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Barbour’s last act leaves bitter taste

Not many Mississippians will disagree that now former govenor Haley Barbour was perhaps the best leader our state has had in modern times.  Barbour’s leadership through several crises–Katrina and many other weather-related events, the economic recession and housing downturn and the like–has kept Mississippi from going under.  Parts of the state–northeast Mississippi with Toyota and the building boom along the coast–have even thrived as a result.
Barbour has been a good spokesman for the state of Mississippi abroad, as well.  For a time, it looked as though he may have a run for the Republican presidential nomination in his future–a testament to his popularity in many parts of the nation.  Wisely, I think, he chose to continue the work he set out to do here, and that decision has been good for the state.
He surrounded himself with leaders who led by his example.  They fired up the state and have put Mississippi at the forefront of the nation as an example of highly effective, smart leadership.
During Barbour’s two terms, as with the other previous governors of our great state, prison inmates who have exhibited good behavior during the course of the incarcerations were rewarded by being allowed to live and work in the Governor’s mansion as trustees–deemed as no threat to cause any harm to anyone they’d be around.
Some of these inmates were killers, some were drug dealers, some were robbers–all, at one time or another, were just bad people.
In our state, the governor can pardon any inmate that has served time for any crime.  Over the years, former governors have traditionally pardoned some of the trustees that have worked in and around the governor’s mansion, for example–for whatever reason.
Barbour, in eight years as governor, pardoned or suspended the sentences of some 12 inmates–including the last one for murder.  It’s not the first time that’s happened.  Former governors Ray Mabus and Kirk Fordice pardoned murderers.
What has me and many like myself upset over Barbour’s pardon of a murderer is what this guy did to be convicted.  David Glen Gatlin killed his wife by shooting her in the head in 1993 while she was holding their two month old son.  Gatlin then shot a friend who was nearby.  Gatlin got a life sentence for the killing, plus another 30 years for aggravated assault and burglary.
Of course, the family of victim is scared that Gatlin may attempt something else violent on them, now that he is out.  Democrats in the legislature are introducing bills to limit the governor’s ability to pardon killers or at least make it harder.  National press is all over it.
None of us know the details of why Barbour pardoned such a criminal, what was in his heart and what Gatlin could have ever done to deserve his pardon.  Evidently Barbour feels that Gatlin is no longer a threat to Gatlin’s dead wife’s family or to society in general.  We just don’t know.
Either way, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  As governor, Barbour has done so much for the state of Mississippi in a time when its people needed a skillful and influential leader for the times we faced.  He brought great publicity to the state.  His tenacity and political contacts kept us in the loop and put us out front in many ways.   Why then–whether it’s right or wrong–leave office on this note?  
Joe Buck Coates

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