Sunday, August 30, 2009

Four years ago, this morning, I woke up...

Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 15, James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

...to see something that would change my life forever. It was something I had been concerned about since I was member of the Mississippi Legislature and the reality of the situation was there before my eyes.

The night before I did not get much sleep. The winds were howling so, banging on my door like a group of invaders trying to break in my apartment. Thunder roared, lightning flashed, rain poured down. All I could do was pray myself to sleep and hope the roof would not cave in or the door and windows would shatter under this brutal attack.

By the grace of God, I did sleep and then awoke. I turned on the television and there it was in my face: total devastation. Hotels where I had once stayed in where gone. Casinos where I had dined in where gone. Homes of friends (and enemies) were gone or severely damaged. My worst fear had come true and all I could think about was getting on my computer and start tracking down friends, not fully understanding that many of them would not respond until days later.

I was living in Clinton, some 200 plus miles from where Hurricane Katrina made a direct hit on Mississippi the morning of August 29, 2005. My car was in the shop being repaired, so I had no transportation to leave, but I did not worry because I figured the storm would weaken as it came north. It did, but not enough. When I stepped out on the balcony of my apartment four years ago, I saw trees down, I saw smoke billowing from afar, I heard sirens constantly. Fortunately my cellphone was charged and I could tell my parents I was alright. I could check on my son and ex-wife to see if they were alright. At least there was peace in that.

Then I went back to the TV and became instantly angry. For years I had been warning my legislative colleagues about this day. I had been pushing for legislation to put more money into our Mississippi Emergency Management Fund for I knew a day like this would eventually come. I expressed great concern when I would visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and see these tremendous skyscrapers being built near the beach, wondering what the impact would be to those structures and the people that lived in them. Now I was watching my worst fears come true and hearing the past voices of my colleagues saying, "Fleming you worry too much."

In the days that followed I got my land line phone up and made even more contact with folks I had concerns about, I walked to the police station and loaded trailers and I went to the church that had been designated a Red Cross shelter and spoke with the people who had made it north out of the brunt of the storm in time. I located family members for them, got some employment and housing here for them and just listened when they laughed or cried.

Then as friends were checking in on the Internet, they would ask how bad is it. I told them what they were seeing on television was real, it was that bad. It took me a month before I could go down to the coast myself and it was a surreal experience. I told one of the volunteers it was if the "War of the Worlds" had actually happened. An area that was once a city park was now looking like a field military compound, tents everywhere. I nearly threw out my back moving water-logged furniture out of houses. I had already been frustrated that we went into Special Session and all we could accomplish was allowing the casinos to move 800 feet inland. Now as I saw neighborhoods destroyed, I could only get more infuriated with the process.

It was an epiphany, a wake-up call for me. I have never been comfortable with the status quo since. I don't settle for "that is the way we always do it" anymore. People matter to me more. Doing the best you can is the only option. Living without some things doesn't phase me. God is truly the center of my life and pleasing Him is way more important than pleasing mankind.

My life journey has been a roller coaster since that morning four years ago, but I am thankful every day that I am still riding that roller coaster of life. I know from that experience that no matter how far you fall, how much devastation occurs in your life, God can help you pick up the pieces and He can fortify and renew your soul. I have nothing to fear for He is on my side.

I am fully awoke.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Courage by Internet

All my life I have heard and used the phrase "courage juice" to describe alcohol. It seems that when people drink it, a little too much I might add, they seem emboldened to say what is really on their minds. A loss of inhibition, if you will. Well, I can truly say that the Internet is the "courage source" for a lot of people as well.

Being in the public eye means you receive a lot of scrutiny and criticism, especially from people that are your constituents. Most of the time they wait until a town hall meeting or they form their opinions based on news stories, then hem you up in the grocery store or even call you at home around dinner time. However, in those settings, you see them eye-to-eye (or at least hear their voice), listen to their viewpoint and then correct them if the facts are skewed or acknowledge them positively when they are right.

However, on the Internet, people are embolden to make opinions about you, attack your character, misrepresent the facts and they are miles away from you, hiding behind the comfort of a keyboard and a computer screen. Case in point, another blogger picked up my blog about my desire to be Governor of Mississippi and posted it on his site. One of his regulars, I think his user name was "Crusader", made an incorrect reference to my legislative record. He stated I was not qualified to run for governor because I had not gotten anything passed in the Mississippi Legislature. He was using a blatant lie to attack my credibility as a public servant. If you go to www.erikfleming.org and click on "Legislative Highlights", one can see the bills I had become law during my nine years in the House of Representatives.

Now I could have done like in years past and challenged him directly on that site, but I found out that it is a tedious exercise to do that on every blog that has something posted on me. Google Erik Fleming and see what you find. Some of my Facebook friends have even contributed to this misinformation about my character and are unapologetic about it because they have the "courage source" to rely on. Any mistakes I have made I have always lived up to them. But you will find it hard to counter lie after lie after lie.

But the Internet gives a lot of people cover. They don't have to physically confront you, they never have to be held accountable for what they say, they can even alter your Wikipedia file with inaccuracies, or highlight a negative viewpoint without your permission or knowledge. To me that is a false sense of courage. I have been known to confront my enemies head-on and deal with the toughest issues of the day candidly. However, one opponent labeled that style as a "maverick" approach.

In this day and age of technology, maybe that is a true assessment. Maybe it is more acceptable to lob grenades instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But just call me old school, I'm from the "say it to my face" generation. If you would not say it to me in a grocery store or a town hall, then why say it in a forum where I may not ever read it, therefore can't defend it.

I like my Facebook forum better because at least the people responding to it are people that one, have signed up as friends and two, I can see faces and study profiles to understand their viewpoints. We may not agree on everything and most of the time I don't even enter into the debate, but at least there is some of that old school, in your face debating that I think is essential to public discourse.

As some people can attest, I can dish it as well as I can take it, so this is not a bitching session. I just don't like the current rules of engagement in the majority of the Internet weblog forums. Maybe someday we can go back to the days when people can say the courage of their convictions out in the open again, but for now it is what it is. All I ask, if it is not too much, is get your facts straight before steppin' to me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I wish I could be Governor of Mississippi

I remember when I first started in Mississippi politics, I was out there campaigning for a seat on the Jackson City Council, and when I met with people to solicit contributions, they would say to me as they wrote out their checks, "You would make a great state legislator someday." I guess people of faith spoke that into existence.



Later, as I started making a name for myself at the State Capitol, people then started introducing me as "the first Black Governor of the State of Mississippi." I thought that was flattering. However, after running two statewide campaigns and fast approaching my 45 year on this earth, 26 of them in the Magnolia State, I believe all that will be is a compliment.



I would love to have the opportunity to run and serve as governor of this state. There are so many things that need to be done. Our education system needs to be thoroughly addressed, infrastructure improvements need to be spear-headed and our overall quality of life must be upgraded from a mode of survival to a mindset of thriving.



Having done the best I could through the legislative process, I saw that there were certain limitations that could be overcome if I had a bully pulpit like the office of the Governor to push an agenda of progress from.



Alas, I have come to the realistic conclusion that I may not have that opportunity, especially in 2011. I guess that is why this is on my mind since the election is only a couple of years away and the candidates are already positioning themselves. Bill Luckett, a Clarksdale attorney and co-owner with Morgan Freeman of the Ground Zero Blues Club, is seriously exploring a run along with Attorney General Jim Hood on the Democratic side. The media has pretty much anointed Lt. Governor Phil Bryant as the Republican nominee and the next governor, but there are rumblings about a GOP primary with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and /or State Treasurer Tate Reeves in the mix.



Needless to say that I am not overly enthused about the choices out there, but it is what it is. Forces beyond my control have shaped this race and decreased my options. I know that it is impossible for me to pursue something that I would love to do. Well, let me rephrase that: I know that it is impossible to win a position I would love to hold. I could run, and then be labeled "the Black Shawn O'Hara" and as some already said nastily before , "a perennial candidate". I would hate to tarnish my reputation in that way.



Some would argue because of my human frailties, my reputation is tarnished already, but those folks would not support me if there was scientific evidence that I was the "Second Coming." Dismissing those negative energies, I have to objectively assess that my chances of winning such an important office, and thus creating a historical moment of major proportions, are basically non-existent.



It was frustrating to see the end result of two campaigns in which I fought so hard to win, while at the same time during a three-year period, losing the position which I poured my heart and soul into. I am honored that nearly 450,000 Mississippians thought that I should have been their United States Senator. The votes I received made my campaign the most successful waged by an African-American from this state for a statewide position. However, in the final analysis, it was another defeat.



In watching the way the votes came in, it will be hard to see a scenario in which I could pull such a goal off. I believe there will be an African-American governor in Mississippi someday and I will be so proud when that moment comes. But that is in the future, as a new generation of Mississippians reach adulthood.



I have ruled myself out of politics at the moment because of what I have endured in the last three years. I learned the hard way about the backstabbing in the Black community that would destroy any chance for me to achieve anything else in Mississippi politics. I could then just re-write that same sentence and insert "Democratic party" where "Black community" is. This is not reflective of those entire demographics as a whole, but really on the current "leaders, movers and shakers" of those entities.



Again, it is what it is. But it is not just the lack of a strong support system in the political process that has deterred me from pursuing anything in the future. Personal finances are a hindrance, as I am not a wealthy man. I work a real job which is satisfying, but has low compensation. When you make it from pay check to pay check, running for public office is a luxury. I have done that dance too many times to subject myself and the ones I love through that again.



But yet there is something else that concerns me. It is a mindset that has to be overcome.
My father and I talked at our recent family reunion and he asked me what was I going do next politically. I told him I am trying to suppress those thoughts. He laughed and said that if I wanted to be a legislator again, I could probably win, but he could not see me winning a statewide race. That would be a natural observation of a Black man from out of state that left Mississippi when he was young and vowed never to live there again. But considering what I have observed during my time in Mississippi, I understand where he is coming from. For example, I recently heard a statement from a prominent actor who said, "Nobody helped me when I was on food stamps and Medicaid." The troubling thing is that there are too many people in this state that would say "Damn right!" instead of "WTF?", at least enough to sway an election.




People voted for folks that threw them a crumb at them financially instead of improving their lives legislatively. It was devastating to hear people say that they were entitled to a handout more than the tools to pull themselves out. While we have to have compassion to help those in need, that does not mean that we cripple them with charity or pimp them in their times of desperation. It does not matter if you are a TANF recipient, the mayor of a city or a CEO of a corporation, it is not cool to be pimped out by a politician.



The political process is suppose to be about service. Render help to those who need it, protect society from all enemies, including itself, support an economic system that provides opportunities for wealth attainment and establish order so we all can co-exist peacefully. It would be good to see that philosophy for public service emerge again and when it does, maybe then my wish will come true and I could be Governor of the State of Mississippi. But for now it is just a wish, not a quixotic quest to journey on this time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Spirit Gives Life

1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18, Psalm 84, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

For those of us who have struggled with our daily burdens on our own, it is time to stop. We cannot disconnect our problems from the help of God any longer. We were given an incredible gift from God that is equal the love and favor of God, that propels us toward eternal life. That gift is the Holy Spirit.

We marvel at the beauty of the flesh or the greatness of one's intellect. What we should be focusing on is the glorious wonder within us. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us a life that is great and powerful, that provides us hope and fortifies our faith. In essence, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate supplement for us, for it gives us the vitality to endure any hardship the enemy puts before us.

We have to remember that our real enemy is not any one human being or even a certain group of people. Our enemy is supernatural and attacks us by exploiting our carnal weaknesses and turning us away from God. However, the Holy Spirit is the energizer that can renew us and helps us fight against an enemy that seeks to make us faint and separate us from God and His favor.

Therefore, we need to tap into the power divinely given to us. The power that propelled the Pentecost. The power that revealed itself to John the Baptist. The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Yes, that same power dwells within each and every one of us and it is not a spirit of fear, but of great power to overcome anything.

Think about how powerful you are and step out into the life you have inherited from the Father, generated by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Proving Ground

Sports has always been a proving ground. A moment in time when, in the heat of battle, a champion rises above the competition, an underdog defies the odds, an all-star becomes a juggernaut, warriors fight to the death, or tarnished, tormented souls gain redemption.

We saw all of that this weekend in the world of sports. First the champion. Jamaican Usain Bolt entered the World Track and Field Championships as the "fastest man in the world". The only obstacle, besides topping his Olympic gold-winning performance in the 100 meter finals, was his arch rival, American Tyson Gay. Gay, the previous record holder, did not compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, so this was the showdown the world was anticipating for over a year.

Gay, injury-free, ran his personal best, an impressive 9.71 seconds. The problem was Bolt is now at the top of his game. The Jamaican speedster set a new world-record Sunday, crossing the tape in a blistering 9.58 seconds. The time gap is a little more than a tenth of a second difference, but in the world of track and field, for those who watched it, it was a dominating performance by Bolt. With his powerful, fearless, upright running style, Bolt lived up to his name and has earned the respect he so rightly deserves as the most dominating sprinter in a generation.

To the underdog. Tiger Woods has approached the first tee of the final round of a major golf championship with the lead 14 times in his career prior to this weekend. He won all 14 of those majors. Sunday was his fifteenth attempt to do it again. He is now 14 of 15, thanks to the inspired play of a young South Korean golfer named Y. E. Yang. Yang erased a two-shot deficit going into the final round and won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine Country Club by three strokes.

Woods shot a mortal 3-over-par round, struggling mightily as his putter, so true in the first two rounds of the tournament and in the previous two weeks of PGA Tour competition, let him down. It was Woods that seemed like the player seeking his first major and Yang looking like the steely veteran. Woods had his moment at the 17th hole to tie the match but suffered one of his many putting yips and when Yang sank the birdie putt on the final hole, it punctuated one of the greatest upsets in the history of professional golf. You see, Yang started playing golf later in life, had won only one PGA event, and wasn't even ranked in the top 100 of the world's golfers as of last Thursday. That has quickly changed and I believe that Yang will have the opportunity to stare down the Tiger again on many Sundays to come.

Ian Kinsler's performance this weekend against the Boston Red Sox defines the transformation of an all-star into a juggernaut. The Texas Rangers' second baseman, playing in his first series since severely injuring his hamstring, has proven he is one of the best in the game. Saturday and Sunday at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, he transformed into a force that propelled his team squarely in Major League Baseball's 2009 playoff race. Due to his efforts, Kinsler has the Rangers in the driver's seat for the fourth playoff slot in the American League.

It all started like this: Kinsler, in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list, on the first pitch, crushed a shot into the left-center field stands to tie the game in the first inning. Then, the Red Sox decided to play hard ball. They pitched him inside the next at-bat to send a message. Later, pitching hard inside again, Kinsler was hit by a pitch in the head. Kinsler, clearly angry for the tactics, got up and got even. The next game, Kinsler blasted a home run in his first at-bat and drove in another run later to help Texas vault past the BoSox to the top of the Wild Card standings. Kinsler's line in two games: .666 batting average, two runs scored, four hits, two home runs, three runs batted in and a stolen base. This is how legends are born, and MVPs chosen. If Kinsler can carry this talented team on his shoulders for the remainder of the season, the transformation will be complete.

Our warriors this weekend were Christane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina Carano. Carano entered the Mixed Martial Arts 145-pound title fight as the defending champion. She has been the face of female MMA fighting and been a tremendous ambassador for the sport. The only woman many felt could give Carano a run for her money stepped into the cage Saturday evening. Santos, known as "The "Cyborg" because of her relentless punching power, was the brute strength challenger that would push Carano's near-perfect technique to the test.

After four minutes and 39 seconds of great fighting action, better in my opinion than a lot of the male title fights that have recently taken place, Carano clearly ran out of gas and was dazed by Santos' powerful Jujitsu punches. As seconds ticked down toward the end of the first round, Santos pounded a nearly-defenseless Carano until the referee stopped the fight as the bell was sounding. Fight fans felt the ref should have let the round end and determined whether the fight should continue in between rounds. But from what I saw, the ref was clearly starting to call the fight with seven seconds left and waved it off just before the end of the round. If the ref had practiced that, I don't think he could have nailed it that precise. Carano was definitely in severe trouble and remember, it only takes one punch to do major permanent damage. The referee was right to stop the fight and I cannot wait for the rematch.

Finally, the tormented soul better known as Michael Vick is seeking his redemption. The Philadelphia Eagles this weekend shocked the sports world by signing Vick, the former Pro Bowl Atlanta Falcons quarterback who served two years in federal prison stemming from his illegal dogfighting activities, to a deal that can pay him up to $1.6 million a season. Unfortunately, this story is still being written. Vick will be a backup for Donovan McNabb. Protesters are picketing everything that the Eagles do. Sports talk show phone lines have been lit up all weekend long, either trashing or praising the boldness of the move.

It will be interesting to see how Vick handles this chapter of his life. If he has truly learned his lesson, he can tune out his critics and let God deal with the reproach. With the support system the Eagles' organization has, an empathetic head coach, a true mentor in McNabb, and an added bonus of Tony Dungy as his personal advisor, the tools are there for him to succeed. God help the NFC East if he can stay grounded and can still be electrifying on the football field, even in a limited role.

This is why I love sports. The stories, the games, the passion-this is what defines true athletic competition. Long live sports, long live the proving ground.

I wonder what will happen next weekend? I can't wait.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dare to learn

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 111, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20,
John 6:51-58

As another school year starts, millions of children across the country begin an adventure that will be marked by social advancement and intellectual challenges. The ones that are successful at both will be remembered for years after they end their matriculation by their peers. Personally they should achieve a level of enlightenment that will help them continue to succeed in their adult lives.

Many of us have long passed those years but we still have a lifetime of learning to do. This is our spiritual growth, which adds exponentially to our wisdom. Solomon, when he ascended to his father's throne, understood this. He did not want exorbitant riches or long life, he sought wisdom to rule his people in the way God wanted him to. By pleasing God with this prayer, God gave him wisdom never seen before or since, as well as riches and long life.

We should seek to please God is this way. God has given us the ability to reason and think. It is what clearly distinguishes us from His other creations. However, we should hone our wisdom like a barber sharpens his razor knife. We should be humble and fear (respect) God, place our trust in Him, and focus our sights on He who provides our help.

We need to study the Word of God on a daily basis, strengthening ourselves in the knowledge of the truth. By building a strong foundation in our spiritual growth, we can grow and we can dare to dream. If we dream our wildest dreams, with God on our side, we can truly achieve them. Wisdom and discernment will guide you to your goals, and if you look at things with your spiritual eyes, you can sidestep those hurdles that the enemy will thrust upon you. In other words, it does not matter how big the struggle, the victory will be even greater.

To gain wisdom, you must dare to learn. In daring to learn, you must seek, find and respect God. Instead a being a daredevil, just avoiding perils and pitfalls, be a "dare-angel", rising above the fray, seeking the favor of God. The latter is much more rewarding for all eternity.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Imitate God the best you can

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 , 1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 130, Psalm 34:1-8, Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2, John 6:35, 41-51

God loves all of us. He daily forgives us for our sins. He provides for our needs. He walks with us and helps us through our struggles. He puts a hedge of protection around us.

The question becomes do we offer the same comfort to our fellow man? Can someone say that you love everyone? Can someone say that you are forgiving? Can someone depend on you as a provider? Can people say you are helpful during times of despair? Can someone acknowledge that you are a protector?

On this day, let us evaluate ourselves to see where we are in our roles as children of God. It is proven that children imitate their parents, no matter how hard they rebel against that fact. We look like our parents and we adopt many of their mannerisms because they have the most influence in our lives.

This leads to another set of questions: Why do we not adopt the ways of our heavenly Father? Why do we rebel against God's influence on our lives so easily? Could it be because we do not see God with our physical eyes?

It is hard to love everyone in a world that suggests it is healthy to be cynical and distrusting. It is hard to protect those who have done harm to others. It is hard to provide for folks when your personal resources are limited, thus it is also hard to help others when you are struggling. It is hard for us to forgive those who have transgressed against us without any remorse.

However, if we are to be true servants of God, we have to be true imitators of God. We have to adopt the ways of our Father, not just to be nicer to others, but to gain the favor we are on earth to attain, and that is the favor of God.

God is love. We are His children. We need to be about love as well. It is the greatest commandment for us to adhere to. If we set it in our minds to imitate God, our spiritual strength will help us achieve this lofty goal. Have faith, and watch God work within us to make us more like Him.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Always a First Impression

2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a, Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15, Psalm 51:1-12, Psalm 78:23-29, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35

There are nearly 7 billion people in the world. That gives us a lot of opportunities to make a first impression. The old saying goes that you only get one chance to make that first impression, so you are constantly encouraged to make that impression a positive one.

As human beings, that is hard to do, because we are not always on our "A" game. Sometimes we get caught at a low moment, even if we make every effort to be careful with our outward persona. Therefore, even if you never encounter a certain person again, that impression of you will last with them forever.

Fortunately for us, our eternal goal is not making 7 billion first impressions, but to make a good first impression with God every day. Our Father, by giving us another day on earth, cleans our slate with forgiveness, and we have another chance to show God how faithful we are through our love for Him.

When we repent for our sins, we are creating another opportunity to please God. We are then given favor to do what He intended for us to do with our lives. So while we have mortal pressure to make good first impressions with everyone we meet, we should take comfort that we should not have that same pressure in our relationship with God.

God loves us for who we are because He created us. He knows our faults and our needs. All He desires from us is total devotion to Him. Keep that in mind when you are worrying about your outward appearance to the rest of the world, for that fleeting opportunity for a first impression is as temporal as our existence on earth. The eternal love and favor of God is the real impression that counts, and it is renewable on a daily basis.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Ghosts of Mississippi strike again

The movie "The Ghosts of Mississippi" documented the conviction of Byron de la Beckwith, the man who murdered civil rights leader Medgar Wiley Evers. The hero, played by Alec Baldwin, was an assistant District Attorney named Bobby DeLaughter, who seemed destined by fate to bring Beckwith to justice.

DeLaughter became a national hero for his efforts and he gave Mississippi a positive headline concerning one of the darkest eras in American history. Besides the movie, DeLaughter parlayed his fame into a book about the case and became a Circuit Court Judge. His legacy looked to be cemented as a great American story.

However, it is now obvious that the story will not have a happy ending. DeLaughter, on July 30, 2009, pled guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into the actions of Attorney Dickie Scruggs, who was another Mississippi success story gone bad.

This is a sad moment for all of us because it shows how quickly our "fifteen minutes of fame" can go south quick. It is sad because it shows how important it is for those of us who choose public service as our vocation to stay above temptation and how hard it is to do so.

It is true that when you become a public servant, changes come in your life. Your schedule becomes more demanding and it will put a strain on your financial and personal life. That is what makes keeping the public trust so hard for some, because character flaws will be revealed and weaknesses exploited. DeLaughter's flaw was trusting his friends with securing his ambitious desires. DeLaughter badly wanted to be a federal judge and with his pedigree, he seemed destined to achieve that goal.

However, he did not understand how he got to be in the position he was in. DeLaughter suffered personal setbacks in pursuing justice in the Evers case, yet it all worked out in the end. Had he learned that lesson, he would not have put himself in the position to jeopardize all that he had worked for on a promise that sounded too easy.

A champion for justice should never turn his back on justice for personal gain. He could have turned his back on justice for the Evers family but he did not and many of us are grateful for that. I personally wish he could have finished that journey on a positive note. I knew Judge DeLaughter and worked with him on many occasions. I helped him celebrate in his moment of triumph, both in the courtroom and on the silver screen. Now, I am powerless in his moment of adversity.

Unfortunately, DeLaughter will not be the last Mississippian to achieve a national stature and then fall from grace. Every time that happens though, it just brings those dreaded "ghosts" that continue to haunt us in the forefront again.