Later this month the eyes of global ballet professionals and fans will focus on Varna, Bulgaria for an international ballet competition equivalent to the Olympics of that art. But last week, they directed their gaze at Jackson, Mississippi, for a reunion gala of medal winners from the USA International Ballet Competition held every four years in the capital of the Magnolia State. The USA IBC returns to our state in 2014, something former USA IBC Chairman Billy Mounger of Jackson calls a bragging right for the city and state.
“They don’t call it the American Competition; they call it the Jackson Competition,” retired oil man Mounger said Saturday night at the reunion gala where he was honored with a gold medal for his work and financial commitment to event held in Jackson since 1979. U.S. Senator Thad Cochran introduced Mounger with U.S. Representative Gregg Harper also in attendance.
Political observers know Mounger as an early leader in Mississippi Republican politics and a finance chairman for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as Cochran and former Senator Trent Lott. Mounger led the Reagan faction during the 1976 Mississippi split at the Republican National Convention, helped expose alleged sexual escapades of Bill Allain in the 1983 gubernatorial race, raised $300,000 for the reelection of Gov. Kirk Fordice in 1995 and served on the Electoral College for George W. Bush in 2004. Most Mississippi Republican elected officials will answer the phone anytime he calls, but in addition to politics, Mounger has fervor for the arts.
Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at [email protected] or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.