William J. “Billy” McCoy, former speaker of the Mississippi House, died Tuesday, Nov. 12. He was 77.
McCoy, a farmer and teacher from Rienzi, Miss., in Alcorn County, served in the state legislature for 28 years. He was first elected in 1979 and was speaker of the House for the last eight years of his tenure there. Prior to becoming speaker, McCoy, a Democrat, was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and before that, the Education Committee. He stepped away from the legislature in 2012.
The former speaker has been credited for bringing Nissan and Toyota to Mississippi, and he championed an infrastructure plan in the late 1980s that modernized the state’s rural highway system. He also helped pass the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which levels state funding to school districts.
“Billy McCoy was the epitome of what was good about the state of Mississippi,” Rep. Steve Holland, I-Plantersville, told the Associated Press Tuesday night. “He had a keen vision of what was good for Mississippi and an innate Appalachian love of the state and its people. He would fight a circle saw with the gusto of a hound dog to see that that vision was done.”
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