JACKSON — Leon C. Bramlett, the Republican whose nomination for Mississippi governor in 1983 was eclipsed by discredited sexual accusations against the Democrat who defeated him, died Monday. He was 92.
An employee at Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home in Clarksdale said Bramlett, a businessman and farmer, died at his son’s home in Clarksdale. Plans for services were pending.
Bramlett was an All-American football player for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944 and 1945, and coached there in 1948-49. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
He was a former Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1979.
Bramlett became the GOP nominee in 1983, but his candidacy was overshadowed during the final weeks of the campaign when three transvestite prostitutes publicly claimed they had sex with the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Bill Allain.
Bramlett refused to promote the story, which was based on an investigation funded by wealthy Republican campaign donors.
Allain denied the accusations and was elected governor. The prostitutes later recanted their stories. Allain died in 2013.
Clarke Reed, a Greenville businessman who was Mississippi Republican Party chairman from 1966 to 1975, described Bramlett as “a solid conservative.”
“He took the high road in his campaign, and some of his friends didn’t,” Reed said in an interview Monday.
Bramlett worked in Mississippi for one of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Thad Cochran, for about 13 years and retired from Cochran’s staff in March 2014.
“He was a gentleman and as fine a man as you would want to meet,” Cochran said in a statement Monday. “His service to the people of Mississippi is indicative of a life characterized by service to others and a love of family, the Delta and our country. Leon was a friend. My staff members and I extend our sincere condolences to the Bramlett family.”
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said Bramlett “served his state and his nation with honor and distinction.”
“In everything he did, as a Naval Academy graduate, a U.S. Marine, a Republican gubernatorial nominee, and a community leader, he always served with dignity, principle, and dedication,” Bryant said.