JACKSON, Miss. — Former Mississippi Gov. Bill Allain lived frugally and never saw the need for the fancy trappings that come with being the state’s chief executive, including the expectation that he would have his portrait painted. So, there has been an empty space for decades in the series of portraits known as the Mississippi Hall of Governors, on the first floor of the state Capitol.
That gap is now being filled, 30 years after Allain left office and just over four years after he died.
Friends, relatives and current and former state officials gathered Monday in the Capitol and applauded as a red velvet drape was pulled back to reveal a likeness of Allain standing by a desk in the governor’s office, flanked by the U.S. flag and the Mississippi flag.
Artist Robbie Boyd of Pontotoc painted the portrait based on a photo that Allain himself selected late in life.
Brandon Presley, a current public service commissioner, considered Allain a mentor and found Boyd to paint the portrait. Presley said he believes Allain would be pleased that she did the job for about $2,000 — a fraction of the $10,000 that had been raised in private donations.
“He was tight with a dollar,” Presley said of the former governor.
Allain, a Natchez native, was a veteran of the Korean War. He was a Democrat who served one term as attorney general, 1980-84, before serving a single term as governor, 1984-88. He continued to practice law after leaving office but lived a quiet life and did not seek public attention. He was 85 when he died in December 2013.
A niece, Charlene Combest of Florence, and a nephew, Tom Allain of Madison, were at the Capitol on Monday and complimented the portrait. They said they think their uncle would be pleased but would not have seen the need for a ceremony.
“I think he did a lot for the state of Mississippi. He was a very smart man,” Combest said.
As governor, Allain resisted state budget increases. He did not host lavish parties at the Governor’s Mansion. In fact, Presley said, Allain once offered a peanut butter sandwich to a friend who was expecting a fancy dinner there. On Thanksgiving, the governor would go feed homeless people at a local shelter without seeking news coverage, Presley said.
The Hall of Governors has portraits hanging in chronological order. Allain’s will go up on the wall between two fellow Democrats — his predecessor, William Winter and his successor, Ray Mabus.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .