Racial diversity lacking in Mississippi’s Republican Party

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has previously come under fire for his lack of diversity when choosing agency heads for a state with a 37 percent black population. Most of his picks were white men. Mississippi Department of Corrections chief Chris Epps is the only black person currently leading a major state agency.

The governor has made more than 20 judicial appointments since he came into office in 2003. Not one of them was black.

It’s not as if none applied.

“I know lawyers who wrote letters on behalf of African Americans who applied for those judgeships,” said Malcolm Harrison, president of the Magnolia Bar Association, a black attorneys’ group.

“We know there were qualified African Americans who can serve on the judiciary and why African Americans have not been appointed or even considered makes no sense to us,” Harrison said. “The Republican Party in Mississippi doesn’t believe diversity is important, especially not in the judiciary in Mississippi.”

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said he would have to review the selection process in previous judicial appointments to determine if there were any black applicants.

“The governor is not in the habit of trying to fill any type of quota,” Turner said.

Sheila Byrd
2/25/9