AP NEWS

Longest-serving Mississippi lawmaker not seeking new term

February 14, 2019

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — The longest-serving state lawmaker in Mississippi history says he is not seeking re-election this year.

“I’m retiring. Fifty-two years is long enough to be anywhere,” Republican Sen. Tommy Gollott of Biloxi told WLOX-TV on Thursday.

Gollott, 83, owns a transfer and storage company. He comes from a family with longstanding ties to the seafood industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On the Senate floor Thursday in Jackson, Gollott reminisced about the 1940s and 1950s.

“Biloxi was the oyster capital of the world,” he said.

Gollott was a boxer in his youth, and he later helped organize the first Boys Club of Biloxi.

He was 32 when he was first elected to the Mississippi House as a Democrat in 1967. He won a state Senate seat in 1979, still as a Democrat. Then, he became a Republican in 2007.

From 1996 to 2000, he held the second-highest job in the state Senate, as president pro tempore.

During the current four-year term, Gollott surpassed a legislative longevity record held by Democratic Rep. Walter Sillers of Rosedale, who served more than 50 years. Sillers took office in early 1916 and died in September 1966 when he was speaker of the House.

Gollott sponsored legislation that authorized construction of the Gulf Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, which opened in 1977. He was also one of the main players in legalizing dockside casinos in the early 1990s, leading to growth in Gulf Coast tourism.

“If you take care of the people who sent you, you will never have to worry about re-election,” Gollott told the Clarion Ledger in 2017.

The area Gollott represents, Senate District 50, is entirely Harrison County. Gollott’s son-in-law, Burton Swoope, has qualified to run for the seat. Others could qualify before the March 1 deadline. Party primaries are in August and the general election is in November.

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Information from: WLOX-TV, http://www.wlox.com