Gov. Phil Bryant, Rep. Bennie Thompson spar over who gets credit for Evers home monument
“I’ve worked on this for 16 years,the Governor has no clue!”
Gov. Phil Bryant is facing criticism after publicly thanking Mississippi’s two Republican senators for their work pushing for a new Jackson national monument — but leaving out Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who has long advocated for a designation honoring the Medgar and Myrlie Evers home.
After Thompson pointed out the slight on Twitter, Bryant lashed out at the congressman in a statement to WJTV-TV, labeling the congressman’s “anger and hatred” as being “the very characteristics that separated our people in the civil rights era.”
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday establishing the monument. It honors the slain civil rights leader who served as the first field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP in 1954. Medgar Evers pushed to end segregation and strengthen voting rights enforcement, and was assassinated June 12, 1963, outside his Jackson home. Myrlie Evers was national chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
“Thank you to @realDonaldTrump for signing legislation today to designate Medgar and Myrlie Evers home as a National Monument,” Bryant tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “@SenatorWicker & @SenHydeSmith have worked very hard on this for some time and are to be commended.”
Twitter commenters quickly pointed out Bryant had left out Thompson, the state’s only black member of Congress, who had worked on the issue for a number of years.
The National Park Service will maintain the historic ranch-style home under the new designation. It was previously preserved by Tougaloo College, which opened it for tours by appointment. The home was named a national historic landmark in 2016.
Thompson indicated Bryant’s tweet was a slight, responding Wednesday: “Give adequate credit. I’ve worked on this for 16 years,” later adding, “The Governor has no clue.”
A Bryant spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
But in a comment to WJTV late Wednesday, the governor said it was “sad that Congressman Thompson so desires personal acclaim that he shatters what should be a time of celebration for all Mississippians with this designation.
“His anger and hatred are the very characteristics that separated our people in the civil rights era. He has become a tragic figure who has squandered this opportunity to help bring our state together.”
The spat between two of Mississippi’s top public officials continued into Thursday, with Thompson tweeting again, telling Bryant: “In the words of an old proverb, ‘a hit dog will holler,'” referencing a 19th century saying about how a defensive response can show a person’s guilt.
Several other politicians also weighed in on the controversy online, supporting Thompson’s work on the issue.
Medgar Evers ”gave all of his adult life to trying to make Mississippi and this country a better place,” Thompson said in 2015. “I think there’s no better tribute to his legacy than to have the United States Parks Service maintain that home in a manner where people from all over the world can come and visit.”
A Park Service official recently told Mississippi Public Broadcasting that the agency would soon begin planning the project, including parking, tour schedules and other visitor services.