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VINSON: Blanton’s pardon legacy lives on with Barbour

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I wasn’t able to track down the actual lyrics, but the chorus went something like this: “Pardon me, Ray/I’m only in for double murder and rape/Oh, won’t you give me a break/Won’t you pardon me, Ray.”

Though this song was somewhat of a paradoxical novelty, it was played regularly on radio stations in Middle Tennessee during the late-1970s, when Ray Blanton was governor of Tennessee.

As records indicate, Blanton, during his stint as Tennessee’s 44th governor from 1975-1979, granted a pardon to a convicted double murderer named Roger Humphreys.

It later became public knowledge that Humphreys’ father once had worked for Blanton as a county chairman.

Further investigation ensued, and Blanton and his staff came under tremendous fire amidst allegations that they were selling pardons for money.

Though Blanton never was convicted in the pardons-for-cash issue, he, after serving his governorship and leaving office, was convicted of selling liquor licenses and spent time in federal prison.

Still, on Jan. 20, 2001, merely hours before leaving office, former President Bill Clinton granted a presidential pardon to billionaire entrepreneur Marc Rich who then was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and had been hiding out in Switzerland since the early ‘80s, in opulent style, I might add.

The case against Marc Rich stemmed from federal charges of tax evasion and making illegal oil transactions with Iran.

The “juicy” part of the Rich pardon, however, is this: Rich’s ex-wife, Denise Rich – an American songwriter, socialite, philanthropist, and political fundraiser – also was big buds with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

It was well publicized that Denise Rich was instrumental in helping raise approximately $1 million that, ultimately, went to the Democratic Party and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Just as he was about to leave office, I vividly recall watching on television news Bill Clinton and Denise Rich riding around in a golf cart on a golf course, laughing and cutting up.

Adding a splash of spice to the juice, Denise Rich was an extremely attractive woman, and there were rumors of a sexual relationship between her and “Slick Willie” … of course, both denied any such relationship.

Imagine that!

All these historical tidbits of political duplicity lead us up to the most current scandal: former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Before leaving office, Barbour granted pardons and clemencies to 215 convicted felons, 27 of whom were convicted of manslaughter or murder.

“The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote,” Barbour said in the Jan. 17 issue of USA Today.

However, many are outraged, including the state’s Attorney General Jim Hood, who is challenging the constitutionality of Barbour’s action.

It appears, too, that Barbour’s action is causing lawmakers to intervene and attempt to make it more difficult for future governors to grant pardons and clemencies.

One must admit, a governor granting 215 pardons and clemencies just before leaving office is enough to warrant serious questions:

1. Did he do it for money?

2. Did he owe a bunch of big-time people a bunch of big-time favors?

3. Was race a factor? Did he capitulate to the pressures of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because African-Americans make up 37 percent of the state’s population, yet, they make up 66 percent of its prison inmates?

4. Any combination of the above?

I’ll take a chance and go with answer No. 4. And the reason I’m going with that choice is that it’s the only one that makes a lick of sense – for me, anyway.

Though this pardon-and-clemency action by Barbour does seem outrageous, I must ask a simple question: If you had a loved one or family member serving a long stretch in a rough prison, and you had the social, political and financial clout to get him or her a pardon, wouldn’t you do it?

That’s what I thought.
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Meat & Potatoes
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Democrats, GOP, Haley Barbour, Mike Vinson, Politics, Ray Blanton, Voices
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Members Opinions:
January 23, 2012 at 2:51am
Tough subject, well done...
January 23, 2012 at 10:19am
Those political positions of power have their perks and granting pardons is one of them. I agree with Vinson when he said that granting 215 pardons is enough to ask soem questions. I'd guess that Gov. Barbour did owe some important people some big favors and they gave him a offer he couldn't refuse.
January 25, 2012 at 7:28am
from stem to stern
from freeze to burn
money talks and bull $hit walks

gotta love the universal truth that knows no boundries

reminds of a quote I heard Morgan freeman make
" money isn't everything till you don't have any"
February 07, 2012 at 4:54pm
People in public positions have a way of doing what they want, when they want and it doesn't matter who they hurt. I've seen it first hand and it really makes you wonder if there is one public official left in this world who is honest. makes you sick they get paid to do this on top of everything!
Interesting column, Mike!
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