Herring book signing at Lemuria June 6
A new historical memoir, The Switcher, by Canton native Jim Herring, recounts his political career in both the Mississippi Republican and Democratic parties, shedding new light on both parties’ century-long struggle to hold on to Mississippi’s political preeminence.
A book signing is set for June 6 at 5 p.m. at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson. (See book review.)
“Jim’s story will be valuable to readers now and for years to come,” says Clarke Reed, a chief player on the state and national Republican stage who was Mississippi Republican Party (MRP) State Chairman from 1966-1976. “While The Switcher relates Jim’s fascinating account as a member of both parties, it is also filled with Mississippi political history from the 1920s through the first decade of the 21st century. What emerges is a new take on state politics that deserves attention.”
During his seven-year tenure as Chairman, Mississippi Republicans achieved majority rule for the first time since Reconstruction. In the process, Herring rose nationally to become the Republican National Committee’s Chairman of the State Chairmen, a role that placed him on the RNC Executive Committee as a leader at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The son of passionate conservative Democrats, Herring is the only MRP state chairman to have served previously on the Mississippi Democratic Party (MDP) Executive Committee. His father was a Mississippi state senator.
Marty Wiseman—former longtime director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Economic Development—says that “Jim Herring personified perhaps one of the most prominent political actors to climb to the pinnacle of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
“He embodied the transformation of a century of conservatives from the once-dominant Democratic Party to the now-dominant Republican Party in Mississippi. This is the story of his personal transformation and, along with it, political party transformation in Mississippi. Herring’s political career is a saga of recent political history that should be of interest to all Mississippians who ponder how we have arrived at where we are today.”
The Switcher offers a detailed, engaging birds-eye account of the politicians, parties, and principles in both parties that competed for voters’ allegiances from the 1960s through 2008 in Mississippi. Says Herring, “This book leverages hundreds of articles, editorials, interviews, books, and columns—along with my personal recollections and archival collection—to offer what might be called a ‘fresh take’ on these decades of Republican growth. With the encouragement of family, friends, and colleagues, I concluded that I had a story to tell—not just a personal memoir but hopefully one of broader historical significance.”
He adds, “Readers will witness unfurling political events, power plays, and personalities as the state’s upstart Republicans battled against the state Democratic machine’s powerful vice grip on state politics.”
After solid but unsuccessful races as a Democrat for lieutenant governor (1975) and governor (1979), Herring grew increasingly disillusioned with the MDP’s constant infighting and disorganization, which are detailed in the book. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan became president of the United States. Captivated by Reagan’s articulate, optimistic conservatism, Jim moved into the MRP in the early 1980s.
This made Herring a “switcher,” a sometimes less-than-flattering label applied to MRP newcomers. With time and hard work, however, Herring was elected in 2001 as State party Chairman, serving from 2001 to 2008. His chief passion was to see Mississippi develop a real two-party system that operated along partisan lines so voters could be informed about both parties’ real goals and convictions.
In 2007, his last full year as State Chairman, Mississippi Republicans took control of the Mississippi Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. By then, the governor was Haley Barbour, and the lieutenant governor was Phil Bryant. One well-known political columnist wrote at the time that, for Jim, the major power shift "had to be a sweet victory.”
The Switcher is available through Lemuria Bookstore and direct from the author, with other outlets coming soon. To learn more and to email the author, visit the book’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/TheSwitcherBook.