In his first campaign for any public office in 1991, Kirk Fordice was elected Mississippi’s first Republican governor in 118 years. In his successful campaign for re-election in 1995, he became the first Mississippi governor to succeed himself in more than a century.
Fordice was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 10, 1934. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1956 and a master’s degree in industrial administration in 1957 at Purdue University. After graduate school, Fordice served two years active duty as an engineer officer with the First Infantry Division of the U. S. Army and became airborne-qualified. After his tour of active duty, Fordice served eighteen years in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring with the rank of colonel in 1977. He is also a graduate of the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College.
At the time of his election as governor in 1991, Fordice was the chief executive officer of Fordice Construction Company, a heavy-construction general contracting firm in Vicksburg. He has served as chairman of the American Construction Industry Forum and as vice-president of the Confederation of International Contractors’ Associations headquartered in Paris. In the year before his election as governor, Fordice served as president of the Associated General Contractors of America, and was named the association’s Man of the Year in 1992.
As governor, Fordice advocated conservative and pro-business policies and succeeded in eliminating the capital-gains taxes for Mississippi-based companies. The state enjoyed unprecedented prosperity during his two terms in office.
While in office, Governor Fordice served as chairman of the Southern Governors Association and the Southern Growth Policies Board and was instrumental in bringing the annual meetings of both organizations to Biloxi.
An avid sportsman, outdoorsman, and horseman, Governor Fordice held lifelong memberships in the National Rifle Association, Nature Conservancy, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the National Cutting Horse Association. He was also a member of the Game Conservation International and Safari Club International. An active pilot, Governor Fordice held a commercial pilot’s license and was a member of Quiet Birdmen.
Following his eight years in office, Governor Fordice lived in Madison, Mississippi. He died September 7, 2004, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register, 1992-1996, 1996-2000.
Kirk Fordice Subject File, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.