After serving in the Mississippi State Senate from 1988 to 1996 and as lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2000, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove was elected governor under circumstances unique in Mississippi history. Under the 1890 state constitution, because neither Musgrove nor any other gubernatorial candidate received a majority of the votes cast in the November 1999 general election, the legislature elected the governor. And in a special vote on 4 January 2000, legislators elected Musgrove.
Born in the Tocowa Community in Panola County on 29 July 1956, David Ronald Musgrove earned degrees from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi Law School. In 1980 he was elected president of the law school student body.
Musgrove, a member of the Mississippi and American Trial Lawyers Associations, served as president of the Panola County and Tri-County Bar Association and on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Young Lawyers Association. He was selected for membership in the Inns of Court in 1988 and two years later was elected to the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Mississippi State Bar Association. In 1995 Musgrove was inducted as a fellow in the Mississippi Bar Foundation.
In 1998 Musgrove served as chair of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors. During his term as governor, he served on the Executive Committee of the Southern Regional Education Board, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the National Assessment Governing Board, the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, and the Executive Committee of the Democratic Governors Association. In addition he chaired the Southern States Energy Board and the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association.
Musgrove won the close election over Republican Mike Parker by emphasizing his work as lieutenant governor and in part because of divisions in the Republican Party. He ran as a conservative on fiscal and social issues, and his time as governor generally revealed this conservative perspective. His term included a special legislative session to enact tort reform, and Musgrove helped persuade the Nissan Motor Company to build a large facility in Mississippi. However, during a period of increasing Republican popularity, Musgrove supported efforts to remove the image of the Confederate battle flag from the state flag. He ran for reelection in 2003, but challenger Haley Barbour used his political and business experience, along with Musgrove’s support for changing the flag, to win the office.
Since 2004 Musgrove has practiced law, worked as a political consultant, and taught classes at the University of Mississippi and at the Mississippi College School of Law. In 2008 he ran for the US Senate but lost to incumbent Roger Wicker.
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1988–92, 1992–96, 1996–2000)
- Jere Nash and Andy Taggart, Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976–2006 (2006)