Fred Gaddis: Outstanding public servant
By By Sid Salter
Dec. 12, 2001
FOREST Last night, I saw the flag at Forest's City Hall at half-mast in tribute to the remarkable man who built the facility in 1964 a man who likely forgot more about state and local politics that I will ever hope to know.
Revered Scott County businessman and former Forest mayor Fred L. Gaddis Sr., 79, died Sunday, Dec. 9, 2001 at his home of pancreatic cancer. He served as the city's mayor for 32 years.
As publisher of the Forest weekly newspaper for more than half of Mr. Fred's tenure in office, I knew him well and worked with him often. We worked shoulder-to-shoulder on school bond issues, economic development and federal funding opportunities for the town. In that relationship, I suppose I argued longer and louder with Fred Gaddis than any man I've ever known save my own father and with about the same result.
Yet in the depths of those battles, I never lost sight of the fact that Gaddis was a warrior to be respected a force of nature in our town and a man who held the solid courage of his convictions. Fred Gaddis was, in short, a leader.
A native of the Springfield community in Scott County, Gaddis rose from humble beginnings to become one of the state's most influential business, industrial, civic and political leaders. But after five decades in public life, it is in his dual roles in the development of the state's poultry industry and in eight terms as leader of the City of Forest municipal government that his legacy is anchored.
State government leaders at the highest levels took note of Gaddis' passing. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said: "Fred Gaddis offered stability and longterm leadership in Forest and Scott County. He built a strong foundation for economic activity that will stand for years to come. He was a true public servant and will be missed."
A classmate remembers
Former U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery said late Tuesday that he'd lost "a wonderful friend."
Gaddis was a Mississippi industrial pioneer and a prime mover in the establishment of Scott County as the heart of the state's vertically-integrated poultry processing industry. During the Gaddis era, poultry processing grew to become the state's top cash crop and saw Scott County become the fifth-leading poultry producing county in America.
Through his leadership, Forest built a new waste water treatment facility, city hall, community center, fire station, municipal airport, library, city parks, a tennis pavilion and extensive street lighting and city beautification projects. One of the city's two parks and the main room of the Forest Public Library are named in Gaddis' honor.
Earned his final accolade
His last major project before completing his final term as mayor in June 2001 was the development of the Scott County/Forest Coliseum in the city's South Industrial Park. The facility is one of the state's leading venues for equine activities. It was his pride and joy for the city.
Just over a month prior to his death, Gaddis and his wife, "Tweency," were chosen by unanimous vote of the Forest Area Chamber of Commerce's board of directors as the 2001 "Citizens of The Year" in Forest, but the former mayor was physically unable to accept his final accolade.
Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Noble Lee, Sr., a longtime friend and close political associate, said Gaddis "always had the best interests of the city at heart. He lived the city and that made him a good citizen, a good mayor and a good friend to the people here."
Amen, brother. Amen.
Sid Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson and a syndicated Mississippi political columnist. Call him at (601) 961-7084, write P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39206, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.