BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - With a life well lived, it's no wonder that thousands were affected by A.J. Holloway, on many levels.
The Biloxi native served as mayor for 22 years and was instrumental in making the city not only a prime tourist destination but also a community that's overcome many hardships, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"He was all Biloxi, he was all the way, all the way with Holloway," said current mayor Andrew FoFo Gilich. "When it came to political things, he was there. He was a force. He served in the good times and the bad times, with the bad times being Hurricane Katrina. That was something no one could grasp."
Yet, Holloway was able to grasp the enormity of the storm and eventually get a nearly wiped out city back on its feet. In between, the former Biloxi High and Ole Miss football star used a fiscally conservative approach to help turn a former seafood town into a tourism hot spot.
"It was a remarkable time in the city's history," said Vincent Creel, City of Biloxi public affairs manager. "A.J. Holloway during his time as Biloxi's mayor touched every part of this city. Whether it was through public safety or parks and recreation, he was making sure no one's taxes were ever raised, whether it was making sure he was making good decisions during this city's unprecedented growth.
By noon on Tuesday, flags around the city were already being lowered to half-staff to honor a true community icon.
At Biloxi's City Hall, pictures of past mayors and city councils adorn the walls outside the council chambers. At least six of them include former Mayor A.J. Holloway.
Current Biloxi Councilman Felix Gines was just beginning his time in public service when he says Holloway showed him the way to navigate city politics. "He personally took me under his wing. He taught me a lot of things and allowed me to shadow him quite a bit. AJ gave me an opportunity when he went out sick, he gave me an opportunity to have the transition between the old mayor and the mayor we have now, so he actually gave me a great opportunity to lead this city."
Others saw Holloway as a quiet leader, and a man who let his actions do the talking."He was, in his old words, an old jock," Creel added. "He was not used to beating on his chest and bragging. He was not used to self-pity. He was one who just brushed themselves off and moved forward. This was a person who kept his feelings very close to the vest. However, if you put him in a corner, he would let you know right away how he felt."
Holloway will be laid to rest Friday, with visitation from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Nativity BVM Cathedral, where a Mass of Christian burial will begin at noon. Entombment will follow at Southern Memorial Park.
Biloxi police officers and firefighters will serve as an honor guard and pallbearers, and the Biloxi Fire Department will have flag-bearing aerial ladders in two locations: on Lameuse Street, as the process passes City Hall, about 1:30 Friday afternoon and at the Biloxi Lighthouse on U.S. 90 as the procession works its way to Southern Memorial Park.