Lawmakers Name Teddy Bear Official State Toy - - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmakers Name Teddy Bear Official State Toy

Children's lobbying efforts paid off Wednesday as the state Senate snuggled up to a bill designating the teddy bear as Mississippi's official state toy.

The bill passed 50-2 and goes to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who said last month that lawmakers should spend their time on more significant issues. The House approved the measure 121-0 on Feb. 6.

Supporters were promoting official recognition for the fuzzy childhood favorite because this year marks the 100th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt's hunting expedition in the Mississippi Delta.

After three days without success, the president was offered a captive bear to kill, and he refused. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted Roosevelt's humane act, and toy bears became known worldwide as teddy bears.

Children from Plantersville School in north Mississippi wrote to senators seeking support for the stuffed toy.

"Mississippi is not known for many things. With this bill passed, it will help get our state recognized as being the first,'' wrote eighth graders Robin Alexander and Santana Wade.

"We students are really dedicated to getting this bill passed. We even plan on having a teddy bear day at school.''

During a brief debate, Sen. Johnnie Walls, D-Greenville, stood at his desk and nuzzled two plush bears _ a brown one and a white one.

"There are some of us crusty old people who love to hug teddy bears,'' Walls said.

Sens. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, and Rob Smith, D-Richland, voted against the bill. Frazier said state officials should concentrate on more serious issues, like creating jobs and finding money for Medicaid and education.

"If we're going to adopt a state toy, based on what I've seen this session it should be the football because we're good at punting,'' Frazier said after the vote.

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, filed the bear bill at the request of a constituent, Sarah Doxey-Tate of Tupelo, whose 2-year-old grandson died of leukemia in 1990. Several flower arrangements at the toddler's funeral were adorned with teddy bears.

Doxey-Tate, a retired Plantersville School librarian, told Holland the bear would be a fitting state symbol since it represents love and comfort. She was at the Capitol Wednesday, her birthday, and smiled as senators embraced her idea.

"It's not going to cost the state a dime,'' Doxey-Tate said. "We'll get a little recognition. It'll be sweet and nice.''

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