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Beaming when he’s the star, Thompson bails out when he’s in the background

July 28th, 2010 Comments off

There was at least one conspicuous face absent from  the bevy of public officials descending upon Greenville last week for the ribbon cutting of the new U.S. 82 bridge across the Mississippi River.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson.
MBJ reporter and video-journalist Stephen McDill pointed that out upon his return from covering the event in The Queen City.
Thompson represents the Magnolia State’s 2nd Congressional District, an area stretching from Tunica to just south of Vicksburg. He was first elected to the post in 1993.
The new Greenville bridge is the shiny new belt buckle of his constituency.
Thompson should have been there for this historic occasion.
He rarely misses an opportunity to hang out with friends in Greenville, especially when there is credit to be parceled out, and there are cameras to record the moment.
He had no trouble getting to Greenville two years ago when he announced to a grateful gathering that the federal courthouse would stay there even though rumblings were that a new courthouse would be built in Cleveland, another city in the Delta.
He also had no trouble getting to Greenville last year to announced he had obtained federal funding for area roads.
Thompson always seems to be in Greenville when he is announcing something he claims to have been the architect of.
This time, he would have had a supporting role, and that’s not his trademark. With Thompson, it’s center stage or see-you-later.
History will show that it was former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott who was the brains and political brawn behind the bridge, having inserted language into a bill as an earmark to get the money.
Tugboat captains having to navigate the tricky stretch of river are grateful; the many dents at the base of the old Humphreys bridge are proof that these were waters unfriendly to commerce.
Motorists who have had to endure a white-knuckle drive across the Humphreys bridge since 1940 are also grateful. On a clear day, driving across Humphreys is quite an experience. In inclement weather, it’s a nightmare.
Lott (not a Deltan but a Gulf Coast native) was all smiles at the ceremony.
He praised the presence of his successor, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, and even took a stealthy swipe at dignitaries who were absent.
“I appreciate the fact that you are a senator from Mississippi and that you took the time to be here,” Lott said to Wicker from the podium. “A lot of elected officials missed a great opportunity to take a bow on this great bridge.”
Maybe the new U.S. 82 bridge should be named the Chester Trent Lott Mississippi River Bridge.
Lott wasn’t perfect. But he got this one right.
Thompson, and his entourage, meanwhile, missed a wonderful opportunity to tell their grandchildren about the day the Delta got a new bridge.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.