify the 13th amendment ending slavery. However, on Feb. 22, Constance Slaughter-Harvey, a black woman who served as Molpus' assistant secretary of state, told the media that she was in charge of filing the paperwork in 1995 and did file it.[7] Many people familiar with Molpus' history called for The Daily Show to correct the report and apologize to Molpus.[8] Stewart apologized on the February 25th show, praising Molpus's record on civil rights, and emphasizing that neither Molpus nor his staff requested the apology.[9]

References[edit]

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