Dick Hall speaks during the Neshoba County Fair Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Mississippi’s longest serving transportation commissioner Dick Hall died on Wednesday at the Baptist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. He was 84.

Hall had been retired from the elected, three-person Transportation Commission since he opted in 2019 not to seek reelection for the current four-year term.

“Mississippi lost one of its longest tenured public servants, and I lost a great friend and mentor,” said Brad White, the executive director of the transportation department who previously served on Hall’s staff. “Commissioner Hall led by example and my life is much better because of the major role he played in it.”

Before being appointed to the Transportation Commission by then-Gov. Kirk Fordice in 1999, he served three terms in the Senate and three terms in the House, representing the Jackson area in the Legislature. He was one of a few Republicans serving in the Legislature when he was first elected.

He was elected to represent the state’s 22-county central district on the Transportation Commission five times after being appointed by Fordice to fill a vacancy. He served 11 years as chair of the Commission.

But before being elected as transportation commissioner, Hall had an eventful tenure in the Legislature, including serving as Senate Appropriations chair. He first was appointed to the post by Republican Lt. Gov. Eddie Briggs. Briggs removed him from the position after the Legislature was required to run for election in consecutive years by a federal court because of conflicts over redistricting. Briggs appointed Hall to chair the Public Health Committee after removing him from Appropriations.

But Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who defeated Briggs in the 1995 election, re-appointed Hall as Appropriations chair where he served until his appointment to the Transportation Commission by Fordice.

“I am saddened by the passing of my friend and colleague Dick Hall. I had the honor of serving with him on the Transportation Commission and developed a deep respect for him and his dedication to our great state,” said Southern District Commissioner Tom King, who also is chair of the Mississippi Transportation Commission. “He has left a legacy of service and hard work not only at MDOT, but for the entire state of Mississippi.”

As transportation commissioner, Hall was an outspoken advocate for providing additional revenue to deal with a deteriorating infrastructure system. Finally in a 2018 special session, the Legislature passed bills to address some of the road and bridge issues highlighted so often by Hall.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.