Haley Barbour of Yazoo City was elected Mississippi’s 63rd governor on Nov. 4, 2003, in the largest turnout in a gubernatorial election in state history.
Since becoming governor he has focused on a variety of pressing issues. Most recently he has been instrumental in the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and South Mississippi in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in American history–Hurricane Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29, 2005.
After the hurricane, Gov. Barbour and First Lady Marsha Barbour worked tirelessly to ensure that Mississippians were well-informed of shelters, food supplies and other assistance available to counties and cities. During this chaotic time, the governor worked to unify local, state and federal relief efforts in order to provide as much help as quickly as possible to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Shortly after the storm hit, he created the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal to develop a broad vision designed to give local leaders access to ideas and information that will help them decide what their cities and neighborhoods will look like five, 10, or even 20 years from now. The Commission now has been folded into the Office of the Governor, where its work continues.
Early on in his administration, Gov. Barbour identified job creation as one of his top priorities. He led the fight against lawsuit abuse in Mississippi and his initiative, the Tort Reform Act of 2004, was hailed as the most comprehensive civil justice reform in the nation after it passed the Legislature. He also initiated and the legislature passed the largest overhaul of workforce development efforts in state history and doubled state funding for job training.
Gov. Barbour organized and the Legislature passed “Momentum Mississippi”–the state’s long-range economic development strategy. In his first year in office, Mississippi had the largest increase in net new jobs since 1999 and the largest increase in personal income since 1998.
Gov. Barbour’s public education initiative, known as UpGrade, was approved in the 2006 legislative session and heralded as Mississippi’s most comprehensive education reform legislation in almost 25 years. The new law rewards teacher and school performance, reduces state bureaucracy and strengthens discipline in Mississippi public schools. He also secured additional state funding in fiscal year 2007 for public education from K-12 through community colleges and the state’s universities and colleges.
In the area of law enforcement, Gov. Barbour has re-focused Mississippi on the fight against drugs by advocating tougher crystal meth laws and reorganizing the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. As a result, drug arrests are up 73 percent during his term.
Gov. Barbour has also led the fight to save Mississippi’s Medicaid program for truly needy recipients, emphasizing preventative care and implementing the strongest anti-fraud plan in the history of Mississippi Medicaid. Reforms are saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Additionally, Gov. Barbour has worked to protect the unborn. He initiated and the Legislature passed six Pro-Life laws during 2004 that make Mississippi “the safest place in America for an unborn child,” according to national right-to-life organization, Americans United for Life.
Gov. Barbour founded and formerly served as chair and CEO of Barbour Griffith and Rogers, which Fortune magazine ranked the nation’s top lobbying firm.
From 1993 to January 1997, he served two terms as chairman of the Republican National Committee, including during the 1994 elections when Republicans won GOP control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years and the number of Republican governors rose from 17 to 32.
In the mid-‘80’s, Gov. Barbour advised President Ronald Reagan for nearly two years as Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs.
Gov. Barbour received his law degree from Ole Miss in 1973. He and his wife Marsha have been married 33 years and have two adult sons, both of whom are married. On December 22, 2005, the Barbour’s first grandchild, Adyn Sterling Barbour, was born. Gov. Barbour is a deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Yazoo City, where he has also taught Sunday school.
First Lady Marsha Barbour is an advocate for early childhood education and has embraced numerous projects that emphasize the importance of life-long learning.