The last Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives passed away in November 2019.

Today, a portion of Highway 45 is renamed in honor of former Mississippi Speaker Billy McCoy.

According to the HB 1279, a portion of Highway 45 in Alcorn County and Prentiss County beginning a mile north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and Mississippi Highway 356 and ending two miles south of the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and Mississippi Highway 356 was designated as the “Speaker William J. ‘Billy’ McCoy Memorial Highway.’

The bill to designate the portion of highway was passed in the 2020 Legislative session.

The dedication took place on June 14, 2021.

“Billy McCoy will be remembered as the most impactful Legislator in Mississippi history. Every inch of highways in this state has his fingerprints on them,” said Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District Brandon Presley.

McCoy was well known for his policy work on Mississippi’s four lane highway system. He also left his mark with the negotiations to bring Nissan and Toyota plants to Mississippi. During his time in the Legislature he was referred to an “everyone’s man” and took a different approach to the often social and political life of a politician.

“Speaker McCoy was intensely popular and his own intensity was genuine and heartfelt,” said Commissioner John Caldwell, Northern Transportation District. “Whether he was battling those with contrary opinions or motivating ones that agreed, you never had to wonder where he stood. He stood for Mississippi, especially Northeast Mississippi and those that knew and loved him best.”

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In 2004, during his tenure as Speaker, McCoy suffered several strokes. He maintained his role in the Legislature after a challenge by then Democrat Representative Jeff Smith in 2008. Smith lost 62 to 60. This cost Republicans committee chairmanships but set the stage for the GOP to gain the majority the next cycle.

McCoy retired in 2011 from the Legislature.

McCoy died in Tupelo, Mississippi after an extended period of time in the hospital. He was survived by his wife, Edith, and their two children, Sam and Kim.