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10 Questions with 2013 Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Famer Haley Barbour

HB Speaking Photo-EditHaley Barbour is a 1973 graduate of the Ole Miss Law School. He is the former governor of Mississippi, serving between 2004 and 2012. He is one of the seven alumni that will receive the Ole Miss Alumni Association’s highest annual honor on Oct. 25 as part of Homecoming 2013.

Hotty Toddy: Looking back now at your time at Ole Miss, what would you tell your freshman self?

Barbour: I would tell myself to work harder than you play.  In undergrad I partied more than I studied; maybe I could have done a little bit more studying than playing. But you do need both.

Hotty Toddy: What is your lasting impression of Ole Miss?

Barbout: Walking out the front door of the old SAE house, looking up above the tennis courts and the line of old dorms and seeing a slate gray sky, day after day. Oxford is one of the coldest places in Mississippi in the winter. Every day I would walk out of that house and look up to see those beautiful gray skies as I walked to class.

Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to soon-to-be graduates?

Barbour: You can’t cut work like class. You can cut class and still get a B, that won’t happen in the real world. Like I told my sons, you have to love it; you have to love work. There is nothing better in a career than to want to get up and go to work every morning and get along with your colleagues and co-workers. Also instead of looking for a job when you graduate, please invest your time in looking for a career.

Hotty Toddy: What was your first job after graduating?

Barbour: I never got a B.A. in political science; I was one Latin class away from graduating. The only problem was that there was only one section offered and that was in the spring. I started law school in the fall and I had intentions of taking the Latin class in the spring. However, when the time came around I had to decide whether to miss out on six law credits for that one Latin class. With the thanks to a few faculty members that had a discussion about my qualifications, it was decided that I didn’t need to have a B.A. to be in law school. But the year after I got my law degree, I was executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party. During my undergraduate years, I supervised 30 counties in the state for the Nixon campaign; I also helped out with the census in 1969 and 1970. My predecessor noticed me and recommended me to take his place. I got the job four months before I graduated law school; I worked there from 1973-1977.

Hotty Toddy: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments both personally and professionally?

Barbour: I have a wonderful wife and two successful sons that I am very proud of. Marsha has been a great wife and mother and I couldn’t thank her enough. My sons are doing well in business and I am very thankful. I have had many great professional accomplishments, so I will name a few. Being the political director while President Ronald Reagan was in the White House was exciting. I also really enjoyed being the Republican National Committee chairman during a time in which the GOP was very successful with a pretty good victory cycle. Of course, being the governor for eight years was truly an honor for someone to be voted in by your people. I think during my time we will be most remembered by our Katrina response with helping the victims.

Hotty Toddy: Are you still friends with the people you met during your undergraduate years at Ole Miss?

Barbour: Yes, with tons of them from my fraternity, from my wife’s sorority, being in student government and being a part of the College Republicans. Many of my friends I still get to see, whether it was during my time as the governor through traveling across the state, or if we catch up back in Oxford during an event.

Hotty Toddy: What do you like to do with your free time?

Barbour: I love to have family time; I spent a lot of time with my wife and two sons. I like to ski, horseback ride, play golf, etc., but nowadays, I spend most of my free time with my grandkids. I have five, so I take them out and show them a good time. Some are old enough to play catch, so we do that. I show them how to bat, shoot some basketball and field a few ground balls.

Hotty Toddy: How does it feel to be recognized as an outstanding alumnus this year by the University of Mississippi?

Barbour: Ole Miss has been very good to me over the years. It’s truly an honor to be recognized for my accomplishments. It comes on the 40-year anniversary from which I graduated from law school and that is special. I have had a lot of good times in Oxford and I love to represent my alma mater. It’s humbling.

Hotty Toddy: How often do you come back and visit Oxford?

Barbour: While I was the governor, I would visit multiple times throughout the year for functions if you will. I have two sons, one that started in 1992 and the other that began in 1997. When they were here, I was here much frequently, whether it was for a ball game or to come support them. I do love to come back and visit as much as I can.

Hotty Toddy: How would you want people to remember you? What would be the first thing that comes to their minds when they think of Haley Barbour?

Barbour: That he left it better than what it was before.

Story contributed by Brandon Rook, Ole Miss journalism graduate student, bcrook@go.olemiss.edu.

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