Gene Taylor: South Mississippi’s Choice for U.S. Congress, 1989-2011

News item published on: 2024-01-29 13:45:00

An exhibition drawn from the extensive papers of Congressman Gene Taylor maintained by University Libraries Special Collections is open for viewing through March 22 in McCain Library and Archives.

Photograph of a the exhibit room with exhibit cases and wall hangings from the collection. The exhibition highlights major themes of Congressman Taylor’s tenure with select documents and artifacts. A listening center and research table are also installed in the gallery to allow visitors to spend more time learning about the congressman’s perspective on the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Augmenting the archival material are recent quotes provided by the former representative.

Congressman Gene Taylor served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989-2011. After graduating from Tulane University, he served ten years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He entered political life as a Councilman for Bay St. Louis in 1981. He served in the Mississippi State Senate from 1984-1989. In 1989 he was elected to the U.S. Congress where he served for more than twenty-one years as the Representative for the 5th (1989-2003) and 4th (2003-2011) districts.

As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Taylor exercised Congressional oversight for conflicts from Kosovo-Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the advent of armed conflicts, he defended the Constitutional role of Congress in declaring war and the maintenance of active military bases in the homeland when others were calling for their closure. He was widely known for his support of military servicemen, leading legislative efforts to provide protective gear to troops and to increase benefits to active-duty troops and reservists.

Photograph of a pier destroyed by Hurricane Katrina placed on an easel During his tenure, Representative Taylor faced not only the challenges of 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, but the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on his district. “I have never said this publicly, but when Hurricane Katrina struck South Mississippi, I was grateful that I was no longer a freshman member of Congress,” Representative Taylor wrote recently. “When Katrina hit, I was the senior guy in the Mississippi House delegation. Thankfully, along the way I had gotten over being intimidated by senior officers of the Armed Forces. I did not hesitate to call on them for their help.” Following immediate recovery efforts, he continued to advocate tirelessly for those who had lost homes and businesses in Katrina.

As a former Coast Guard serviceman, Representative Taylor was particularly interested in shipbuilding. He is credited with revitalizing U.S. commercial shipbuilding in Mississippi and beyond through the establishment of a federal loan program in 1993. Other efforts to increase economic development in his district focused on the military industry.

“The material that is being exhibited in the gallery is only a slim fraction of the entire collection,” commented Professor Lorraine A. Stuart, Head of Special Collections. “Having the Gene Taylor Papers available for research presents incredible opportunities for University of Southern Mississippi’s students and faculty. By featuring them, I hope to raise awareness of this very rich resource. The papers have amazing depth for those interested in the legislative process as well as specific historic events and economic development in the State.” The papers, which measure over 120 feet, recently underwent detailed processing, an intensive procedure of arrangement and description.

Finding aid providing a folder-level description.

The exhibition is open by appointment Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please schedule 24 hours in advance.

Schedule an individual, group, or class viewing.