JACKSON, Miss. — A portrait of former Mississippi Gov. Bill Allain will be unveiled in January, filling the only gap in the state Capitol’s hall of governors.
Allain was a Democrat who served as governor from 1984 to 1988, after being attorney general for four years. He was known to shun the spotlight, and never sat for a portrait while he was living.
The Natchez native was 85 when he died in late 2013.
Now, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that northern district Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley found an artist, Robbie Boyd of Pontotoc, to paint a portrait. It is based on a photo that Allain himself selected late in his life.
The state budgeted $2,500 for the art, which has been delivered to the state Department of Archives and History and will be unveiled Jan. 29.
The Capitol’s architectural historian, Brenda Davis, said there has always been a gap left for a portrait of Allain, in chronological order between those of fellow Democratic governors William Winter, who served from 1980 to 1984, and Ray Mabus, who served from 1988 to 1992. Davis said the gap “caused many inquiries.”
“Everyone assumed the portrait was out for restoration,” Davis said. “After we told them the story of why there was no portrait, that caused a lot of conversation. I am sure that was an unintended consequence.”
By the time Allain was near death, family members had persuaded him that it was important for his portrait to be added to those of other governors.
“He did participate in the process before he passed away,” Davis said.
Boyd said Allain’s private nature presented some problems. If she were painting someone still living, she would meet with the person and do preliminary work to gather information on skin color, mannerism, personality and other traits. In the case of Allain, she said even the number of photographs was limited.
“Gov. Allain did not like to be photographed. Imagine that — a politician who does not like to be photographed,” she said.
Still, Boyd, who previously owned a floral business in Tupelo, said it was an honor to paint the portrait, and Presley, who delivered it to Archives and History, praised the painting of his former mentor.
Presley said it was Allain who convinced him, at age 23, to run for and win the office of mayor of Nettleton. At the time he met Allain, they both were working on the political campaigns of Amy Tuck of Maben for lieutenant governor and Jimmy Roberts of Pontotoc for governor.