Frank Melton 1949 - 2009 - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson, MS 05/07/09

Frank Melton 1949 - 2009

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By Bert Case - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Frank Melton was raised in Houston, Texas, the son of a CIA agent. He was educated in east Texas at Stephen F. Austin College, where he got into television, first as weekend sports anchor.

He moved rapidly through the ranks of tv stations in Lufkin and Tyler, and quickly became manager at KLTV in Tyler at very young age for such a position.

He was hand picked by the former president of the NAACP in Mississippi, Aaron Henry, to come to Jackson and run WLBT at age 33.

He took over and immediately fired the first black general manager of a network affiliated tv station in the country, Bill Dilday. He forced the resignations of many others at WLBT like anchor and news director Walter Saddler.

Local black folks called for a boycott of the tv station, that did not work.

Melton was interested in everything and started doing his famous commentaries, The Bottom Line, in the mid 80's.

They were an instant success. He was a source of constant controversy, and the station's ratings soared.

With the backing of the Buford family of Tyler, Texas, Melton started getting into ownership of WLBT, and the two stations in Tyler and Lufkin, Texas.

He eventually sold those stations to liberty broadcasting for a good profit.

Later the stations were sold to Raycommedia, a company which still owns them along with some 40 other tv stations.

When Frank got out of tv he was selected by former Governor Ronnie Musgrove to be the director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, in 2002. Here we first learned of his penchant for acting as a law officer.

He set up a road block on north West Street, across from the capitol, with the legislature in session, and started checking licenses.

He got fired as narcotics director by Governor Haley Barbour in 2003. Thats when he decided to run for mayor of Jackson and was elected in 2005 with 88 per cent of the vote in the general election.

His platform was crime fighting and he started with his inaugural address in July of 2005 saying law enforcement would never be the same. That was a huge understatement.

He started leading raids in the inner city on nightclubs, and areas where drugs were being sold openly.

He used the police department's mobile command bus, loaded down with his young friends, most of whom, had been in trouble with the law. It was this group he led to a duplex on Ridgeway Street in 2006, to tear up what he called a crack house.

He was tried two times for this raid, being acquitted of any wrongdoing in state court.

In federal court there was a mistrial, and at the time he was stricken he was scheduled for another trial May 11th.

Melton did many good things, like getting the unsightly slum called the Maple Street Apartments torn down.

He worked with Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee to get County Line Road widened to four lanes after years of fighting between Jackson and Ridgeland over the issue.

He transformed downtown Jackson, completing many projects started by the man he beat, Jackson's first black mayor Harvey Johnson Junior.

But then he developed heart trouble and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A doctor recommended a transplant which he dismissed saying he wouldn't do it because it "is what it is."

He continued to drink and smoke, against doctor's orders. He had cut down some, just before he collapsed.

And then Tuesday he lost his bid for re-election, running third, and shortly after the polls closed he fell to the floor as he was preparing to come down to his election headquarters.

They didn't get to him in time to save him, although they were able to get his heart beating again. 

And now, at age 60 Frank Melton is dead.

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