It’s been quite a ride
Crump goes from the Delta to Washington and back again
Bill Crump, Viking Range’s director of governmental affairs, has had a very interesting life for a boy from Mississippi cotton fields. Elected as mayor of Slaughter at 19, Crump once held the title of the United States’ youngest mayor. He later found himself working in Washington, D.C., alongside George W. “Junior” Bush, assisting the first George Bush in his transition as president. He turned down an offer to be deputy director of the United States Mint to come back to the Delta and live in Greenwood. His wife, Jane, is public relations manager at Viking. They have two sons. See msbusiness.com/blog/tag/qa for full interview.
Q — Tell us about your background and interest in politics.
A — I got interested in politics since early, early years even when I was 8, 9 and 10. I had a neighbor down the street who was a county supervisor, and I would help him every year when he ran for office. I was going to Delta State, and I decided that there were some things going on in Schlater in my hometown and some things I wanted to do, so I decided to run for alderman. That was my first elected position. Within a year the guy who was mayor resigned to run for county supervisor. There was a vacancy, so I decided to run for mayor and I did. I was 19. I was the youngest elected official in the United States.
One of the things I’m most proud of is Slaughter has a beautiful, old cypress-lined lake that runs through the town. And all the time I was a child growing up, everybody’s raw sewage ran right into the lake. We couldn’t fish in the lake or swim in the lake. I ended up getting a grant from EPA for over $1 million dollars for a sewer system for Slaughter.
Q — How did you end up in Washington, D.C.?
A — I went to Washington with Webb Franklin as his chief of staff. I got married in ’76. Jane and I moved back to Slaughter, and I taught at Pillow Academy for four years and then worked in sales for a couple of years (and worked on Webb’s campaigns). He asked me to go to Washington as his chief of staff. So I resigned as mayor to move to Washington in December of ’82.
He was in for two terms, four years, and then he was defeated, and I moved over and was chief of staff for Connie Mack, who was a Republican congressman from Florida and later became senator. During my time with Webb, Vice President George Bush came down to Mississippi for a couple events. I got to know his staff.
During my time with both Webb and Connie, I started doing political trips for the vice president and for the White House as a volunteer, and in that period met Lee Atwater, who eventually ran George Bush’s presidential campaign.
On election night when George Bush Senior was elected President, I was in Houston in charge of the Bush family for election night.
Q — You have had the craziest life.
A — I have had. Hey, I have told people that if I die tomorrow, I would have to say I have had the best life anybody could ever have.
Anyway, the next morning after the election, I was in the elevator and Lee got on the elevator. He said, “When are you going back to D.C.? What are you going to do?” I said, “Well, I’m going back with Connie Mack.” He said, “Call me.”
I thought to myself, “Sure. Everybody in the United States is going to be calling Lee Atwater for a job. That’s just ridiculous. I’m not even going to think about it.”
(A week later he called.)
He said, “I thought you were going to call me.”
I said, “Well, ah, I thought I’d give you some time to settle down and …”
(He picked me up at 1 p.m. that day.) I walked out, and there he was in a car with a driver, and I got in. He said, “We’re going to see The Boss.” We went barreling down Pennsylvania Avenue and met with the President-elect. And I started that day working for the presidential transition team. We moved to the transition offices. Guess whose office was right next door to mine?
Q — Who knows. Elvis?
A — No. George Bush. George W. Bush. He was involved in the campaign. The son who later became President. His office and my office were right next door to each other. And we called him “Junior.” So then after the inaugural I went to the RNC. Lee died of a brain tumor, collapsed giving a political speech and died a week after my mother died. My children were getting older. I said, “This is just no way to raise a family and I want to get back home.”
We put our house on the market. The day that we sold the house, I got a call from a good friend who I had worked with who was now at the Department of the Treasury who asked me to go to work with him. He was going to be the director of the Mint, and he wanted me to go there with him as the assistant director of the Mint. I said, “I’m sorry. I’m going back to Mississippi.” But what’s the most fascinating part of it — the director of the Mint is in charge of Fort Knox.
Q — So you would be the printing money and overseeing Fort Knox, but you moved to Greenwood?
A — Yeah, if I had taken the job. I have no regrets. It has been great being back. I miss D.C., but then my oldest son ended up going back up there working for Sen. Cochran. He’s just moved back home after being up there for six years. I was up there a lot, and with my job here, I have been up there a lot. I have the best of both worlds. I still have a lot of friends up there.
So that’s kind of my …
Q — Every day normal story.
A — Every day normal story. It has been — for a kid growing up in the middle of a cotton field in Slaughter, Mississippi — I have had a…
Q — Quite the ride?
A — Quite the ride.
More on Bill Crump:
Favorite Food: Hamburger steak and gravy
Favorite Book: “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, before he knew it would be filmed in Greenwood. John Grisham books.