Stealing spotlight from Attorney General Jim Hood

I was barely awake Friday morning when the first of several texts came in sharing the disgusting video.
That morning’s early newscast on one of the Biloxi television stations was showing a close up of me stuffing my face with an overflowing fork. Thank goodness it was at least the pre-meal salad and not the big chunk of cheesecake, which was delicious.

The occasion was the annual roast by the Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation, of which I am chairman. This year we were having fun at the expense of Attorney General Jim Hood while raising a lot of money for journalism scholarships. That was newsworthy. My talent for inhaling large quantities of food in one sitting is not. I’ll never understand TV “news.”

Joel McNeece

Several others who witnessed the carnage on television pointed out that it appeared I was sitting at a Mississippi State University table as well, which they found curious knowing my Southern Miss allegiance.

Honestly, I don’t get hung up on all that kind of hoopla. Some of our friends from Mississippi State invited us to sit with them at the table they had purchased, and we accepted their invitation.
My wife Lisa, a die-hard Ole Miss girl, was on my right. One of my dearest friends Jim Prince, publisher of the Neshoba Democrat and a graduate of both Ole Miss and Mississippi State, was on my left. And yet somehow, the television camera was compelled to zoom in tight on me. I apologize to all who were forced to witness it while trying to eat their breakfast.
Outside of that unflattering portrayal, the night was a great success.

There were plenty of jokes about the “mullet,” but General Hood explained in his closing remarks that his busy schedule forced him to start cutting his own hair years ago and you just can’t get around to the back very well.
Lee Abraham, the Greenwood attorney with the thick Southern drawl, shared hunting stories from his many travels with Jim. Former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had more of the same.

Former Attorney General Mike Moore had lots of fun at Jim’s expense and provided a lot of encouragement for him to run for governor. At one point in the program it was said that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is so frightened of Jim possibly running and the recent polls that show Hood would be a favorite, that Reeves has enlisted a new hairstyle to try and win more fans – the large screens in the corners of the room showed Reeves with a sweeping coif identical to Pres. Donald Trump.

Marshall Ramsey, the political cartoonist from the Clarion-Ledger, shared a collection of his art from the years featuring the attorney general. He noted only Mike Moore’s hair was more fun to draw than Jim’s.
It was great to have our friend Sid Salter back emceeing the event. He has directed the program every year since its inception until last year when his cancer battle forced Marshall Ramsey to step in.

Lisa and I visited with Jim in the pre-roast reception and again following the event catching up on mostly family news. The New Houlka native shared how much his family loves his move back to Houston and how he hasn’t minded the commute.
We visited with his wife Debbie, sister Beth and he asked a lot about how my mother-in-law Jo Ann Denley was doing.

Jim joked in the reception how the statewide media hasn’t always been his biggest fan but was serious when he said he only has one picture of a journalist in his office. It’s a photo of him and my late father-in-law S. Gale Denley at our Neshoba County Fair Cabin.
Jim was a bit surprised at the end of the roast when I stepped to the microphone to present him the annual award for being willing to endure the good-natured, public ribbing from his friends. The award is named in honor of Mr. Denley.
“I had no idea,” Jim said sincerely. “This really makes it all worth it.”