Tom Stuart, former mayor, diesPublished 9:29am Monday, November 19, 2001
By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Nov. 18, 2001
Tom Stuart, a pioneering politician who helped construct Mississippi's two-party system by becoming Meridian's first Republican mayor of the 20th century, is dead at the age of 64.
Stuart died Friday morning in the home of his daughter, Betsy Stuart Allen, in Philadelphia, where he was visiting from his own home in Jackson. Allen said Stuart had stayed with her family for the past three months.
Allen said her father's health had been in decline, but the cause of his death is yet to be determined. Stuart would have turned 65 today.
Stuart grew up in Meridian, Allen said, but lived in California while his father served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He attended high school in Meridian, Meridian Junior College and the Florida Institute of Technology. He was a member of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and Shriners.
He was elected Meridian's mayor on June 5, 1973, and served until 1977.
Under a headline of "Stuart Wallops Mayor Key," The Meridian Star reported on June 6, 1973, that Stuart had ousted Democratic incumbent Mayor Al Key, himself a legend, by a landslide vote of 4,606 to 3,070, becoming "Meridian's first Republican mayor since Reconstruction days."
The first thing he intended to do, Stuart told a reporter for The Star a few days later, is "take the door off the hinges," opening his office to everyone. Stuart's goals at the time included repairing Meridian's streets, working on downtown traffic problems and city employees' salaries, and developing a mass transit system.
Longtime friend and fellow Republican Gil Carmichael met Stuart in the late 60s or early 70s.
Stuart was a new mayor, Carmichael said, who was "laid back and what I'd call avant-garde."
Stuart had lived in Jackson for the past eight to 10 years, Allen said, and was enjoying his latest project. Working with the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, Stuart was helping to get an amphitheater financed in the historic district. He was active in beautifying downtown parks and making public areas handicap-accessible, especially for the homeless, Allen said.
Carmichael said he and Stuart had talked about working on an amphitheater in Meridian as well.
Arrangements for Stuart's funeral were incomplete Saturday.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.