Since 1842, when Governor Tilghman M. Tucker and his family occupied the Mansion shortly after his inauguration on January 10, the Mississippi Governor's Mansion has served as the state's official executive residence. Designed by William Nichols in the popular classical style, the Mansion soon became a Jackson landmark, and a legendary hospitality surrounded its early years. Mississippi's First Families "threw open the door" of the Mansion and shared its hospitality with plain citizens as graciously and generously as they did with celebrities.
This tradition was interrupted only during the Civil War when the state capital was moved to eastern Mississippi to escape the advance of Union troops. Although much of Jackson was burned during the Vicksburg campaign in the summer of 1863, the Mansion was spared. General William T. Sherman used it briefly as a command post, and his troops bivouacked on its spacious grounds.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, advancing real estate prices in Jackson caused the legislature to consider the disposal of the Mansion to make its downtown location available for commercial development. This proposal prompted various civic and patriotic organizations across the state to wage a "Save the Mansion" campaign. The legislature was implored not to destroy "what Sherman would not burn."
Sentiment prevailed over commerce, and the Mansion was saved. However, structural deterioration over the next seventy years was left uncorrected, and by 1971 was so advanced that the First Family was advised to vacate the building.
During the following election campaign, Carroll Waller, wife of gubernatorial candidate Bill Waller, called upon the women of Mississippi to join her in an effort to preserve the "home of our heritage" and to restore it to its past splendor. Following his election, Governor Waller and the First Lady initiated a three-year project that restored the Mansion to the historical period of its construction and guaranteed its continued use for many years to come. The Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.
David G. Sansing is professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi. Carroll Waller, wife of former Mississippi governor Bill Waller, is a native of Jackson and a graduate of Mississippi College.
256 pages, 6 x 9 inches