Christmas with the press at the governor’s mansion

Last Wednesday I traveled down to Jackson to meet longtime friend Jim Prince, publisher of the newspapers in Philadelphia and Madison and current president of the Mississippi Press Association (MPA). We attended a reception at the governor’s mansion hosted each year for the media.

Jim’s editor in Madison, Michael Simmons, joined us and we met fellow MPA?board member Pat Brown, publisher of the Magee Courier and his wife Nancy at the mansion.

This was my third of these events to attend, my first since Haley Barbour’s first year in office.

Jim Prince, Gov. Phil Bryant, Joel McNeece

The large Magnolia tree, decorated for Christmas with large white lights replicating blooms, is the first eye-catcher as you walk up the drive to the front door of the mansion.

Musicians played in the foyer as everyone entered the front door and meandered through the adjoining rooms to visit with the large crowd.

The foyer was decorated with an 8-foot cypress tree simply covered with white lights, standing to the side of the piano.

A large 12-foot Leyland cypress stood tall in the adjoining room covered in gold decorations and white lights with packages wrapped in shiny gold paper piled underneath.

The event wasn’t totally unlike an evening at the Neshoba County Fair with so much press around, particulary with the unseasonably warm weather.

I found Dan Turner, former press secretary for Gov. Haley Barbour and longtime Neshoba Fair neighbor. I visited with Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press, a regular at our cabin during the political speeches, my former boss Wyatt Emmerich, Tobie Baker with Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, longtime WLBT newsman Bert Case and of course Gov. Phil and Deborah Bryant.

The governor and I commiserated over the state of Southern Miss football for a few minutes and quickly decided to change the subject as we were dampening the mood.

The highlight may have been meeting the governor’s  Labrador Maggie and the personal tour of the governor’s office from Mrs. Bryant. She acknowledged he obviously didn’t use that office often, because it was far too orderly.

We capped the evening with a visit to Parlor Market, one of Jackson’s finest restaurants located just a few steps down Capitol Street from the mansion near the King Edward.

It had been more than a year since I had eaten there, but it was as good as I remembered­– a perfect cap to an enjoyable evening.

You may email Joel McNeece at