/15-minute Hobo Volunteer Fire Station speech captures life and convictions of former speaker

15-minute Hobo Volunteer Fire Station speech captures life and convictions of former speaker

Republican Haley Barbour, a Republican from Texas, waged the most recent campaign in state history to overthrow the incumbent Democratic Governor in 2003. Ronnie Musgrove was the state rep. Billy McCoy (D-Rienzi), who spoke at an old-time gathering of political figures organized by the Hobo Volunteer Fire Department to raise funds. McCoy, who suffered a stroke, died at the North Mississippi Medical Center Tupelo. He was 77 years old. The roughly 15-minute Hobo Fire Station speech captures the political philosophy and life of the populist who hailed from northeast Mississippi’s Appalachia foothills. He was aggressive and a skilled speechmaker with a knack of turning a phrase. Brandon Presley, the Northern District Public Service Commissioner, was a 25-year old mayor of Nettleton. He also admitted that he was a political junkie and heard the speech on a Booneville station. He said that the speech had changed his political life. McCoy was the Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 2003. He was considered the front-runner for the House Speaker position. McCoy was being challenged by Republicans in his bid to re-elect him to keep his speakership. McCoy’s opponent claimed that McCoy was different at home than he is at the Capitol in Washington. McCoy stood silently at the fire station and said, “I am the same Billy McCoy here in Jackson… I have never minced any words in Jackson.” This is why I have been successful for your and I won’t mince words at The Hobo Fire Station.” He also said, “The weakest and the most timid are eaten in Jackson. You will never attack my character and make me weak or timid. McCoy continued to discuss his personal life as well as his farm operation with his son Sam. “We raise cattle. We raise hay. Red worms are raised for a living. We work in the dirt. We work hard.” He pounding the podium and declared, “We haven’t changed much…I still attend Gaston Baptist Church – I sit in the back row as far as you can – always have (sat). My 1965 Ford tractor has not been modified. You don’t need to change much. Every night, I eat at the exact same table. “You know what to expect from Billy McCoy,” McCoy said. He added that he drives up and down the roads most often in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Cutlass. The car has 345,000 miles on the clock.” Later, McCoy was elected speaker. This created a news story. One lobbyist declared that it was not the speaker’s car that was stolen, but the fact that the speaker was driving an old car. After that speech, Barbour campaign admitted privately that McCoy would be returning to the House of Representatives and that he would be elected speaker. McCoy and Barbour shared eight years together as speakers and governors. They had their moments of conflict, but maintained a friendly relationship. Listen to Billy McCoy’s speech at the Hobo Fire Station in 2003. Billy McCoy was responsible for more important pieces of legislation than any other legislator over the past 50 years. He was vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee during the 1980s and travelled across the state with Chair John David Pennebaker to support a plan to make about 1,000 miles of Mississippi highways four-lane. Blake Wilson, former president of the Mississippi Economic Council, called the legislation one the most important economic development bills in modern times. McCoy was also involved in major education and economic development bills. Barbour called a special session after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. This was to discuss legislation that would allow casinos to build 800 feet inland. The move was opposed by religious groups. McCoy took up the challenge and allowed the House to vote on the proposal. Neither the Senate nor the House were willing to vote. His efforts were hailed by the Biloxi Sun Herald as a hero. McCoy realized that black House members were his base in the new partisan atmosphere in Jackson and appointed a record number African Americans as key committee chairs. McCoy could easily burst into tears when he spoke about the dire plight of the poor. McCoy was also – as he stated – not timid or weak. Once he knocked out his colleague. He quickly corrected the reporter when he was asked about his fight at the Capitol. McCoy got sick – almost died – during his tenure as speaker. McCoy was unable to govern the House again, and his physical condition has not improved. Sen. Hob Bryan (D-Amory), said McCoy returned too soon to the House after suffering strokes due to his passion for the issues that he cared about. Bryan stated that McCoy could have given his life to public service. “…He returned before he had regained health, because he knew that people would see weakness in him. He was not going be considered weak at Jackson’s Hobo Fire Station.