Submission by Sid Salter
Somewhere from a place high on God’s mountain, lifetime Neshoba County resident Hugh “Boots” Harpole is smiling and bragging about his grandson Andrew Bailey, the newly-minted attorney general of the State of Missouri.
“Boots,” whose love and mastery of horses (especially the trotters and pacers like those involved in the harness racing enjoyed annually at the Neshoba County Fair) provided his nickname, was the longtime district attorney’s investigator for Mississippi’s Eighth Circuit Court Judicial District of Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties in east central Mississippi.
Harpole and his wife, Frankie, made a good life in Philadelphia. They raised two beautiful and talented daughters – Lorraine and Jessica. Now long retired, Mrs. Harpole is a beloved former elementary school educator and artist. “Boots” died in 2013 at age 88.
I always respected “Boots” and appreciated his kindness to me when I covered my first criminal trials for The Neshoba Democrat some 40 years ago. As fate would have it, that first trial was a murder case in which a husband was accused of the crime-of-passion slaying of his wife.
Recognizing a rookie newspaper reporter in unfamiliar surroundings, Mr. Harpole told me: “This in some ways is like church. Stand up and sit down when everyone else does, stay awake, and pay attention.”
It was good advice. Until Mr. Harpole retired from the state trial court’s judicial system, he was in the courtroom for almost every criminal case I covered in Neshoba and Scott counties. He served the taxpayers well.
One of “Boots” and Frankie Harpole’s grandsons is now the beneficiary of his grandfather’s influence from those long days back in the Neshoba County Courthouse. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Nov. 23 appointed Andrew Bailey as the new Attorney General of the State of Missouri.
Bailey, 41, is the son of Jessica Harpole Bailey and her husband, Ty, of Gluckstadt. “Andrew’s love of the law started when he was a child through my father,” Jessica Bailey told The Neshoba Democrat last week. “He (“Boots”) would take Andrew and his brother Simon to the courthouse while he was an investigator for the District Attorney in Neshoba County, and that’s where Andrew learned to love the legal system.”
The resume for Bailey is solid. He is a decorated military veteran (including two Bronze Stars and a Combat Action Badge during Operation Iraqi Freedom), a former county prosecutor, a former General Counsel for the Missouri Dept. of Corrections, and before his AG appointment was serving as Gov. Parson’s General Counsel.
Bailey and his wife, also named Jessica, have four children between the ages of six months and 10, including three foster children. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri School of Law.
Notably, the last two individuals who served Missouri as attorney general have found themselves representing that state in the U.S. Senate. Bailey is succeeding Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt, who likewise succeeded Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley. Parson’s appointment of Bailey invited some media speculations in Missouri about his future.
Missouri media, connecting the dots with Schmitt and Hawley, wondered aloud whether Bailey would follow a similar path to higher office. But in the Bailey introduction press conference, he made clear that he would be seeking election as attorney general.
In making the appointment, Gov. Parson said Bailey “is the right candidate to lead Missourians as our next Attorney General” and that his designee “understands the need to do better, to be better, and with Andrew, better will not only be possible but achieved.”
Missouri State Senate Pro Tempore Caleb Rowden was circumspect in his assessment of Bailey, telling the Kansas City Star: “I think it’s a bit unfair to Andrew to compare him to anyone, you know. I hope he takes office and makes it what it’s supposed to be, which is, you know, really looking out for the people of the state as the chief law enforcement officer.”
Something along the mold of the way Bailey’s grandfather “Boots” Harpole did it back in Mississippi trial courts.