Mississippi College

Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant Visits Mississippi College

May 11, 2012

Mississippi’s First Lady Deborah Bryant is championing causes like healthcare, the outdoors, military families and education.

On the job as First Lady since January, Bryant is also finding time to work as a nurse at St. Dominic Hospital, promote the historic Mississippi Governor’s Mansion and attend a marathon of events around the Magnolia State.

The wife of Gov. Phil Bryant on May 10 added Mississippi College to her list of stops, with hundreds of women from the Christian university and the Clinton community giving her a warm reception at Anderson Hall.

The nation’s second oldest Baptist university, Mississippi College, with nearly 5,300 students, fits in well with Deborah Bryant’s pro-education agenda that stretches from the cradle to the university.

Spotlighting the state’s antebellum Governor’s Mansion in downtown Jackson is another priority that’s high on her list, she told the audience on the Clinton campus Thursday afternoon.

Opened in 1842, the Greek Revival style mansion is the second oldest continuously occupied governor’s residence in the United States, right behind the one in Virginia. During the Civil War, Union officers entertained themselves at the Jackson, Mississippi residence on at least one occasion. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

“We intend for the Governor’s Mansion to be a focal point of Mississippi tourism,” Deborah Bryant said. But it’s really a residence she wants to showcase to visitors from Mississippi and around the world. “We want people to feel the mansion is their home.”

At the moment, Gov. Bryant and his wife are living in their residence in Rankin County while the Governor’s Mansion is undergoing extensive renovations.

Healthcare is also of major interest for the Hinds Community College graduate. Her mother, who lives in Clinton, is a cancer survivor. This year, the First Lady is serving as chairman of a local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The longtime nurse lives in a state with the worst rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity in the nation.

With Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, MC First Lady Rhoda Royce orchestrated the special event to honor First Lady Deborah Bryant and salute the many extraordinary women contributing to the success of Mississippi College and Clinton. Rosemary Aultman, Clinton’s mayor, was among those leading the salute to Bryant. Spiced with music from the Brick Street Trio and tables of splendid desserts, the program concluded when audience members recited a prayer for Mississippi’s First Lady.

The past four months have been a whirlwind for the Bryants. They attended a blitz of inaugural festivities in January, and their daughter, Katie, got married at the Governor’s Mansion. Facing cash shortages for four months, the 2012 Legislature wrapped up its session at the Capitol in early May. Trying to attract more jobs to Mississippi is practically a never-ending task for Gov. Bryant and other state leaders amid a dreary national economy.

But Deborah Bryant wouldn’t have it any other way as she stays busy seven days a week as First Lady. “God meant for me to be along for Phil,” she said.

Deborah Bryant will join Gov. Bryant when they greet Mississippians at the annual New York Picnic in June in Central Park. They will visit with hundreds of cabin dwellers and political fans at the Neshoba County Fair later this summer. Earlier this year, the First Lady addressed a meeting of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority at a mother-daughter brunch. This week, she toured Mississippi state parks and went fishing as a “Mississippi Outdoors” TV crew tagged along.

This wasn’t Deborah Bryant’s first visit to Mississippi College. Then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant served as an adjunct government professor at MC for several years where the Moorhead native received his master’s degree in political science. Gov. Bryant introduced former U.S. Secretary of Education Condoleezza Rice as the keynote speaker at the university’s annual scholarship dinner in April.

Married for 35 years, the Bryants stay on the go as the parents of two children, and the Rankin County Republicans seem to share the same political philosophy.

“We watch every penny we spend,” says Deborah Bryant, whose husband served a dozen years as Mississippi’s state auditor.

Like her husband who’s a supporter of causes like Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army, Mississippi’s First Lady is just as interested in reaching out to people in need. She recently attended a meeting of the Keep Mississippi Beautiful organization in Smithville, a town devastated by a tornado last spring.

MC audiences were delighted to welcome Deborah Bryant as the newest member of a group of talented Mississippi First Ladies making a difference as they served their state, including Elise Winter, the late Pat Fordice, and Marsha Barbour.

“I’m sure she will be very active,” says Kathy Howard, the wife of Ron Howard, the university’s vice president for academic affairs.


Photo: Rhoda Royce and Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant

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