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Congressional and Political Research Center

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

The Alan Nunnelee Papers

About Alan Nunnelee

Patrick Alan Nunnelee was a United States Representative from the 1st District of Mississippi. Prior to that, he served in the Mississippi State Senate for 16 years.

Nunnelee was born in 1958 in Tupelo, Mississippi. He graduated from Clinton High School in Clinton, Mississippi, in 1976 and received a bachelor's degree in 1980 from Mississippi State University. Alongside his father, Nunnelee worked as vice-president of sales and marketing of American Funeral Assurance Co., until 1996 when he and his father founded Allied Funeral Associates Insurance Company, where he served as vice-president and director.

Alan Nunnelee

Nunnelee's transition into political life began with his strong public speaking abilities. A sufferer of a degenerative eyesight that caused him to become legally blind while a student at MSU, he received corneal transplants and his vision was restored. He regularly shared his story of reliance upon his Christian faith and the importance of organ donation with numerous local organizations. In 1995, then State Senator and future U.S Senator Roger Wicker resigned from his post in the state senate to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Mississippi's 1st district. Nunnelee, successfully ran and replaced Wicker, where he served four consecutive terms and became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key player in the state's fiscal and tax policies.

In the 2010 midterm elections, Nunnelee ran for the U.S. House seat then held by Democrat Travis Childers, and won handily. He began his post in January of 2011. During his first term, his district was redrawn, but he won reelection in both 2012 and 2014, the latter of which he ran unopposed.

While in Congress, Nunnelee co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act (Bill H.R. 3261) and served on the Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittees, including: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development, where he was vice-chairman; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. In addition, he held membership in several caucuses such as the Immigration Reform Caucus, the International Conservation Caucus, the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, and the Congressional Prayer Caucus.

In 2014, doctors discovered a mass in Nunnelee's brain. He underwent major brain surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, and his treatment continued at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital. In January of 2015, a second tumor was found, and Nunnelee was moved to hospice care in Tupelo where he died on February 6, 2015, at the age of 56.

Throughout his illness and following his death, Nunnelee and his career were widely praised by friends and colleagues at both the state and national level. Upon his passing, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle issued a public statement, saying, "Alan never wavered in his determination to serve the men and women who placed their trust in him, even as he bravely battled the illness that ultimately took his life. As a Sunday School teacher and a deacon at his church, Alan believed deeply in the power of faith and the strength of American families." Former U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, asked that the flag over the U.S. Capitol building be flown at half-mast in Nunnelee's honor, and then Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant called Nunnelee "the best man I have ever known."

His death triggered a special election to fill his seat, which was succeeded in June 2015 by Trent Kelly, an Iraq war veteran and long-serving lawyer and district attorney for the Tupelo area.

A devout Baptist, Nunnelee was survived by his wife, Tori, their three children, and several grandchildren.