2006 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Jackson (11th), Chaney, Clarke, Davis, Dearing, Jackson (15th), Jackson (32nd), Mettetal, Michel
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE LIFE AND PUBLIC SERVICE OF PAUL BATTLE, JR., LONGTIME SUPERVISOR OF TUNICA COUNTY, WHOSE LEADERSHIP BROUGHT CASINO GAMING TO TUNICA COUNTY.
WHEREAS, Paul Battle Jr., 81, of Tunica, Mississippi, whose
leadership helped bring casino gaming to Tunica County, departed this earthly life on November 14, 2005; and
WHEREAS, born June 11, 1924, in Arlington, Tennessee, "Mr. Paul," as he was affectionately known, graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately entered World War II in the Merchant Marines. After the war, he attended Maritime Engineering School in New Orleans in 1946, but left nautical engineering for farming after a year. Battle often joked that he came to Mississippi "flat-broke" after trying his hand at farming in Tennessee, but after he came to Tunica County in the 1950s, first renting land near Sarah and then buying 880 acres, which includes his headquarters and the Battles' home, he and his devoted wife as business partners quickly built a highly successful operation, eventually farming thousands of acres of rice, soybeans, cotton and catfish in Tunica County and in Costa Rica, where he once owned a cattle ranch and a banana plantation; and
WHEREAS, Battle was one of the first Tunica Countians to try catfish farming. He opened his first pond in 1969 and was a principal in Pride of the Pond, the largest local catfish processing plant. He also owned and operated a cotton gin, one of only a few still in operation in Tunica County, and liked to joke that he would have written on his epitaph, "Caught up at the Gin"; and
WHEREAS, but if farming was his life, Tunica County was Battle's love. He was first elected to the County Board of Supervisors in November, 1963, and took office on January 6, 1964, to begin a 35-year tenure. On September 8, 1978, he was elected President of that body and served in that capacity until his retirement December 31, 1999. Battle was honored by the county with a reception at the Courthouse on December 30, 1999, where hundreds of Tunicans turned out to pay tribute to the legendary leader. It was announced at the reception that Tunica County's new multi-million dollar Arena and Exposition Center would be named in his honor; and
WHEREAS, during his 35 years as a supervisor, Battle oversaw a county whose economy turned lean, when agriculture, once thriving, took a downturn during the 1980s. It was then, that Battle's skills really shined; and
WHEREAS, Battle and the Board of Supervisors put Tunica County among the first in Mississippi to adopt the unit system of government. County officials were also quick to install a purchase order system, but it was the board's vote in the early 1990s to allow casino gambling in Tunica County that brought the rapid turnaround in county fortunes that has become known as the "Tunica Miracle"; and
WHEREAS, Battle said in a featured story in The Tunica Times in October 2002, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of gaming, that he approved gaming because he was "sick and tired of people saying that Tunica County is the poorest county in the nation." In fact, unemployment in Tunica County, once as high as 26 percent, had declined to under three percent by the year of 2000. He told the story that Splash Casino pioneers drove up to his house in 1991 and asked Battle to show them some place they might put in a riverboat casino. The rest, as they say, is history. Splash went on to earn millions of dollars and pave the way for today's highly successful market, which now ranks third in the nation; and
WHEREAS, for his role in bringing casinos, casino tax revenue and phenomenal economic growth to Tunica County, Battle was honored with the first Founder's Award in 2002, given by the local Tourism Commission and Convention and Visitor's Bureau; and
WHEREAS, in addition to his leadership, Battle was known for enjoying hunting and for qualities of loyalty, dedication, dignity, integrity and humility. He has been described as "The backbone of Tunica County leadership," "A great statesman (and) a great leader," and "among the very best" of supervisors; and
WHEREAS, he is survived by his wife, Norma Hooker Battle; three children, Paul Battle III and wife Marietta of Tunica, Lil Battle Long and husband Henry Earl of Rosedale and Bill Battle and wife Lynda of Tunica; a sister, Virginia Ann Battle of Memphis; nine grandchildren, Allison Koestler of Memphis and Paul Battle IV, Kate Taylor Battle, Caroline Battle, Houston Battle, Cooper Battle, Betsy Battle and Battle Hamrick, all of Tunica, and Norma Hamrick of Memphis and three great-grandchildren; and
WHEREAS, it is with sadness that we note the passing of this model citizen whose leadership and contributions to his county and to his state are a matter of record:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby commend the life and public service of Paul Battle, Jr., longtime supervisor of Tunica County, Mississippi, whose leadership brought casino gaming to Tunica County.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to the surviving family of Paul Battle, Jr., and the Tunica County Board of Supervisors and be made available to the Capitol Press Corps.