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Mississippi's Top 50 Most Influential

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Haley Barbour, Former Governor of Mississippi

Haley Barbour has cast a long shadow over Mississippi politics. Elected in 2003 as a Republican Governor with largely Democrat party rule over the rest of the state, Haley ushered in a party political revolution that is well into its second decade of growth.  The efforts he launched now have resulted in seven of eight statewide offices held by Republicans and a legislative supermajority in the Mississippi House and Senate.

After serving two consecutive terms as Governor of Mississippi, including two years as the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour joined counsel at the law firm Butler Snow LLP in Ridgeland, Mississippi, where he specializes in economic and business development. Barbour is also founding Partner of BGR Group and returned to BGR in January 2012. At BGR, he heads advocacy coalitions, lobbies on behalf of his clients, and remains a major force in Republican party politics and elections.

Gov. Barbour began his political career in 1968, dropping out of college to work on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign; in 1976, after supporting Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination, he ran Gerald Ford’s fall campaign in the Southeast. In 1982, he ran for U.S. Senate in Mississippi but lost to incumbent John C. Stennis. Gov. Barbour later served as Political Director of the Reagan White House. In 1987, he co-founded the government affairs firm that later became BGR Group.

From 1993 to 1997, Gov. Barbour served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, managing the 1994 Republican surge that led to GOP control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

During his tenure as governor, Barbour led his state to adopt what the Wall Street Journal called the most comprehensive tort reform in the country. His team generated numerous large economic projects in the energy, aerospace and automotive fields, including the selection by Toyota of Blue Spring, Miss., for the company’s newest U.S. auto assembly plant, which was the most sought-after economic development project in the United States that year. In Gov. Barbour’s eight years as governor, per capita income in the state increased by 34 percent.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Gov. Barbour received national recognition from the bipartisan American Legislative Exchange Council for his swift response to the worst natural disaster in American history. In 2015 he published America’s Great Storm: Leading Through Hurricane Katrina, a memoir of the year after the storm from the Governor’s perspective and lessons in leadership from the mega-disaster. For his efforts to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award. Other awards during his tenure as Governor included being named Governor of the Year by Governing Magazine, receiving the Gulf Guardian Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of his work to rebuild Gulf Coast ecosystems, and receiving the Adam Smith Award from BIPAC to honor his pursuit of the principles of free enterprise.

A native of Yazoo City, Miss., Gov. Barbour attended the University of Mississippi, where he received his JD in 1973. Governor Barbour resides in Yazoo City with his wife Marsha. They have two sons and seven grandchildren.