Gov. Haley Barbour on Wednesday honored 11 Mississippians with the Mississippi Medal of Service for their significant contributions to improve their communities and state.
The Mississippi Medal of Service was given to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi House Speaker Billy McCoy, former Mississippi Court of Appeals Justice Mary Libby Payne, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justices Reuben Anderson and Ed Pittman, University of Southern Mississippi President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey Lucas, University of Mississippi Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, former Mississippi Board of Education Chairwoman Lucimarian Roberts, Jackson businessmen Jim Barksdale and Cornelius Turner, and blues legend B.B. King.
"These individuals have had tremendous influence on Mississippi," Gov. Barbour said. "Their hard work and contributions have made Mississippi a better place to live and work. Marsha and I are glad we can honor their service."
The following are biographies of the recipients:
Justice Reuben Anderson
Jackson native Reuben Anderson has left his mark on the state and helped make Mississippi a better place to live. Growing up during segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, he met prominent civil rights leaders and Freedom Riders through the father of a childhood friend, Jack Young Sr. Young inspired Anderson to pursue a career as a civil rights attorney, and he enrolled in Tougaloo College in 1964. After graduation, he attended the University of Mississippi School of Law and earned his degree.
Anderson and his childhood friend, Fred Banks Jr., practiced law together and represented the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in litigation involving school desegregation, housing and employment discrimination, voting rights and other civil rights cases. Anderson began his judicial career after a series of appointments to Hinds County courts. Gov. Cliff Finch appointed Anderson to the Hinds County Court bench in 1975, and Gov. William Winter named him to the Hinds County Circuit Court six years later. Anderson made history in 1985 when Gov. Bill Allain appointed him to the state Supreme Court, making Anderson the first African American to serve in that position. He served for six years before returning to private practice at Phelps Dunbar in Jackson.
Anderson has been active in the community serving as the first African American president of the Mississippi Bar and the first African American President of the Mississippi Economic Council. He also is a member of 100 Black Men of Jackson, a trustee of Tougaloo College and a corporate director for Kroger Co., AT&T Inc., and MINACT Inc. He is the namesake for Tougaloo College's Reuben V. Anderson Pre-Law Society and has been inducted into the Hall of Fames for both the University of Mississippi and its law school.
Jim Barksdale has had a tremendous impact on Mississippi both through his entrepreneurial talent and passion for education. The Jackson native attended the University of Mississippi and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He began his career at IBM and held various management positions, including Chief Information Officer with Cook Industries. He moved to Federal Express Corp. in 1979 as Chief Information Officer before serving as the company's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In 1992, he took the top job at McCaw Cellular Communications working as President and CEO. The company became AT&T Wireless Services and Barksdale served as CEO.
In 1995, Barksdale became President and CEO of a young Internet company, Netscape Communications Corp. He led the Silicon Valley firm through its IPO and an eventual merger with America Online in 1999. Upon completion of the merger with America Online, Barksdale joined Time Warner's Board of Directors. In 1997, Netscape received the "Entrepreneurial Company of the Year" award from both Stanford and Harvard Business School alumni groups. Computer Reseller News named Barksdale "#1 Executive of the Year" and PC Magazine named him "Person of the Year."
Currently, Barksdale is Chairman of the Board and President of Barksdale Management Corp., a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities. In January 2000, he and his late wife, Sally, gifted $100 million to the State of Mississippi to create a statewide reading institute, The Barksdale Reading Institute. This is a joint venture with the Mississippi Department of Education.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Barksdale was appointed by Gov. Barbour to serve as chairman of the Governor's Commission on the Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal to assist in shaping a recovery plan for affected communities. Most recently, he was asked by Gov. Barbour to lead the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition. Recommendations from this coalition will be used to develop a strategy for broadband development and use in Mississippi. He also serves as Chairman of Spread Networks, a company he helped establish in 2009.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran
Thad Cochran has come a long way from his days as a car hop at Gunn's Dairy Bar. Born in Pontotoc, Cochran's parents, William Holmes and Emma Grace Cochran, moved the family to Byram in 1946. Cochran excelled in school, graduating as class valedictorian and earning varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and tennis. While in high school, Cochran's diligent work ethic was evident as he held jobs at Gunn's Dairy Bar and Nicholson's Grocery Store and helped on the family cattle farm. He attended the University of Mississippi where he was elected vice president of the student body and became a company commander in the Navy ROTC. Upon graduation, Cochran served as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was assigned to the USS Macon. He served on the ship for 18 months becoming the ship's legal officer after graduating as an honor student from the U.S. Navy School of Justice. He completed his naval service on the staff of the Commandant of the Eighth Naval District in New Orleans and returned to the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1961. There, he earned the Frederick Hamel Memorial Award for having the highest scholastic average in the first-year class and worked on the editorial board of the Mississippi Law Journal. After law school, he joined the Jackson law firm Watkins and Eager and became an active member of the community, serving as president of the Jackson Men's Y Club, a member of the Jackson Rotary Club and a board member of the Mississippi Opera.
Cochran became active in politics and supported several campaigns, including working as Executive Director of the Mississippi Citizens for Nixon-Agnew in 1968. Four years later, he ran for office himself and was elected as the U.S. Congressman for the Fourth Congressional District. He served on several committees, including the Public Works and Transportation Committee. In 1978, Cochran successfully ran for the U.S. Senate, becoming the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi. As a U.S. Senator, Cochran has had a tremendous impact on the state. He has championed research projects at Mississippi universities that furthered educational achievement and economic development, including the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi, the Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi and the Jackson Heart Study at Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
One of his most significant achievements was his leadership and tenacity in securing funding for helping the Mississippi Gulf Coast and other states recover after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. As then-chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Cochran advanced legislation providing more than $87 billion in supplemental federal assistance to states impacted by Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in American history.
Dr. Robert Khayat
Robert C. Khayat served as the 15th chancellor of the University of Mississippi and guided the university through significant growth. From 1995 until 2009, he was the CEO of the four-campus, 18,000-student university. With degrees from the University of Mississippi and Yale, he was a member of the faculty of the University of Mississippi School of Law, Vice Chancellor for University Development and Public Affairs, organized three capital campaigns for the university resulting in gifts exceeding $900 million for academic programs, salary enhancement, scholarship funding and capital projects and led the successful effort to attract a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa to the university. His chancellorship included hosting the historic Presidential Debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. Khayat currently holds the titles of Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Law. He serves on the Board of Directors of Sanderson Farms and is a Director of The Diversity Institute of The Freedom Forum.
The Moss Point native attended the University of Mississippi where he was an outstanding football and baseball player, leading the nation in scoring by a kicker in 1958 and 1959 and helping the Rebels to consecutive Southeastern Conference baseball titles. He was also an academic All-America selection in football and an All-SEC selection in baseball. He played in the 1960 College All-Star Game. After graduation, Khayat played for the Washington Redskins from 1960-64 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1961. He was awarded the NFL Alumni Career Achievement Award in 1998 and the NFL Foundation Distinguished American Award in 2003.
Khayat was named the Oxford Lafayette County Citizen of the Year in 1989 and has served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He also has been an active member of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, receiving the Distinguished American Award by the Gulf Coast Chapter in 1987 and the Ole Miss Chapter in 1989.
For more than half a century, Riley B. King - better known as B.B. King - has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released more than 50 albums, many of them classics. The Itta Bena native honed his talents on street corners for dimes and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis to pursue his music career.
King's first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a 10-minute spot on Memphis radio station WDIA. "King's Spot" became so popular, it was expanded and became the "Sepia Swing Club." Soon, he needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King.
After his number one hit, "Three O'Clock Blues," King began touring nationally. In 1956, he and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From his start on the "Chitlin' Circuit" with its small-town cafes, juke joints and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, King has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years.
His style and musical phrasing has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. King has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound.
Dr. Aubrey Lucas
Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas made a remarkable impact on higher education in Mississippi, particularly at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. Lucas serves as president emeritus and professor of higher education at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he served for 22 years as president. He previously served as president of Delta State University for four years. Lucas earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Miss and received his doctorate from Florida State University. Mississippi College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He served as Interim Commissioner for Higher Education for the state from 2008 to 2009.
Lucas, a native of State Line, Miss., led Southern Miss through a period of growth and transformation, establishing several important learning institutes at the campus. During his tenure, the university established the Teaching and Learning Resource Center and the Center for International Education. Lucas led the reorganization of the university's 10 schools into six colleges and helped form the Institute for Learning in Retirement. He also helped create the Polymer Science Institute, a program that has had tremendous impact on Mississippi's reputation in the high-tech industry and helped create jobs.
Prior to becoming a university president, Lucas served as an instructor at Hinds Community College and director of admissions, registrar, professor of higher education and dean of the Graduate School at Southern Miss. Lucas has served as a consultant to other colleges and universities and as president of state, regional and national organizations. Several years ago, college and university presidents of the American Association of State Colleges selected him to be chairman of that organization. He has been inducted into many honor societies and fraternities. He is a tree farmer and is retired from the Board of Directors of Mississippi Power Company.
William J. "Billy" McCoy
In 1980, Billy McCoy followed in his father's footsteps and began his service in the Mississippi Legislature. McCoy stayed focused on issues he believed were important to Mississippi's future: transportation, education, health care and economic development.
McCoy made his mark in the Legislature in 1987 when he played an instrumental role in passing the 1987 program to expand and improve four-lane highways throughout Mississippi. The program has played a critical role in the economic development success Mississippi has seen over several decades. McCoy also served as chairman of the House Education and Ways and Means committees. As chairman of the House Education Committee, McCoy helped push through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program to financially support public school districts.
McCoy became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2004. He is a Mason and Shriner and is affiliated with the Farm Bureau. He is a former Vocational Agriculture teacher and loan officer for the Farmers Home Administration. He also served as school auditor for the Mississippi State Department of Audit and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Justice Mary Libby Payne
Justice Mary Libby Payne of Pearl was one of the original members of the Mississippi Court of Appeals and was the first woman to serve on the court. She took office in January 1995 and retired July 31, 2001. Payne served in all three branches of state government. She was a legislative draftsman, executive director of the Mississippi Judiciary Commission and assistant state attorney general. Prior to her election to the Court of Appeals, she was a professor of law and founding dean of the Mississippi College School of Law.
After retirement, Payne, was the only female lawyer to receive the national Christian Legal Society's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. She was the second woman to receive the Mississippi Bar's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and was awarded the Mississippi Women Lawyer's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Payne is a current board member of the Mississippi Historical Society and has served as scholar in Residence/Professor Emerita of Mississippi College School of Law since 2003. She completed the research and writing of the history of the law school entitled "A Goodly Heritage," which is awaiting publication. She attended Mississippi University of Women before transferring to the University of Mississippi and earned a juris doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Justice Ed Pittman
Former Chief Justice Edwin Lloyd Pittman of Ridgeland retired from the Mississippi Supreme Court on March 31, 2004, after 40 years of public service. He joined the Mississippi Supreme Court in January 1989. He became chief justice in January 2001.
During his tenure, the Supreme Court adopted many rule changes to improve the judicial system in the state. The Supreme Court and Court of Appeals began publishing dockets on the Internet and broadcasting oral arguments for both courts on the web.
The Mississippi State University Pre-Law Society named Chief Justice Pittman as recipient of the Distinguished Jurist Award for 2002. The Hinds County Bar Association and the Jackson Young Lawyers Association selected Chief Justice Pittman as recipient of the Judicial Innovation Award for 2003. Pittman has received several major honors, including selection for the University of Southern Mississippi's HUB Award recognizing outstanding community/pubic service and as a charter member of the Southern Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame. In addition, he has been honored with the Mississippi Association of Educators' Humanized Education Award.
Pittman, who grew up in Hattiesburg, served in the Mississippi State Senate from 1964 to 1972, as State Treasurer from 1976 to 1980, as Secretary of State from 1980 to 1984 and as Attorney General from 1984 to 1988. He retired from the Mississippi National Guard as Brigadier General with 30 years of service. Justice Pittman graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Mrs. Lucimarian Roberts
Lucimarian Roberts has been a prominent community activist on the Gulf Coast since her family moved to the region in 1975.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Roberts learned the value of education and faith growing up during the Depression. She was the first in her family to go away to college and received a scholarship from the Knight Scholarship Fund. She attended Howard University where she met her husband Lawrence, a member of the U.S. Air Force. The couple eventually settled in Pass Christian where they raised their children.
Roberts became active in the community serving on a variety of boards and committees. She was the first African American woman to serve as chair of the Mississippi State Board of Education and the first black woman president on the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Commission. Roberts served as director of the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank from November 1991 through December 1998 and is founding director of Leadership Gulf Coast. Roberts also was involved in the Boys & Girls Clubs, NAACP, Salvation Army, Mississippi Children's Rehab Center and Mission Initiative of Presbyterian Church–USA. She served on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
She has been recognized for her service by several organizations, receiving the Service of Youth award from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast and the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Award and was named Sun Herald–Business Journal Outstanding Community Leader and South Mississippi Top Community Leader by the Sun Herald. She was the first person in South Mississippi to receive the Tocqueville Award by the United Way. The American Association of University Women also named her a Woman of Achievement.
In 1963, Cornelius Turner established Major Associates Inc. and built the company into one of the leading minority-owned construction firms in the South. Turner was one of the first African American contractors in Mississippi to become bonded.
Throughout Turner's 48 years in construction, he has renovated, constructed and subcontracted on a variety of commercial and residential facilities; been the general contractor for over 600 multi-family housing units totaling over $11 million; and joint ventured on such projects as the Jackson-Hinds Youth Detention Center, a $9 million project; the Capital City Convention Center, a $52 million project; and the Bennie G. Thompson Academic Center at Tougaloo College, a $7 million project.
Turner, who once shared an office with a young Medgar Evers, co-founded the Mississippi Free Press newspaper. Turner is actively involved in the Jackson metro area. He was a founding member of Jackson 2000 and a commissioner on the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. He has served on the Board of the Mississippi Literacy Foundation, the Children's Scholarship Foundation, Jackson State University School of Business Advisory Board, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Jackson 2000 and Downtown Jackson Partners.
Turner has received the Leadership Award in recognition of outstanding leadership as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority from 1993 to 1995. He was recognized by the Metro Economic Development Alliance in 1996 for his leadership and commitment to the metro area's economic development efforts. In 2003, Turner received the Friendship Award in recognition of his hard work bringing his community closer together, and in 2008, he received the Mississippi Majesty Award, celebrating African American living legends. Due to Turner's leadership and direction, Major Associates has received the Diamond Award for work performed on the U.S. Postal Service Mail Facility and was recognized as an Outstanding Small Business by the Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce.