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Congressional and Political Research Center

Providing information on federal, state, and local politics and politicians

The Mike Espy Collection

Collection Overview

Mike Espy is a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, who received his B.A. degree at Howard University and his law degree at the University of Santa Clara. Prior to his election to Congress, he worked as a managing attorney for Central Mississippi Legal Services, as Mississippi Assistant Secretary of State responsible for the Division of Public Lands, and as Mississippi Assistant Attorney General in which role he was Director of Mississippi Consumer Protection. In 1986, he was elected to represent Mississippi's Second Congressional District in the U. S. House of Representatives, becoming the state's first African-American congressman since Reconstruction. He was easily reelected in 1988, 1990, and 1992. He resigned his seat early in 1993 to accept a position as Secretary of Agriculture in the Bill Clinton administration.

While in Congress, Espy served on the Budget and Agriculture committees and on the Select Committee on Hunger. He was a member of several subcommittees of the Agriculture Committee: Cotton, Rice, and Sugar; Wheat, Soybeans, and Feed Grains; Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition; and Department Operations, Research, and Foreign Agriculture. He served on two Budget Committee subcommittees: Budget Process, Reconciliation and Enforcement; and community Development and Natural Resources. In his first term in Congress, Espy was the only freshman member to compose and have passed a major piece of legislation, the Lower Mississippi River Valley Delta Development Act. He also was responsible for the establishment of National Catfish Day, which brought worldwide attention to that industry, which is a major employer in the Mississippi Delta region.

Espy's tenure as Secretary of Agriculture was marked by administrative successes, but marred by criminal charges that he accepted unlawful gifts and favors. After a long, drawn-out trial procedure, Espy was ultimately cleared on all counts. During the course of the investigation, he resigned his secretary position and is now practicing law in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Espy Collection contains files, audio/visual material, publications, and memorabilia documenting his congressional career plus some personal files and other items from his work as Secretary of Agriculture. The collection is currently being processed, and most of the material will be opened to the public when processing is completed. An oral history project with Espy is in the planning stages.