Haley Barbour was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1973. He advised President Ronald Reagan as Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs, and served two terms as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Prior to his election as governor, he headed Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, one of the nation’s top lobbying firms. In November 2003, Barbour was elected Mississippi’s governor in the largest voter turnout in a gubernatorial election in state history.
As Governor, Barbour enacted the most comprehensive tort reform in the nation, restoring balance for plaintiffs and defendants in the state’s civil justice system. He implemented “Momentum Mississippi,” an update to the state’s long-range economic development strategy. Under Governor Barbour’s leadership, Mississippi experienced the largest increase in net new jobs since 1999 and the largest increase in personal income since 1998. He also initiated the most comprehensive overhaul of workforce training and development programs in state history.
Barbour implemented across-the-board reforms in public education with new laws that reward teacher and school performance, reduce state bureaucracy and strengthen discipline. Also, during his term funding increased by record levels for public education from K-12 through community colleges and the state’s universities and colleges. He saved the Medicaid program for truly needy recipients, emphasizing preventive care and implementing the strongest anti-fraud plan in the history of Mississippi Medicaid. Barbour and the legislature passed six pro-life laws that make Mississippi “the safest place in America for an unborn child,” according to a national right-to-life organization.
In the face of the worst natural disaster in American history – Hurricane Katrina, which struck on August 29, 2005 – Governor Barbour took the lead early on helping Mississippians rebuild and recover. He and First Lady Marsha Barbour worked tirelessly and innovatively with local, state and national leadership to tap into many resources of assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Barbour created the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal to develop a broad vision for opportunities to help South Mississippi rebuild bigger and better than ever. For his leadership after Katrina, Governor Barbour was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award. He was also named Governor of the Year by Washington, D.C.-based Governing magazine and awarded the Gulf Guardian Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his work to rebuild and protect sensitive Coast ecosystems.
Governor Barbour has served as a deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Yazoo City, where he has taught Sunday school. He and his wife Marsha have two sons, Sterling and Reeves, and four grandchildren.