Following eight years in the Mississippi Senate, from 1988 to 1996, and a four-year term as lieutenant governor, Ronnie Musgrove was elected governor under circumstances unique in Mississippi history. Because neither Musgrove nor any other gubernatorial candidate received a majority of the votes cast in the November 1999 general election, the Mississippi Legislature was required by the state’s 1890 Constitution to elect the governor. In a special vote on January 4, 2000, the Mississippi Legislature elected Musgrove as the state’s sixty-second governor.
Born in Sardis, Mississippi, on July 29, 1956, and raised in the Tocowa Community in Panola County, Musgrove graduated from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi Law School. In 1980 he was elected president of the law school student body.
Musgrove was elected president of the Panola County and Tri-County Bar Association and served on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Young Lawyers Association. In 1988 he was selected for membership in the Inns of Court and in 1990 was elected to the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Mississippi State Bar Association. In 1995 Musgrove was inducted as a Fellow in the Mississippi Bar Foundation.
In 1987 Musgrove was elected to the Mississippi Senate and re-elected in 1991. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1995, defeating the incumbent Eddie Briggs in that election. While lieutenant governor, Musgrove served as chairman of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors in 1998.
As governor, Musgrove signed into law in July 2001 the largest teacher pay raise in the state’s history, guided the Mississippi Adequate Education Act that provides equitable funding to build the infrastructure for all school districts in Mississippi, advocated technology in the classroom through a task force to place a computer in every public school classroom, promoted Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which added protection to 61,000 children, and created Advantage Mississippi, a new economic development plan which worked to bring the Nissan automotive plant to Canton, Mississippi.
During his term as governor, he served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, on the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the National Assessment Governing Board, the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, the executive committees of both the Democratic Governors’ Association and National Governors’ Association, and as Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board.
Governor Musgrove was defeated in his 2003 re-election bid by Republican Haley Barbour.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register, 1988-1992, 1992-1996, 1996-2000, 2000-2004