Sam Waggoner dies at 88 - - Jackson, MS

Sam Waggoner dies at 88

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By  Julie Straw - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Sam Waggoner was voted in as Highway Commissioner for Mississippi's Central District in 1967. 

He was reelected five times, holding the second longest tenure as an elected official in state government. 

Waggoner is most respected for his help in passing the 1987 four lane highway program.

"We built some $3 billion of new highways and they're paid for.  It was a pay as you go program.  We're not going to bond it.  We're not going to enter into long term debt on this. We're going to pay for it as we build them and almost all of it has been paid for which is a remarkable event," said current Transportation Commissioner for the Central District Dick Hall.

Waggoner's life wasn't without controversy. 

In 1988, he was indicted by federal prosecutors who said he took over $400,000 in kickbacks from contractors.  

WLBT did several reports on the investigation.  

Waggoner ended up resigning and pleaded guilty to extortion and three counts of filing false tax returns.

"To see a guy of that kind of standing that kind of stature in his community and everything else came in with a kind of humble attitude he had it is in it of itself unusual," U.S. Attorney George Phillips told WLBT in 1989.

Waggoner was fined $100,000 and spent two years in federal prison in Montgomery, Alabama.

"Not many people can recover from what he had to go through and what he did go though," said Commissioner Hall. "He pulled his life together with his family and a lot of family support and he rebuilt his life."

Governor Haley Barbour released this statement about the passing of two transportation commissioners,"Both of these men served long and distinguished careers in the service of Mississippi, and our thoughts and prayers are with their family members."

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