Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus returns to the Ole Miss campus this weekend and will make an appearance Friday evening as the first guest of the fall season at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.
Mabus will take part in a conversation about his long career in public service with Charles Overby, chairman of the center, at 6 p.m.in the Overby Center. A reception will follow. As with all Overby Center programs, the event is free and open to the public. Arrangements have been made for parking in the lot adjacent to the Overby Center, which overlooks the Grove.
“No one in Ray Mabus’s generation has a greater record in public service in Mississippi,” said Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie. “We’re delighted that he’s coming back to the Overby Center to talk about a political life that has had some remarkable highs as well as setbacks.”
Mabus, a summa cum laude graduate of Ole Miss in 1969, got his start in the Navy on campus as a member of the Navy ROTC unit. He later served two years as a surface warfare officer aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock.
The Ackerman native earned a master’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. In 1979, the progressive William Winter was elected governor, and Mabus joined his staff – a cadre of young Mississippians including Dick Molpus, Andy Mullins, David Crews and John Henegan that became known as the “Boys of Spring.”
Mabus entered politics as a candidate, himself, in 1983 and was elected state auditor. He helped oversee an FBI investigation into corruption at the county level throughout Mississippi that resulted in the conviction of dozens of county supervisors.
Mabus was 39 when elected governor of Mississippi in 1987. He served one term but was defeated for re-election by Kirk Fordice, the first modern Republican to win the office.
An unflinching Democrat in a state rapidly being taken over by Republicans, Mabus was appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton.
In the following decade, Mabus was an early campaigner for Barack Obama and after his election, Obama made Mabus secretary of the Navy.
The discussion with Mabus will be the latest in a series of “Gatherings Before the Grove” that the Overby Center has hosted over the years on Friday evenings before home football games. On Sept. 30 – the night before the Ole Miss contest with Memphis – the Overby Center joins with Mississippi Today to sponsor a political discussion including Andy Lack, president of NBC News; Tom Brokaw, the network’s long-time anchor and correspondent, and former Gov. Haley Barbour. The program will be moderated by Maggie Wade of Jackson’s NBC affiliate,WLBT. It will be held at 6 p.m. at Nutt Auditorium on campus.