Phil Bryant was elected governor of Mississippi in the November 2011 Republican landslide. In that historic election, Republicans won all statewide offices, except for attorney general, and won majorities in both houses of the Mississippi Legislature. Bryant defeated the Democrat candidate, Mayor Johnny Dupree of Hattiesburg, by a 61-to-39-percent majority. Mayor Dupree was the first African American candidate in Mississippi history to win a major-party nomination for governor. In 2015, Bryant was reelected with 66 percent of the vote. Mississippi has a two-term limit on governors.
Although his 2011 campaign was his first run for governor, Bryant had successfully conducted three previous statewide races, two for state auditor and one for lieutenant governor. In his 2003 state auditor re-election campaign he had carried 81 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.
Bryant was born on December 9, 1954, in Moorhead, a small Sunflower County community in the Mississippi Delta. His varied educational background includes an associate degree from Hinds Community College, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a master’s degree in political science from Mississippi College. He has been honored as a distinguished alumni by all three institutions and has served as adjunct professor of government at Mississippi College.
He was elected to the House of Representatives from Rankin County in 1991 and re-elected in 1992 under the new redistricting plan. As a member of the House, he served as vice chairman of the Insurance Committee and authored the Capital Gains Tax Cut Act of 1994. In 1995 he was re-elected to the House and served until Governor Kirk Fordice appointed him state auditor in 1996.
In 1999 Bryant was elected state auditor and re-elected in 2003. During his tenure as state auditor, Phil Bryant recovered more than $12 million in state funds that had been embezzled, or otherwise misused. He was elected lieutenant governor with 59 percent of the votes in November 2007, defeating Democrat candidate Jamie Franks Jr.
Among his many awards and honors is the 2004 Statesman of the Year Award by American Family Radio. He has been a longtime member of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action and is the recipient of the Kirk Fordice Freedom Award presented by the Central Mississippi chapter of the NRA.
In 2008 Lieutenant Governor Bryant was the Honorary Chairman of the Republican Lieutenant Governor’s Association and is past president of the Mississippi Republican Elected Officials Association. In 2011 he served on the National Lieutenant Governor’s Association Executive Committee as the Southern Region Republican-at-Large member.
Phil Bryant was inaugurated as Mississippi’s sixty-sixth governor on January 10, 2012, and again for his second term on January 12, 2016.
David G. Sansing, Ph.D., is professor of history emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Registers: 1992-1996; 1996-2000; 2004-2008; 2008-2012
Phil Bryant website
Mississippi Secretary of State website, Election Results