Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Sid Salter: He Understood & Believed in Bipartisanship, the Duty to Govern

  Like most Mississippians, I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Johnny Morgan of Oxford in a plane crash in Arkansas. Morgan – a larger-than-life presence personally and politically – died May 17 while piloting his twin-engine Beech King Air E-90 aircraft near Fayetteville, Ark.

He was 76, but still somehow displayed the boyish good looks that was his calling card as an Ole Miss cheerleader. His loyalty to his alma mater was deep and lifelong. From the first time I met him, Johnny was self-confident, direct, and always pressed any advantage he perceived that he possessed.

I met Johnny on an evening out in Oxford with Willie Morris and Gale Denley at Clyde Goolsby’s bar at the old Holiday Inn.

From 1983 to 1991, Morgan served two terms as a state senator from Calhoun, Lafayette and Yalobusha counties. Beginning in 2003, Morgan served two terms as a member of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors. 

With partner David White, Morgan cofounded the Oxford-based insurance company, Morgan White Insurance, in 1987. Morgan served on the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association and was affiliated with the Mississippi Board of Economic Development.

Johnny’s brother, Chip Morgan, was for 35 years the well-known leader of the influential Delta Council.

Yet despite Morgan’s career successes in retail politics and business, it was his involvement with a regional political and social event he cofounded years ago that drew the most frequent mentions from statewide public officials and local friends alike following the accident that claimed Morgan’s life.

Morgan was the unquestioned impresario of the annual Good Ole Boys and Gals, a bipartisan political and social gathering of friends, politicians, and politicos across the state held first in a primitive tractor shed and later in a larger, more substantial sheet metal covered shop on Morgan’s property off Hwy. 7 north of Oxford.

The event featured barbeque chicken plates, beverages of every stripe, fellowship and good, old-fashioned audience participation political stump speaking. It was a smaller venue than the Neshoba County Fair, but it had the same flavor. 

The crowds were eclectic. Democrats, Republicans, independents gathered to break bread and talk politics with people with whom many shared little to nothing in common. Blacks, whites, men, women, college professors and diesel mechanics, sweet potato farmers and writers, all found sanctuary under the shed. Populist political speakers were welcomed most of all – not necessarily for their subject matter but for the entertainment value.

Morgan appreciated the event’s ability to bring a statewide political audience to his community and to close the gap between north Mississippi political events always being held in either DeSoto County or Tupelo. And while Jacinto Courthouse remains an A-list political event in north Mississippi, Morgan and his co-founders were successful in building a statewide brand for the “Good Ole Boys” event.

More importantly, Morgan knew that scorched earth partisanship was short-sighted and didn’t produce results that were necessarily good for the electorate.

Johnny Morgan was a Democrat while a state legislator who saw the shift coming from a once monolithically dominant Mississippi Democratic Party to a now dominant Mississippi Republican Party. Over the course of his life, Morgan saw politics at all levels changing and becoming more complex in terms of not just winning elections but actually governing.

I fondly recall attending Good Ole Boys political speakings with Gale Denley – who helped grow the event. Would that more Mississippians understand the value of sincere fellowship and active listening to people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs and political world views in the way that Johnny Morgan did. 

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Great man of God, who loved all things MS! Chip is just the same heart as Johnny. May God bless family & friends an MS!

Anonymous said...

I was privileged to know Johnny and attended the funeral service, which was a fitting tribute to the life of a wonderful person. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on for years to come.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely eulogy.

It's gratifying, isn't it, to read something from Salter that isn't lifted from a wiki page or a press handout from the National Chicken Board.

Anonymous said...

Now that is Sid Salter journalist I remember not the man of late

Anonymous said...

I never met nor knew Johnny. But I did know Chip and did not know they were brothers.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS