Gil Carmichael

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Gilbert Ellzey "Gil" Carmichael​

Born June 27, 1927​
Columbia, Marion County

Mississippi, US​A

Died January 31, 2016 (aged 88)​
Meridian, Mississippi
Resting place ​Not released in obituary
Political party Unsuccessful Republican nominee for:

Mississippi State Senate (1966, 1967)​
United States Senate (1972)​
Governor of Mississippi]] (1975, 1979)​
Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi (1983)​​

Spouse(s) Carolyn Dean White Carmichael

One son:
Scott Gilbert Carmichael​
Calvin Ellzey and Clyde Myrna Smith Carmichael

Alma mater Columbia (Mississippi) High School

Texas A&M University

Occupation Automobile dealer​

Real estate developer​
Transportation policy specialist​

Religion Episcopalian

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Coast Guard
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards Silver Life Saving Medal

Gilbert Ellzey Carmichael, known as Gil Carmichael (June 27, 1927 – January 31, 2016), was an American businessman, transportation policy specialist,[1] and Republican politician from Meridian, Mississippi. He was a key player in the slow development of the two-party system in Mississippi during the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.[2]


Carmichael was born in Columbia in Marion County in southwestern Mississippi to Calvin Ellzey Carmichael (1904-1936) and the former Clyde Myrna Smith (1906-1995); his father died when Gil was seven years of age; the parents are interred at the Columbia City Cemetery.[3] After graduation from high school, from 1944 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1953, he served in the United States Coast Guard. In 1950, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He and his wife, the former Carolyn Dean White (1931-2020), had a son, Scott Gilbert Carmichael.

In 1976, he was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1961, Carmichael moved to Meridian, where he was a Volkswagen dealer in Meridian and a real estate developer. In 1968, Carmichael launched Missouth Properties, a commercial real estate firm in Meridian, since run by his son.[4]

In 2016, Carmichael died of a heart attack at Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian.[5] Mrs. Carmichael died four years thereafter.

Political career

In the 1963 Mississippi gubernatorial election, Carmichael supported Rubel Phillips, the first Republican wo had actively sought the state's highest office. A former member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission from Corinth in northeastern Mississippi, Phillips challenged the Democratic nominee, Paul Burney Johnson, Jr. (1916-1985) the son of an earlier governor, Paul B. Johnson, Sr. (1880-1943) In a civic club debate in Meridian, Carmichael remarked that it was:​

​ peculiar to defend something I have always taken for granted. ... Who, a few years ago, would have thought it possible to have reached the point ... where it is necessary to defend the human right to a choice? ... I fear that the state Democratic Party is unwittingly being used as a tool for the same goals of the national party. ... Today the majority of whites in this state are not one-party Democrats but true independents - and they are glad that there is the beginning of a second party - so that they can have a real choice.[6]


Carmichael ran unsuccessfully for the Mississippi State Senate in both 1966 and 1967, the latter on the statewide Republican ticket headed for a second time by Rubel Phillips.​ In 1971, Carmichael considered a race for lieutenant governor, but Republicans that year fielded no statewide candidates as the Democrat William Lowe "Bill" Waller Sr., defeated the African-American Independent James Charles Evers (1922-2020), a civil rights activist, brother of the slain Medgar Wiley Evers (1925-1963), and the mayor of Fayette, in the gubernatorial general election.[7]

Carmichael was a delegate to the 1972 Republican National Convention, which met in Miami Beach, Florida, to re-nominate the President Nixon-Vice President Agnew ticket. Carmichael was the Republican nominee in 1972 for the U.S. Senate against the entrenched Democrat James Eastland. In the Republican primary, Carmichael easily defeated the African-American civil rights figure James Howard Meredith (born 1933). In the fall campaign, President Nixon directed that Carmichael not attend a Republican rally in Jackson hosted by Agnew, who endorsed two successful Republican candidates for the United States House of Representatives, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott. Instead Carmichael was humiliated and had to remain at Republican headquarters two blocks away from the festivities.[8] One of Eastland's press spokesmen was Larry Speakes, later the White House acting press secretary in the Ronald W. Reagan administration. ​

Carmichael finished the race against Eastland with 249,779 votes (38.7%). Prentiss Walker (1917-1998) of Smith County, the first Mississippi Republican to serve in theUnited States House of Representatives in the 20th century, ran as an Independent in the Senate general election and drew 14,662 votes (2.3 percent). Walker had run as a strongly conservative Republican against Eastland in 1966 and claimed that the veteran senator was too close to Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson and did little as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to block the confirmation of liberal judges prone to enact integrationist rulings. Eastland in his last victory at the polls won the race with 375,102 (58.1 percent);[1] he did not seek reelection in 1978 and was succeeded by Moderate Republican U.S. Representative Thad Cochran.​

In 1973, Carmichael's friend, Tom Stuart (1936-2001) was elected as the first Republican mayor of Meridian, in which capacity Stuart sought to pave streets and resolve downtown traffic problems.[9]


In 1975 and 1979, Carmichael ran for governor against the Democratic nominees, Charles Clifton "Cliff" Finch (1927-1986) of Batesville and William Forrest Winter (born 1923), having polled 45.1 and 38.9 percent of the vote, respectively. In the race against Finch, who openly appealed for black support but sounded similar to George Wallace of neighboring Alabama, Carmichael ran as a Moderate Republican. He promised economic development, the end of the cheap export of the state's natural resources, a new state constitution, ratification of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, reduced punishment for possession of marijuana, and even the licensing of handguns.[7]

Carmichael often appealed for African-American support before the more conservative faction gained control of the fledgling Mississippi GOP. In 1976, Carmichael supported the nomination of Nixon's successor, U.S. President Gerald Ford, rather than former Governor Ronald Reagan of California. This campaign brought Carmichael and the state party chairman Clarke Thomas Reed (born 1928) in conflict with the Republican finance chairman W. D. "Billy" Mounger (1926-2000), an oilman and a Reagan partisan who had criticized Nixon's snub of Carmichael in 1972 to placate James Eastland and had supported Carmichael in the 1975 gubernatorial race despite reservations over the more liberal parts of the party platform. Mounger grew so disillusioned with Carmichael, whom he expected to defeat Cliff Finch, that he wrote a letter on election night renouncing any links to the candidate. Mounger specifically disagreed with Carmichael's support of the Equal Rights Amendment, handgun registration, and a new constitution as evidence of "ineptitude."[7]

Former U.S. Representative Prentiss Walker (1917-1998), who had opposed Carmichael as an Independent in the 1972 U.S. Senate race, wrote a column in The Clarion-Ledger, the major newspaper in Jackson, which called Carmichael "a real discredit to all the true Republican principles."[7] Walker said that Carmichael if elected would revise the constitution "under the direction of Senators Edward Brooke and Jacob Javits, two liberal Republicans from Massachusetts and New York, respectively.[7]​ ​ Eight years after his first gubernatorial campaign, Carmichael in 1983 polled 35.7 percent of the vote in his final statewide race, this time against Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bradford Johnson "Brad" Dye Jr. (1933-2018). This time Carmichael ran on the Republican ticket headed by a former Democrat, Leon Crow Bramlett, Jr., a large-scale farmer from Clarksdale, whom Carmichael had defeated, 53-47 percent, in the preceding 1979 gubernatorial primary.[1] Dye ultimately served a record twelve years as lieutenant governor.​

Transportation specialist

In 1973, Carmichael joined the National Highway Safety Advisory Committee and was chairman of the committee from 1974 to 1976, while he made his first race for governor. From 1976 to 1979, he was a member of the National Transportation Policy Study Commission.[2]

From 1989 to 1993, Carmichael served in the administration of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush as the head of the Federal Railroad Administration within the United States Department of Transportation.[2] He is a former chairman of Amtrak.[1] Carmichael founded the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. In his later years, he hence became more identified with transportation policy than Republican politics.[2]

In his later years, Carmichael advocated the construction of a railroad to link the ports of Mobile, Alabama and Pascagoula, Mississippi, north to Lucedale and Waynesboro, and then join with the Meridian Southern Railroad line running through Quitman and to Meridian.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Carmichael, Gil. Retrieved on July 2. 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Gilbert E. Carmichael papers. Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
  3. Gilbert Ellzey "Gil" Carmichael. Retrieved on July 1, 2020.
  4. Scott-Carmichael-takes-Missouth-into-the-future. The Meridian Star (July 21, 2013). Retrieved on July 1, 2020.
  5. Carmichael, GOP nominee twice for Mississippi governor, dies. Mississippi Business Journal (February 2016). Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
  6. Billy Hathorn, "Challenging the Status Quo: Rubel Lex Phillips and the Mississippi Republican Party (1963-1967)", The Journal of Mississippi History XLVII, November 1985, No. 4, p. 249.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Chris Danielson. Right Turn? The Republican Party and African-American Politics in Post-1965 Mississippi. Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
  8. Jim Herring (May 20, 2010). Rubel Phillips, Gil Carmichael, and Jack Reed. Retrieved on July 1, 2020.
  9. Sheila Blackmon. Tom Stuart, former mayor, dies. Franklin County Times. Retrieved on July 1, 2020.
  10. Terry Lynch (August 7, 2009). Dreaming of a Railroad to the Gulf. Retrieved on May 5, 201; material no longer accessible on-line.