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Programs >> Women's Leadership Initiatives >> Lindy Boggs Award >> Evelyn Gandy, 1998
Evelyn Gandy, 1998

 EVELYN GANDY was a legend in Mississippi politics. She was elected to the Mississippi legislature in 1948, and later became the first woman in the state to serve in five state government positions: Assistant Attorney General, Commissioner of Public Welfare, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Insurance and Lieutenant Governor. She was the first woman who was ever been elected to statewide office in Mississippi.

Gandy's political career started early. She began making speeches for political candidates while she was just a high school student. As the only woman in her 1943 class at the University of Mississippi School of Law, she won the state oratorical contest. She was the first woman editor of the Mississippi Law Journal and the first woman to be elected president of the law school student body. After graduating, Gandy opened a law office in Hattiesburg and ran successfully for state representative in the Mississippi legislature. She was the first woman to hold that office. She supported progressive legislation, especially in education and human services, and co-authored a law establishing Mississippi's four-year medical school, as well as the state's first law providing financial assistance for the disabled.

In 1959, Gandy was the first woman to be appointed Mississippi's Assistant Attorney General, and in the same year, she was elected State Treasurer, the first woman to be elected to a state-wide constitutional office in Mississippi. She was elected to a second term without opposition. In 1972 she became the first woman elected as State Insurance Commissioner. Gandy was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1975, the first woman to hold that office in Mississippi, and one of the first women in the country to do so. Asked what would happen if the governor dies, she replied, "I'll be qualified to be governor." In 1979 she narrowly lost a gubernatorial bid.

The hallmark of Gandy's career and life has been her commitment to seeing that women are treated as first-class citizens, in every phase of society, including government at every level. Among her many awards are a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Bar, the Women's Political Network's Award for Distinguished Service, Mississippi College's Service to Humanity Award, Mississippi State University's Woman of the Year Award, the Exchange Club's Golden Deeds Award, the Mississippi Women's Political Caucus Susan B. Anthony Award for Outstanding Service to the state of Mississippi, and Mississippi University for Women's Medal of Excellence.

In August 1997, the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession gave Gandy its highest honor, the Margaret Brent Award, for paving the way to success for other female lawyers.

Gandy died on December 23, 2007. Until her death at age eighty-seven, she was engaged in private law practice in Hattiesburg and remained active in Mississippi Democratic politics.