A lion on earth roars no more’

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 13, 2004

Pat Fordice comforts two of her granddaughters after funeral services for Kirk Fordice Friday(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[9/11/04]JACKSON Former Gov. Kirk Fordice was in charge until the very end, said his son, Jim Fordice.

Dr. Jim Fordice delivered one of three eulogies for the former governor and 30-year Vicksburg resident during his funeral services Friday morning at First Baptist Church in Jackson.

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Mr. Fordice died Tuesday morning at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson a month after revealing he had leukemia. He was 70.

Before moving to the Governor’s Mansion, Mr. Fordice was CEO of Fordice Construction Company, a heavy-construction general contracting firm best known for forming concrete revetment mattresses for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Standing behind his father’s flag-draped casket, Jim Fordice said he asked Mr. Fordice for the keys to his Indian Chief motorcycle so they could move it.

Mr. Fordice, ever the father, would have none of it.

Speaking with what strength he could muster, Mr. Fordice said to Jim: “Son, you have no business on that motorcycle.”

An emotional Jim Fordice then paused and grabbed a tissue from the box he had taken with him to the podium.

Jim Fordice thanked his mother, Pat, for staying by Mr. Fordice’s side “until the very end with a tenderness that goes beyond human understanding.” “She’s Mississippi’s eternal first lady,” Jim Fordice said to sustained applause.

Mr. Fordice and Pat Fordice divorced in 2000. He is survived by sons Jim, a physician in Nashville; Danny and Hunter, who operate Fordice Construction Company in Vicksburg; daughter Angie Roselle, who also lives in Vicksburg; and 12 grandchildren.

Gov. Haley Barbour’s voice cracked when he said his friend of 35 years and fellow Republican was best described by one word: success.

“He beat the odds and the incumbent (Ray Mabus),” Barbour said. “He willed himself into the highest office in the state.”

Mr. Fordice was the first Republican governor elected since Reconstruction. A political unknown before running for governor in 1991, he was the first governor to succeed himself in the 20th century.

Barbour said Mr. Fordice legacy will be the $350 million budget surplus he left the state, the creation of a rainy day fund and over 200,000 jobs created while he was in office.

Mississippi native and country music star Marty Stuart played a mandolin solo and Derrick Burt sang “God Bless the USA” during the service, attended by several hundred people.

After the service, Mr. Fordice, who retired from the Army in 1977 after 18 years of service, was buried with full military honors at Parkway Memorial Cemetery in Madison.

At the cemetery, a National Guard unit performed a 19-gun salute and four pilots from a flying club Fordice had belonged to flew over in a missing-man formation.

Fordice’s black Labrador retriever, Lance, was at the cemetery.

Fordice’s casket had spent most of Thursday in the rotunda of the state Capitol for viewing by the public. About 1,000 people passed by the casket, draped in an American flag.

After leaving office in 2000, Mr. Fordice lived in Madison.

Jim Fordice said his father, an avid sportsman who often went on safari in Africa, will be remembered as a warrior.

“A lion on Earth roars no more,” he said.