Fordice Dies at 70

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Former Gov. Kirk Fordice died Tuesday morning at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Fordice, 70, died of complications from leukemia. He had been ill for several weeks. In 1992, Fordice became Mississippi's first Republican governor in 116 years.

Statement from the family of Gov. Kirk Fordice:

"It is with a sad heart that our family announces the death of Daniel Kirkwood Fordice. Our beloved father lost his battle with leukemia earlier today at University Medical Center in Jackson.

Over the last several weeks as news of his illness spread, our father was buoyed by the supportive calls, letters, visits and prayers he received from Mississippians across the state. The people he served while in office served to lift his spirits during his final days. We would like to express our gratitude to all of those who have been so kind to our father and to our entire family over the years.

Our father built a family, a business and a political life - all with a strong sense of purpose and resolve that few people possess. We will miss his indomitable spirit, his zest for life and his passionate views about our world and how to make it a better place. Most of all we will simply miss the man we called "Dad" and Mississippi called "Governor."

Our father loved this country and especially Mississippi. We know that heaven for him now is a place very much like it."

Statement from Gov. Haley Barbour:

"Marsha and I join all Mississippians in sadness at the loss of Governor Kirk Fordice this morning. Kirk Fordice was a close, personal friend for more than 35 years. Our prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.

Kirk Fordice was a true Mississippi success story. He was a successful Vicksburg businessman who willed himself into the state's highest office, achieving what many believed impossible at the time.

He focused our state's energies on economic development during his terms and moved Mississippi's economy into a new era of growth. He imprinted his brand of fiscal conservatism on Mississippi's budget by creating the first-ever "Rainy Day Fund" and leaving Mississippi with a $350 million surplus. He introduced welfare reform to Mississippi and helped make ours a two-party state.

His frank, outspoken and unwavering style made him a respected figure with his political opponents and a beloved Governor by Mississippians across the state who elected him twice.

We mourn with the Fordice family for the loss of a loved one, and we mourn with Mississippi for the loss of a leader."

Statement from Mississippi Republican Party:

"With a heavy heart we bid farewell to a true leader and gifted statesman, Governor Daniel Kirkwood Fordice."

"Governor Fordice was the first Republican Governor elected since Reconstruction. During his two successive terms of service, he led Mississippi with honesty and passion. His list of accomplishments while in office is impressive - from welfare reform to economic development, to streamlining the state budget process, Governor Fordice was committed to improving Mississippi."

"He was a resolute public servant - steadfast and firm in his desire to make things better for Mississippians and he will be greatly missed. Mississippi mourns the loss of a true leader; the thoughts and prayers of the Mississippi Republican Party go out to the Fordice family."

Statement of Sen. Trent Lott:

"Our prayers are with the Fordice family as all Mississippians join them in mourning the loss of former Governor Kirk Fordice.

He was a leader who helped Mississippi make unprecedented and dramatic strides toward improvement. As Mississippi's first Republican governor since Reconstruction and the first in our time to serve a second term, he helped pave the way for a true two-party system in our state.

Kirk Fordice's legacy will always be one of strength, accomplishment and steadfast determination."