Ronnie Musgrove

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Ronnie Musgrove
David Ronald Musgrove.jpg
62nd Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 11, 2000 – January 13, 2004
LieutenantAmy Tuck
Preceded byKirk Fordice
Succeeded byHaley Barbour
29th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 16, 1996 – January 11, 2000
GovernorKirk Fordice
Preceded byEddie Briggs
Succeeded byAmy Tuck
Member of the Mississippi State Senate
In office
Personal details
David Ronald Musgrove

(1956-07-29) July 29, 1956 (age 65)
Tocowa, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Melanie Ballard (1977–2001)
Melody Bounds (2007–present)
ResidenceJackson, Mississippi
EducationNorthwest Mississippi Community College
University of Mississippi,
(BA, JD)

David Ronald Musgrove (born July 29, 1956) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician who served as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi from January 16, 1996 to January 11, 2000 and as the 62nd Governor of Mississippi from January 11, 2000 to January 13, 2004. To date, he is the last Democrat to hold the Mississippi Governorship position.

He was defeated by incumbent Senator Roger Wicker in a 2008 special election for one of Mississippi's seats in the U.S. Senate. Musgrove is a Principal at the public affairs consulting firm Company. Politics.[1] In 2014, he became founding partner of a new law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, Musgrove/Smith Law.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Tocowa, Mississippi (now a ghost town), Musgrove grew up in the nearby city of Batesville. When Musgrove was seven years old, his father, a road crew worker with the Mississippi Highway Department, caught pneumonia while laboring during a record snowstorm and died. His mother worked at a Fruit of the Loom factory, tended a garden of 0.5 acres (2,000 m2) and raised him and his four siblings by herself.[3]

After attending Northwest Mississippi Junior College, now Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi, Musgrove went to the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he became friends with fellow law student, future Mississippi House of Representatives member and future author John Grisham.[4]

Grisham would later campaign for Musgrove in each of his races for lieutenant governor, governor and the U.S. Senate.[5][6]

Political career[edit]

Before being elected governor, Musgrove was a two-term state senator and lieutenant governor under Kirk Fordice.

Shortly after being elected lieutenant governor, Musgrove was seriously injured in a car accident while traveling on official state business. He gained national attention a few months later when he was pressed into service as acting governor after then-Gov. Fordice (a Republican and fierce political opponent) nearly died in his own car accident. While serving as acting governor in Fordice's absence, Musgrove was a model of political restraint, limiting his activities to signing proclamations, processing extraditions, declaring weather-related emergencies and making appointments recommended by Fordice's staff. At the time, Musgrove was quoted as saying, "When we're confronted by these types of matters, politics has to be put on the back burner and we have to do the right thing."[7]

Musgrove campaigning for Senate with Jim Webb in Jackson, Mississippi
Supporters of Musgrove's senate campaign

In 1998 Musgrove chaired the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors.[8] A Harvard study listed then Lt. Governor Musgrove as one of the top three most powerful lieutenant governors in the United States.[9]

The 1999 gubernatorial election between Musgrove and Republican Congressman Mike Parker was the closest in Mississippi history.[10] Out of almost three-quarters of a million votes cast, Musgrove had won 8,300 more votes than Parker in a four-way election, but fell 0.38 points short of receiving a majority (as required by the state's 1890 Constitution). Since neither candidate received a majority of the popular vote, and had split the electoral vote 61-61, the Mississippi House of Representatives was required to hold a contingent election select the winner.[11] They chose Musgrove on the first ballot, and was the only time the election of a Mississippi governor was decided by the Mississippi House, as a 2020 referendum abolished the electoral vote requirement and replaced a contingent election with a runoff election between the top two candidates.[12]

As Governor, Musgrove served as chair or vice chair of a number of boards and associations, including the National Governor's Association (vice chair), the Southern Regional Education Board (chair), the Southern States Energy Board (chair elect), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (chair elect) and the Executive Committee for the Democratic Governors Association (vice chair of policy).[13]

As governor, Musgrove presided over what is still considered the largest economic development project in Mississippi history.[14] In August 2000, he launched the Advantage Mississippi Initiative (AMI) to create new jobs for the state, which brought in a new Nissan Motor Company production plant.[13][15] The $1.4 billion Nissan Motor Company production plant created 5,300 direct jobs and over 25,000 indirect jobs.[9] Nissan's arrival gave legitimacy to the notion that the Southeastern United States could become an automotive manufacturing leader.[14] Musgrove's AMI economic development package also helped set in motion the mechanics needed to recruit Toyota to Blue Springs.[16]

After losing his bid for re-election in 2003 to Republican challenger Haley Barbour, Musgrove returned to private practice with the law firm of Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush, P.A. in Ridgeland, Mississippi. On January 4, 2008, Musgrove confirmed that he would be a candidate in the 2008 United States Senate special election in Mississippi against Republican candidate Roger Wicker, who was appointed to the position by Governor Haley Barbour when Trent Lott resigned. Musgrove lost to Wicker.

Musgrove has remained active in public service since leaving office, continuing to serve on a number of boards and commissions that advocate for quality education and better access to health care for rural and low income families.[9]

Political views[edit]

As governor, Musgrove had conservative social views, enacting laws restricting homosexual couples from adopting children and requiring that the motto "In God We Trust" appear in all classrooms in Mississippi. He also had an anti-abortion record as governor.[17][18]


During his tenure, Musgrove was known as the education governor.[19] The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal noted that former Gov. William Winter has said the Adequate Education Program is the most significant piece of education legislation in the state's history. "A lot of politicians played major roles in the passage of the legislation, but Adequate Education would not have passed without the leadership of Musgrove as lieutenant governor."[20] Governor Musgrove recognized the importance of building economic capacity through an educated workforce. Always a strong proponent of public education, Governor Musgrove focused his attention while in office on building a solid foundation for economic growth through Mississippi's public schools.[21] In July 2001, Governor Musgrove signed a bill that implemented the largest teacher pay increase in state history—raising teacher's pay in Mississippi to the Southeastern average. Under Governor Musgrove, the Princeton Review reported that school accountability standards in Mississippi went from 50th nationally to the top 20.[9] In 2002, Mississippi was the first state in the nation to have a computer with internet access in every classroom.[22]


When Governor Musgrove took office in January 2000, fewer than 525 Mississippi children were enrolled in Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). At the time, Mississippi had more than 85,000 children that were eligible to receive health insurance benefits through the Mississippi Health Benefits Program, which provides health insurance to Mississippi's children whose parents are caught in the gap between making too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance. Governor Musgrove joined with the Department of Human Services, the Division of Medicaid and the Department of Finance and Administration to develop a new action plan and marketing plan for CHIP.[23] By the time he left office, the number of children covered under CHIP had increased to over 60,000.[9] Governor Musgrove is currently chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services,[24] and co-chairman of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.[25]


In August 2003, Musgrove wrote Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore on state letterhead to praise the judge's Ten Commandments monument, inviting the judge to display the monument in the Mississippi State Capitol for a week the following month and announcing his intention to encourage other governors to follow suit. Musgrove further wrote, "It would be my honor to host this monument as a symbol of every Mississippian's dedication to the fundamental principles of the Ten Commandments."[26]

In 2001, Musgrove signed legislation requiring the motto "In God We Trust" to be displayed in every public school classroom, as well as the school auditoriums and cafeterias, throughout the state.[27][28]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2000, Musgrove signed a bill into law banning same-sex couples from adopting children, making Mississippi only the third state to have done so. The law also says that Mississippi will not recognize adoptions from other states by same-sex couples.[29][30] However, in 2013, Musgrove wrote an opinion editorial in The Huffington Post expressing his support for both same sex marriage and same sex adoption.[31]


Musgrove as governor signed a bill banning public funding of abortions, with exceptions for when the pregnant woman's life is in danger, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when a fetal malformation is incompatible with the baby being born alive.

Mississippi state flag[edit]

Mississippi's state flag featured the Confederate Battle Flag prominently. In 2000, the Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that the Mississippi flag, a source of division among white and black Mississippians, was not official.[32] A court ruled the flag was officially adopted in 1894, but the law designating the state flag was not among those carried forward in a 1906 update of the state code. The judges left the decision on whether to adopt the flag to the legislative and executive branches.[33]

In response to the ruling, Musgrove held a press conference to announce that he had issued an executive order creating a 17-member commission to study the flag. In the executive order, Musgrove also called for continuing the use of the flag until the Legislature had received and reviewed the committee's report. During the press conference, flanked by a U.S. flag and the controversial state flag, Musgrove offered no indication of his opinion on the current flag or any possible future design.[34]

The commission eventually came up with a new design that replaced the battle flag in the canton with a circular array of twenty stars (Mississippi is the 20th state) on a blue background. As campaigning for the flags began leading up to a referendum, Musgrove did endorse the new flag.[35] A referendum was held in April 2001 to determine whether the new flag would be adopted. The 1894 flag won by a vote of 65% to 35%.[36]

Personal life[edit]

In 1977 Musgrove married Melanie Ballard. In 2001, while Musgrove was governor, the couple divorced after 24 years of marriage.[37] The results and settlement of the divorce were sealed by the judge at the request of the Musgroves.[38] Musgrove married Dr. Melody Bounds on August 4, 2007.[39] The Musgroves are members of Parkway Hills United Methodist in Madison, Mississippi. They have four children ranging in age from 19 to 24.[40] Musgrove volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and Stewpot Community Services.[21] He also teaches classes at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, as well as at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, Mississippi.


  1. ^ "Politics". Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  2. ^ "Musgrove Smith Law – Mississippi Attorneys". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Access My Library". Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  4. ^ "John Grisham – Biography". Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  5. ^ " Away down South in Dixie". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Judge rules Grisham is an Innocent Man in libel case". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  7. ^ Sack, Kevin (26 November 1996). "Governor's Car Accident Has Mississippi Abuzz". Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via
  8. ^ "The Southern Governors" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 December 2004. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Ronnie Musgrove – Profile – USLaw Network". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  10. ^ Ayres Jr., B. Drummond (November 4, 1999). "Tight Governor's Race Will Be Decided by Mississippi House of Representatives". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  11. ^ Ayres, B. Drummond, Jr. (November 4, 1999). "Tight Governor's Race Will Be Decided by Mississippi House of Representatives". New York Times.
  12. ^ "In Mississippi, A Democrat Is Governor". The New York Times. January 5, 2000. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  13. ^ a b "National Governors Association: Mississippi Governor David Ronald "Ronnie" Musgrove". Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  14. ^ a b "The Mississippi Business Journal: Economy, education cornerstones of Musgrove's campaign". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  15. ^ " – CBSi". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  16. ^ "Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: Musgrove's baggage aside, he had his accomplishments". Retrieved 20 December 2017.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Archived from the original on 2008-01-17. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Pender, Geoff; Wilemon, Tom (November 1, 2003). "Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove known as the education governor". The Sun Herald.
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ a b[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2012-02-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-16. Retrieved 2012-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Members – Official web site of the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2012-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "Mississippi Governor Emulates Moore; Endorses Ten Commandments – Freedom From Religion Foundation". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  27. ^ Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "National News Briefs; 'In God We Trust' Motto For Mississippi Schools". Associated Press. 25 March 2001. Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via
  29. ^ "Mississippi Bans Gay Adoptions". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  30. ^ "Baptist Press: Miss. governor, Baptist layman, signs homosexual adoption ban". Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  31. ^ Musgrove, Ronnie (March 20, 2013). "Portman's Conversion Should Be a Lesson". Huffington Post.
  32. ^ Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches, 774 So. 2d 388 (Miss. 2000)
  33. ^ Dedman IV, James M. (Fall 2001). "At Daggers Drawn: The Confederate Flag and the School Classroom – A Case Study of a Broken First Amendment Formula". Baylor Law Review. 53: 877, 883.
  34. ^ "The Clarion-Ledger: Musgrove creates advisory commission; Future of flag on line". Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  35. ^ Sack, Kevin (4 April 2001). "Battle Lines Form Again on the Battle Flag". Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via
  36. ^ "Mississippi keeps Confederate flag". 18 April 2001. Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via
  37. ^ Parker, Suzi (June 28, 2001). "South scrambles to improve state of unions.(USA)". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012.
  38. ^ "Sun Herald: Search Results". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  39. ^ "The Clarion-Ledger: Musgrove remarries at small ceremony". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Eddie Briggs
Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
January 16, 1996 – January 11, 2000
Succeeded by
Amy Tuck
Preceded by
Kirk Fordice
Governor of Mississippi
January 11, 2000 – January 13, 2004
Succeeded by
Haley Barbour
Party political offices
Preceded by
Brad Dye
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Amy Tuck
Preceded by
Dick Molpus
Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
1999, 2003
Succeeded by
John Eaves
Preceded by
Erik Fleming
Democratic nominee for
U.S. Senator from Mississippi (Class 1)

Succeeded by
Albert N. Gore