Many of us talk about Kirk Fordice; but few in Mississippi actually knew the man that ushered in an era of Republican dominance in the state. As a high school senior, I interned for him during his first term as governor; a role I repeated in college during his second term. During his final year in office I served as political director at the Mississippi Republican Party and remember smiling out the window as I watched our governor in shorts and tall socks walk his lab, Lance, down Congress Street in Jackson with a pistol strapped to his side. I've heard colorful and humorous stories about Fordice from friends, family and his staff. But even when you combine conversations with those who knew him with thousands of newspaper articles and videos with WLBT's Bert Case facing explicit threats, it is difficult to really know Kirk Fordice.

"We End in Joy: Memoirs of a First Daughter" by Angela Fordice Jordan provides a peek into the personal side of the late governor. Jordan makes it clear this is her story and her memories of her mother and father. She writes in the introduction, "please don't get caught up in fact checking...I'm just going to tell you what it felt like, how it still feels - the truth of that is what interests me." She describes herself as an archeologist digging for evidence and answers to the questions that create the narrative of the book.

Jordan gives an honest, exposed look at her life as the daughter of Kirk and Pat Fordice. Much of the book, published by University Press of Mississippi, reads like the cathartic journal of a woman facing the challenges of divorce in her parents' marriage and her own; the diminishing of her strong father and the anguish of her brave mother as they both battled sickness and faded from the public spotlight and passed away; and how she and her brothers lost and found joy.

Jordan adored her fallible father while rejecting his politics; and revered her gracious mother while declining her social protocols. She relates their love affair from early courting days, through their life building a family and a career, into the Governor's Mansion, the divorce and "The Other Woman," and Kirk's clumsy "pick-up line" to re-enter Pat's life and ultimately their reconciliation, final days, and how they came to buried together.

"In spite of everything that happened, this is the story of a love affair that lasted for the entire lifetime of two people and affected everyone they knew in one way or another. And it is the story of the triumph of joy always, in the end, no matter what - that sometimes damnable tenacity of joy," writes Jordan.

This is not a political book and not an examination of the legacy of Mississippi's first Republican governor since reconstruction. Jordan expresses sincere cynicism toward politics - a trait shared by many families of politicians - and makes it clear she does not share the political leanings of her late father. But she does share interesting recollections. She says Kirk's reaction to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was to remark, "Well it's about time." She describes her father as an honorable man whose political ambitions had him "lay down his integrity quickly."

"Was my father a racist?" Jordan writes, "In spite of his impassioned line, 'Miss'ippi doesn't do color anymore!' of course we do, of course he was."

Jordan tells of meeting celebrities and politicians and life at the Mansion including their relationships with the inmate staff who served the family and who despite their incarceration for crimes of passion would even care for infants during dinner.

Jordan's childhood memories and family stories of "Chief" (as his children called Kirk) include him milking poisonous snakes, fooling the family as he spanked the bed with his belt ("The Gentleman") rather than disciplining his only daughter, early run-ins with the law, skinny dipping with Pat, taking the tails off kittens, and tender moments between a father and a daughter.

Growing up, Kirk was the "golden boy" in the family who inherited his father's construction company. Jordan described him as "a relative stranger to failure. He got the girl, the grades, the awards, the accolades, the nice family, the good fortune, the yacht, the airplane, the promotion, the big bucks (deer, elk, and profits), the parking place, the lucrative contracts - you get the picture."

The book is also about Pat and her battle with cancer as her gracious and optimistic spirit diminished into frustrating despair when the cancer returned from remission.

Fans and foes of Kirk Fordice alike will find stories to reinforce their own perceptions, but the book reminds us that political lives are more complicated and nuanced than we'll ever know from a newspaper or the nightly news.





Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.