Mississippi's new state toy
March 17, 2002
No, it's not the governor's Lear jet or either of the King Air's that shuttle the governor and his minions from place to place. It's a cuddly teddy bear, newly endorsed by the Mississippi Legislature as the official "state toy."
In a moment of levity in an otherwise depressing session, at least financially speaking, the Legislature paid homage to the teddy bear as news stories touted the effective lobbying efforts of children.
The bill passed the Senate this week on a vote of 50-2 and, after some initial hesitation and lecturing, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he will sign it into law. The House approved the measure 121-0 on Feb. 6.
Supporters were promoting official recognition for the fuzzy childhood favorite because this year marks the 100th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt's hunting expedition in the Mississippi Delta. After three days without success, the president was offered a captive bear to kill, and he refused. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted Roosevelt's humane act, and toy bears became known worldwide as teddy bears, or so the story goes.
Children from Plantersville School in north Mississippi wrote to senators seeking support for the stuffed toy.
Mississippi is not known for many things. With this bill passed, it will help get our state recognized as being the first,'' wrote eighth graders Robin Alexander and Santana Wade. We students are really dedicated to getting this bill passed. We even plan on having a teddy bear day at school.''
Sens. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, and Rob Smith, D-Richland, voted against the bill. Frazier said state officials should concentrate on more serious issues, like creating jobs and finding money for Medicaid and education.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, filed the bear bill at the request of a constituent, Sarah Doxey-Tate of Tupelo, whose 2-year-old grandson died of leukemia in 1990. She was at the Capitol on Wednesday, her birthday, and smiled as senators embraced her idea.
It's not going to cost the state a dime,'' Doxey-Tate said. We'll get a little recognition. It'll be sweet and nice.''
Well, why not.