- Boyd Childress
first African American congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction and first black U.S. secretary of agriculture. An outspoken advocate for Mississippi's poorest region since the 1980s, Mike Espy was born to Henry and Willie Jean Espy of Yazoo City, Mississippi, and has lived a life of firsts. One of four students initially integrated into Yazoo City High School, he graduated from Howard University in 1975. After earning a JD from Santa Clara University in 1978, he returned to Mississippi to help in his family's flourishing chain of funeral home businesses—Century Funeral Home—the state's largest black-owned business.
Espy worked briefly for Central Mississippi Legal Services and later served under the Mississippi secretary of state Ed Pittman campaigning for Pittman s election as attorney general Espy held several state government positions including assistant secretary of state attorney general assistant secretary of public lands and assistant state attorney general retaining his deep ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.