Vietnam conflict veteran and Republican Rep. Mac Huddleston, of Pontotoc, speaks about the importance of commemorating National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in the rotunda at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. The national day is March 29, but state veteran affairs officials wanted to honor those military service lawmakers who served during the conflict. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Republican Rep. Mac Huddleston, a veteran lawmaker who represented Pontotoc County in the state House, died on Sunday, according to several state lawmakers and an obituary posted online. He was 79. 

Huddleston died from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, according to his wife, Dr. Flavia Huddleston. 

During the past four years, Huddleston served as the leader of the House Ethics Committee and the House Universities and Colleges Committee, and he previously served as the vice chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. 

“I had the highest respect for him, and that is why, out of 122 members, I made him the chairman of the Ethics Committee,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. “This reflects my view that he was a man of great integrity and character.”

Aafter representing the rural northeast Mississippi county in the Capitol for the last 16 years, Huddleston decided not to run for reelection this year and allow a new face to represent the rural northeast Mississippi county in the Legislature. 

“I’ve had a good time,” Huddleston told the Daily Journal at the time. “I’ve had some health issues, but I’ve had some good friends to help me work through this.” 

A veterinarian and Vietnam War veteran, Huddleston developed a reputation at the Capitol for helping newly elected House members.

“When I got to Jackson, I was a green as a gourd,” Republican Rep. Jon Lancaster of Houston told Mississippi Today. “He took me under his wing, and he taught me how to network and how to get things done for my district.” 

Republican Rep. Sam Creekmore IV of New Albany had a similar experience to Lancaster. When Creekmore was elected to the House in 2019, Huddleston called Creekmore before the newly elected lawmakers had a chance to visit Jackson.

“When we were picking seats, I picked the seat closest to Mac Huddleston intentionally,” Creekmore said. “Any time there was an issue I wanted to talk through, I could go to him and discuss what was good for Pontotoc and Union counties.” 

The four-term lawmaker was also well known for his military service. He flew a helicopter during the Vietnam War, earning the rank of Captain and receiving the Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross medal. 

Huddleston’s House colleagues last year honored him and Rep. Manly Barton, a Republican from Moss Point who also served in the Vietnam War, by passing a resolution, which garnered a standing ovation in the chamber.

“Mississippi lost a great one today,” Republican Rep. Missy McGee of Hattiesburg wrote on social media. “Rep. Mac Huddleston served his country as an army aviator in Vietnam and most recently, his state in the Mississippi House of Representatives. I’m honored to have served with him.”

Because his House seat is left vacant during an ongoing regular election, the governor will not have to call for a special election. Beth Luther Waldo, a Republican, was the only candidate who qualified to run for the House seat, meaning in January, she will begin representing Pontotoc in the Legislature for the next four years. 

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.