Ronnie Musgrove

Ronnie Musgrove
62nd Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 11, 2000  January 13, 2004
Lieutenant Amy Tuck
Preceded by Kirk Fordice
Succeeded by Haley Barbour
29th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 16, 1996  January 11, 2000
Governor Kirk Fordice
Preceded by Eddie Briggs
Succeeded by Amy Tuck
Personal details
Born David Ronald Musgrove
(1956-07-29) July 29, 1956
Tocowa, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Melody Musgrove
Children 4
Alma mater Northwest Mississippi Community College
University of Mississippi,
Religion United Methodist

David Ronald "Ronnie" Musgrove (born July 29, 1956) is an American politician from the U.S. state of Mississippi. He served as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi from January 16, 1996 to January 11, 2000 and the 62nd Governor of Mississippi from January 11, 2000 to January 13, 2004. He was defeated by incumbent Senator Roger Wicker in a 2008 special election for one of Mississippi's seats in the U.S. Senate. Gov. Musgrove is a Principal at the public affairs consulting firm Company.Politics. [1] In 2014, he became founding partner of a new law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, Musgrove/Smith Law.[2]

Early life

A native of Tocowa, Mississippi, Musgrove grew up in the nearby city of Batesville. When Musgrove was seven years old, his father, a road crew worker with the Mississippi Highway Department, caught pneumonia while laboring during a record snowstorm and died. His mother worked at a Fruit of the Loom factory, tended a garden of 0.5 acres (2,000 m2) and raised him and his four siblings by herself.[3]

After attending Northwest Mississippi Junior College, now Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi, Musgrove went to the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he became friends with fellow law student, future Mississippi House of Representatives member and future author John Grisham.[4] Grisham would later campaign for Musgrove in each of his races for lieutenant governor, governor and the U.S. Senate.[5][6]

Political career

Before being elected governor, Musgrove was a two-term state senator and lieutenant governor under Kirk Fordice.

Shortly after being elected lieutenant governor, Musgrove was seriously injured in a car accident while traveling on official state business. He gained national attention a few months later when he was pressed into service as acting governor after then-Gov. Fordice (a Republican and fierce political opponent) nearly died in his own car accident. While serving as acting governor in Fordice's absence, Musgrove was a model of political restraint, limiting his activities to signing proclamations, processing extraditions, declaring weather-related emergencies and making appointments recommended by Fordice's staff. At the time, Musgrove was quoted as saying, "When we're confronted by these types of matters, politics has to be put on the back burner and we have to do the right thing."[7]

In 1998 Musgrove chaired the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors.[8] A Harvard study listed then Lt. Governor Musgrove as one of the top three most powerful lieutenant governors in the United States.[9]

The 1999 gubernatorial election between Musgrove and Republican Congressman Mike Parker was the closest in Mississippi history.[10] Out of almost three-quarters of a million votes cast, Musgrove had won 8,300 more votes than Parker in a four-way election, but fell a fraction of a percentage point short of receiving a majority (as required by the state’s 1890 Constitution). Since neither candidate received a majority of the popular vote, the Mississippi House of Representatives had to select the winner.[11] They chose Musgrove. It was the first time the election of a Mississippi governor was decided by the Mississippi House.[12]

As Governor, Musgrove served as chair or vice chair of a number of boards and associations, including the National Governor's Association (vice chair), the Southern Regional Education Board (chair), the Southern States Energy Board (chair elect), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (chair elect) and the Executive Committee for the Democratic Governors Association (vice chair of policy).[13]

As governor, Musgrove presided over what is still considered the largest economic development project in Mississippi history.[14] In August 2000, he launched the Advantage Mississippi Initiative (AMI) to create new jobs for the state, which brought in a new Nissan Motor Company production plant.[13][15] The $1.4 billion Nissan Motor Company production plant created 5,300 direct jobs and over 25,000 indirect jobs.[9] Nissan's arrival gave legitimacy to the notion that the Southeastern United States could become an automotive manufacturing leader.[14] Musgrove's AMI economic development package also helped set in motion the mechanics needed to recruit Toyota to Blue Springs.[16]

After losing his bid for re-election in 2003 to Republican challenger Haley Barbour, Musgrove returned to private practice with the law firm of Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush, P.A. in Ridgeland, Mississippi. On January 4, 2008, Musgrove confirmed that he would be a candidate in the United States Senate special election in Mississippi, 2008 against Republican candidate Roger Wicker, who was appointed to the position by Governor Haley Barbour when Trent Lott resigned. Musgrove lost to Wicker.

Musgrove has remained active in public service since leaving office, continuing to serve on a number of boards and commissions that advocate for quality education and better access to health care for rural and low income families.[9]

Political views


During his tenure, Musgrove was known as the education governor.[17] The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal noted that former Gov. William Winter has said the Adequate Education Program is the most significant piece of education legislation in the state's history. “A lot of politicians played major roles in the passage of the legislation, but Adequate Education would not have passed without the leadership of Musgrove as lieutenant governor.”[18] Governor Musgrove recognized the importance of building economic capacity through an educated workforce. Always a strong proponent of public education, Governor Musgrove focused his attention while in office on building a solid foundation for economic growth through Mississippi’s public schools.[19] In July 2001, Governor Musgrove signed a bill that implemented the largest teacher pay increase in state history—raising teacher’s pay in Mississippi to the Southeastern average. Under Governor Musgrove, the Princeton Review reported that school accountability standards in Mississippi went from 50th nationally to the top 20.[9] In 2002, Mississippi was the first state in the nation to have a computer with internet access in every classroom.[20]


When Governor Musgrove took office in January 2000, fewer than 525 Mississippi children were enrolled in Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). At the time, Mississippi had more than 85,000 children that were eligible to receive health insurance benefits through the Mississippi Health Benefits Program, which provides health insurance to Mississippi’s children whose parents are caught in the gap between making too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance. Governor Musgrove joined with the Department of Human Services, the Division of Medicaid and the Department of Finance and Administration to develop a new action plan and marketing plan for CHIP.[21] By the time he left office, the number of children covered under CHIP had increased to over 60,000.[9] Governor Musgrove is currently chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services,[22] and co-chairman of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.[23]


In August 2003, Musgrove wrote judge Roy Moore on state letterhead to praise the judge's Ten Commandments monument, inviting the judge to display the monument in the Mississippi State Capitol for a week the following month and announcing his intention to encourage other governors to follow suit. Musgrove further wrote, "It would be my honor to host this monument as a symbol of every Mississippian's dedication to the fundamental principles of the Ten Commandments."[24]

In 2001, Musgrove signed legislation requiring the motto "In God We Trust" to be displayed in every public school classroom, as well as the school auditoriums and cafeterias, throughout the state.[25][26]

LGBT rights

In 2000, Musgrove signed a bill into law banning same-sex couples from adopting children, making Mississippi only the third state to have done so. The law also says that Mississippi will not recognize adoptions from other states by same-sex couples.[27][28] However, in 2013, Musgrove wrote an opinion editorial in The Huffington Post expressing his support for both same sex marriage and same sex adoption. [29]


Musgrove as governor signed a bill banning public funding of abortions, with exceptions for when the pregnant woman's life is in danger, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when a fetal malformation is incompatible with the baby being born alive.

Mississippi state flag

Mississippi's state flag features the Confederate Battle Flag prominently. In 2000, the Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that the Mississippi flag, a source of division among white and black Mississippians, was not official.[30] A court ruled the flag was officially adopted in 1894, but the law designating the state flag was not among those carried forward in a 1906 update of the state code. The judges left the decision to adopt, or not adopt, the flag to the legislative and executive branches.[31] In response to the ruling, Musgrove held a press conference to announce that he had issued an executive order creating a 17-member commission to study the flag. In the executive order, Musgrove also called for continuing the use of the flag until the Legislature had received and reviewed the committee's report. During the press conference, flanked by a U.S. flag and the controversial state flag, Musgrove offered no indication of his opinion on the current flag or any possible future design.[32] The commission eventually came up with a new design that replaced the battle flag in the canton with a circular array of twenty stars (Mississippi is the 20th state) on a blue background. As campaigning for the flags began leading up to a referendum, Musgrove did endorse the new flag.[33] A referendum was held in April 2001 to determine whether the new flag would be adopted. The 1894 flag won by a vote of 65% to 35%.[34]

Personal life

In 1977 Musgrove married Melanie Ballard. In 2001, while Musgrove was governor, the couple divorced after 24 years of marriage.[35] The results and settlement of the divorce were sealed by the judge at the request of the Musgroves.[36] Musgrove married Dr. Melody Bounds on August 4, 2007.[37] The Musgroves are members of Parkway Hills United Methodist in Madison, Mississippi. They have four children ranging in age from 19 to 24.[38] Governor Musgrove is active in volunteerism working with both Habitat for Humanity and Stewpot Community Services.[19] He also teaches classes at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, as well as at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, Mississippi.


  1. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. The Sun Herald: Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove known as the education governor
  3. John Grisham Biography
  4. Away down South in Dixie
  5. The Hook: Judge rules Grisham is an Innocent Man in libel case
  6. The New York Times: Governor's Car Accident Has Mississippi Abuzz
  7. Southern Governors' Association 2000 Annual Report bio
  8. 1 2 3 4 5
  9. AYRES Jr, B. DRUMMOND (November 4, 1999). "Tight Governor's Race Will Be Decided by Mississippi House of Representatives". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  10. Ayres, B. Drummond, Jr. (November 4, 1999). "Tight Governor's Race Will Be Decided by Mississippi House of Representatives". New York Times.
  11. "In Mississippi, A Democrat Is Governor". The New York Times. January 5, 2000. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  12. 1 2 National Governors Association: Mississippi Governor David Ronald "Ronnie" Musgrove
  13. 1 2 The Mississippi Business Journal: Economy, education cornerstones of Musgrove's campaign
  14. Business Wire: Advantage Mississippi Initiative Moves State to Leading Position in Economic Development
  15. Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: Musgrove's baggage aside, he had his accomplishments
  16. Pender, Geoff; Wilemon, Tom (November 1, 2003). "Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove known as the education governor". The Sun Herald.
  18. 1 2
  23. Freedom From Religion Foundation: Mississippi Governor Emulates Moore; Endorses Ten Commandments
  24. People For the American Way: Back to School with the Religious Right
  25. The New York Times: National News Briefs; 'In God We Trust' Motto For Mississippi Schools
  26. CBS News: Mississippi Bans Gay Adoptions; Bans Gay Couples From Adopting Children
  27. Baptist Press: Miss. governor, Baptist layman, signs homosexual adoption ban
  28. Musgrove, Ronnie (March 20, 2013). "Portman's Conversion Should Be a Lesson". Huffington Post.
  29. Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches, 774 So. 2d 388 (Miss. 2000)
  30. Dedman IV, James M. (Fall 2001). "At Daggers Drawn: The Confederate Flag and the School Classroom - A Case Study of a Broken First Amendment Formula". Baylor Law Review. 53: 877, 883.
  31. The Clarion-Ledger: Musgrove creates advisory commission; Future of flag on line
  32. The New York Times: Battle Lines Form Again on the Battle Flag
  33. BBC News: Mississippi keeps Confederate flag
  34. Parker, Suzi (June 28, 2001). "South scrambles to improve state of unions.(USA)". Christian Science Monitor.
  35. The Sun Herald: Musgroves ask for sealed divorce
  36. The Clarion-Ledger: Musgrove remarries at small ceremony
Political offices
Preceded by
Eddie Briggs
Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Amy Tuck
Preceded by
Kirk Fordice
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Haley Barbour
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dick Molpus
Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
1999, 2003
Succeeded by
John Eaves
Preceded by
Erik Fleming
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Mississippi
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Albert Gore
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