BOONEVILLE - The final gavel tolled the transformation to his eternal home of longtime Legislator and former Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, William Joseph “Billy” McCoy at 5:10 PM on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. “Mr. Speaker” died at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo at the age of 77. Born in Prentiss County on August 14, 1942 to the late Elmer E. McCoy and Susie Beasley McCoy, longtime educators, Billy grew up on the land, working the fields and following the good teachings of his Appalachian family ancestry. He was educated in the Prentiss County Public Schools and was especially encouraged by his involvement in the Future Farmers of America. After graduating from Booneville High School in 1960, he attended Northeast Miss. Junior College. He went on to his beloved Mississippi State University where he received his degree in Agricultural Education. After teaching vocational agriculture a few years, Billy began working for State Auditor Hamp King auditing public schools. He was highly motivated by the service of his dad, former State Representative Elmer E. McCoy, to aspire to public service. He sought and won the seat his father previously held for 16 years in 1979 and served with distinction for 32 consecutive years where he provided unparalleled leadership as Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee, Chairman of the House Education Committee, two terms as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and was elected Speaker of the House in 2004 in a unanimous vote.
Speaker McCoy had countless legislative accomplishments due to his progressive attitude and his keen vision and perspective about the future of Mississippi. Among his proudest moments were the 1987 Highway Program for which he is credited with being the co-author and “work horse,” and the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which modernized and equalized the funding for public education all across Mississippi, including a 1 cent sales tax to enhance monies to public schools. He was a strong advocate for programs benefiting the mentally challenged and the Group Homes in Booneville were named after him. McCoy Hall on the campus of Northeast bears testimony to both his father and himself. They never wavered in their support of Community Colleges. Billy always knew from “whence he came and whither bound” and he used common decency and respect for every one and a work ethic derived from his “knot on a log” approach to getting things done. Among his most cherished awards were Paul Harris Fellow, Trailblazers Award, Prentiss County Outstanding Citizen, MSU Alumnus of the Year, and being featured on the cover of Farm Bureau Magazine, among many others. After his long and distinguished service, the Legislature recognized his unselfish and untiring contributions to the state he so loved by naming the Mississippi Department of Transportation Headquarters Building across the street from the State Capitol, the William J. “Billy” McCoy Transportation Building.
While his celebrated public life is a matter of record, Billy McCoy was really a homebody and the biggest cheerleader for Prentiss and Alcorn Counties. He loved his family dearly and providing for their well being was always a priority with him. He was commonly known in the backroads and country stores of Prentiss and Alcorn Counties not as “Mister Speaker” but just plain, ole Billy. His family adored him, especially his grandchildren who simply and affectionately called him “Bill.” Billy was a longtime member of the Gaston Baptist Church where he had served as a Deacon, a faithful member of the Prentiss County and Mississippi Democratic Party, was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, was active in many charitable causes and was instrumental in encouraging thousands of young people to follow their dreams and to never forget their responsibilities to give back to society all they could for the benefits they enjoyed. Mr. Speaker, Daddy, Billy, Bill – this proud citizen of Mississippi will not soon be forgotten as his footprints will be seen, revered and emulated by future generations as blueprints for progress for all.
A service celebrating his life will be held at 2 PM Friday, November 15, 2019 at Gaston Baptist Church (1908 Gaston Rd, Booneville, MS) with his pastor, Bro. Matt Brown, officiating with tributes by his daughter, Kim, granddaughters, Molly Beth and Chloe, Federal Judge Mike Mills, and Chancery Clerk Bubba Pounds. Burial will follow in the Gaston Cemetery. Visitation will be from 4PM-8 PM today (Thurs. 11/14) and from 10 AM-service time on Friday, all at Gaston Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the Gaston Baptist Church Building Fund, 1908 Gaston Road, Booneville, MS. 38829. It is suggested that your memories of Speaker McCoy be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Holland Funeral Directors, Tupelo Chapel (662 840 5000) is honored to be serving their close friends.
Billy is survived by his wife of 56 years, Edith Leatherwood McCoy, whom he married June 21, 1963; his children, Sam McCoy and wife, Jamie, and Kim McCoy Eubank and her husband, Kevin, all of Booneville; his grandchildren, Lee McCoy and wife, Anna, Tate McCoy, Jackson McCoy, Molly Beth Eubank Chapman and husband, Winston, and Chloe Eubank; a great granddaughter, McCoy Wright Chapman; his sister, Mary Sue Anderson and husband, David; his sister-in-law, Barbara McCoy; and his Leatherwood family, Joyce Blackwell, Charley Leatherwood (Ann), Mary Jewel Wade, Wayne Leatherwood (Sarah), and Glenda Lee (Stan); his confidant and chief chauffeur the last few years, Jeff Williams; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends all around Mississippi and the Nation. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Edward McCoy.
Pallbearers will be Lee McCoy, Tate McCoy, Jackson McCoy, Winston Chapman, Jeff Williams, and Cal Worley. Honorary pallbearers are Carroll Parks, Bill Morgan, Richard Tollison, his highway patrol support team, Dean Barnard, Kathy Fick, and Wayne Dearman, longtime Office Assistant, Frances Heidel, and all past and present members of the Mississippi Legislature.
The service will be live-streamed at facebook.com/hollandfuneraldirectors for those who may not be able to attend.
“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant” – A blessed family and people express thanksgiving for your earthly pilgrimage.
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