Longtime community activist and Jackson Mayor Frank Melton died at 12:10 a.m. today at St. Dominic Hospital with family at his side, city spokeswoman Goldia Revies said.
A former television station owner and personality, Melton, 60, will be remembered mostly for his turbulent political career that began four years ago with his overwhelming victory over two-term Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. But he quickly was sidetracked by political struggles, endless legal battles and health issues.
He leaves behind a wife and two adult children, as well as an unknown number of inner-city youths he unofficially adopted over the years.
“It’s the only thing I do well,” he said in an interview in 2006 about the youths he took into his home over the years.
Revies said Melton’s wife, Ellen, was at his side when he died. She lives near Tyler, Texas. Melton had lived in Jackson for more than 20 years. He often took in troubled youths and helped some through school.
Melton came to Mississippi from Tyler, Texas, in the 1980s to run NBC affiliate WLBT-TV. He soon made a name for himself with an opinion piece called “The Bottom Line” in which he called out criminals and verbally attacked city officials he considered ineffective.
“And that, my friends, is the bottom line,” became his catchphrase.
His wife, a pediatrician, and his two children stayed behind in Texas, prompting vicious rumors about his personal life.
Melton brushed aside criticism, and did things his own, sometimes unusual way.
He became a fixture in poor neighborhoods, where he would talk to youngsters about personal accountability and hard work.
He tried to broker a cease fire among gangs and volunteered as a swim instructor at an area YMCA.
He was elected by a landslide in 2005 after campaigning on a tough-on-crime platform. Since then, however, he has been hounded by legal problems related to his unorthodox tactics.