Ex-mayor, businessman Chain dies at 84

HATTIESBURG — Former Hattiesburg mayor and businessman Bobby Lee Chain has died. He was 84.

He died of cancer about 5:15 a.m. yesterday at Forrest General Hospital, his wife, Betty Chain, said.

He was mayor from 1980 to 1986. The city’s airport and the technology building at the University of Southern Mississippi are named for him.

His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg, with visitation from 5-7 p.m. Monday and 1-2 p.m. Tuesday, the family said.

Chain’s first business was parching and selling peanuts on the streets in Mount Olive, when he was 8 years old, his family said in an emailed obituary. He also picked cotton as a boy “and at 13 was selling newspapers to the troops at Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg,” they wrote.

Chain joined the Mississippi State Guard when he was 16, marching, training and practicing rifle drills.

He wanted to enlist in the Air Force for pilot’s training when the Korean War began, but “was convinced to join the Brookhaven National Guard unit which was the first in the country to be activated” in that war, according to his website. Attached to an anti-aircraft battalion that used radar to target enemy planes, he was working on a trailer-mounted radar dish when an Army truck hit it and he fell 18 feet to the ground.

His recovery took more than three years, according to the website.

Chain started the Chain Electric Co. in 1955 with $2,200 and a 5-year-old truck and built it into a 12-state commercial, industrial, and utility contractor. He also was chairman and CEO of an exploration and petroleum investment firm called Chainco.

Chain was named to the National Advisory Council for Small Business Administration in 1964. He served from 1972 to 1984 on both the Mississippi Research and Development Foundation and Mississippi’s higher education board of trustees. He was a member of the National Advisory Council on Adult Education from 1984 to 1988.

He is survived by his wife and their four children, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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