A Troubled Town’s Mayor

By: Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC — Date Published: November 07, 2023

The good …

Though I never knew the man personally, I did have respect for him from what I did know … even though he was a “died in the wool Democrat.”

Frank Melton was born in Jackson, Mississippi on March 19, 1949. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Houston, Texas where he was raised in some pretty bad neighborhoods.

Frank Melton earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political and Economic Systems from Yale College in 1976, graduating summa cum laude. He then went on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School in 1980.

Melton was a highly accomplished student in both college and law school. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Alpha Epsilon honor societies at Yale, and he was a member of the Stanford Law Review at Stanford. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

After graduating from law school, Melton worked as a law clerk to the Honorable David V. Kenyon, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California. He then went on to work as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator John C. Danforth, with a focus on international trade and tax policy issues.

Melton’s education and professional experience prepared him well for his career in public service. He was a brilliant and visionary leader who was committed to making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Frank Melton moved back to Mississippi in 1984, when he became chairman and CEO of WLBT TV Inc., in Jackson, Mississippi. He remained in that position until 2002.

Melton had previously worked in Jackson as a lawyer and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator John C. Danforth. However, he had moved away from Mississippi after graduating from law school.

Melton’s decision to move back to Mississippi was motivated by his desire to make a difference in his home state. He was particularly interested in addressing the issues of crime and poverty in Jackson.

Melton’s return to Mississippi marked the beginning of a new chapter in his life. He quickly became a prominent figure in the Jackson business and civic communities. He also began to develop a reputation as a tough-on-crime and pro-economic development leader.

Frank Melton served as the director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics from December 2002 to January 2004. He was appointed to the position by Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

While Melton was director of the MBN, he oversaw a number of successful drug busts. He also implemented a number of new programs aimed at reducing drug trafficking and abuse in Mississippi.

However, Melton’s tenure as MBN director was also marked by controversy. He was accused of mismanagement and of using the MBN for political purposes. He was also criticized for his aggressive and confrontational style of leadership.

In January 2004, Governor Haley Barbour fired Melton from his position as MBN director. Barbour said that Melton had lost the confidence of the law enforcement community.

In 2005, Melton ran for and was elected mayor of Jackson. He served as mayor until his death in 2009.

Frank Melton was a controversial figure, but he was also a dedicated and passionate mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.

He was a charismatic and outspoken leader, and he quickly gained a following among the city’s residents. He campaigned on a platform of crime reduction and economic development, and he made significant progress on both fronts.

Under Melton’s leadership, Jackson’s crime rate dropped by more than 20%. He did this by cracking down on drug gangs and increasing the number of police officers on the streets. He also implemented a number of community-based crime prevention programs.

Melton also worked hard to attract new businesses to Jackson and to create jobs. He was successful in bringing several major employers to the city, including Nissan and Amazon. He also helped to revitalize the city’s downtown core.

In addition to his work on crime reduction and economic development, Melton also made significant progress on improving the city’s infrastructure. He oversaw the construction of new roads, bridges, and schools. He also invested in public transportation and parks and recreation facilities.

Melton was a complex and contradictory figure. He was a brilliant and visionary leader, but he was also known for his temper and his erratic behavior. He made some mistakes during his time in office, but he also made a significant positive impact on the city of Jackson.

Here are some specific positive things that Mayor Melton did for Jackson, Mississippi:

  • He reduced the city’s crime rate by more than 20%.
  • He attracted new businesses to Jackson and created jobs.
  • He revitalized the city’s downtown core.
  • He improved the city’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, public transportation, and parks and recreation facilities.
  • He started a program to help homeless people get back on their feet.
  • He created a new youth development program.
  • He established a new city court to handle misdemeanor cases.
  • He opened a new police substation in a high-crime area.
  • He launched a new initiative to clean up the city’s streets.

The bad …

Of course, you can’t have good in anyone these days without the Media talking about all the bad in the same person. While Frank Melton did some great things in the City of Jackson, Mississippi … he was also known for doing some very bad things. Here’s just a few of them the media had to make us aware of:

  • Carrying a gun without a permit: Melton was known for carrying a gun in public, even though he did not have a permit. This was a controversial move, and it led to calls for his resignation. I remember a time that it was reported that he even entered a school building while class was in session brandishing a sub-machine gun. He was there to arrest some young hoodlums along with the police.
  • Demolishing a suspected crack house without a permit: Melton ordered the demolition of a suspected crack house without obtaining the necessary permits. This was also controversial, and it led to legal charges being filed against him. In one instance he and some teenagers took sledge hammers to the house and in another he took care of knocking down the house with a bull dozer (or so it was reported at the time).
  • Raiding nightclubs with police officers: Melton would often accompany police officers on raids of nightclubs. He was accused of using excessive force and of intimidating patrons. Even though he was not, nor was ever a police officer, since he was Mayor (Commander ‘n’ Chief of the police officers) he decided to act as one on many occasions. Personally, I take pride in a suit and tie that is willing to lay down his life right along side of the police officers rather than just send them to lay down theirs.
  • Making inflammatory statements: Melton was known for making inflammatory statements about criminals and the poor. This alienated many people and made it difficult for him to work with other city officials. Just like Donald Trump of later years in the political spectrum … Frank Melton would say exactly what was on his mind without sugar-coating if tor the mindless media and the mindless masses.

Melton’s mistakes were widely reported by the media, and this contributed to his negative image. He was often portrayed as a reckless and irresponsible leader.

In addition to his mistakes (or what some like to call his mistakes), Melton was also a very polarizing figure. He had a strong following among some residents of Jackson, but he was also deeply disliked by others. His critics accused him of being a bully and a dictator. I personally don’t think anything Mr. Melton did as mayor or as director of the MBN was a mistake – nor did he – I’m almost certain.

The combination of Melton’s mistakes and his polarizing personality led to a lot of conflict and controversy during his time in office. He was constantly being criticized by the media and by other city officials. He was also the target of several lawsuits.

The Ugly …

This is a brief article from New York Times – 09/21/2006:

JACKSON, Miss., Sept. 20 — Most politicians who run afoul of the law are accused of bribery, kickbacks or ethics violations.

But not here in the state capital, where Mayor Frank Melton, an erratic figure who took office in July 2005, does nothing by the book. Mr. Melton has disdained such basic functions as drawing up the city’s budget in favor of cruising through the city’s worst neighborhoods in a police department “mobile command center.”

He is known for carrying two guns, wearing a police jacket and a badge, searching cars, knocking on doors and raiding nightclubs while brandishing a large stick.

Mr. Melton’s activities now threaten to derail his career. Last week, he was indicted on eight charges, including burglary, malicious mischief and causing a minor to commit a felony. Prosecutors said he had illegally carried sidearms and improperly helped demolish a duplex he says was a crack house.

~~ End of Article ~~

Despite the challenges he faced, Melton was able to achieve some significant accomplishments as mayor. He reduced the city’s crime rate, attracted new businesses, and revitalized the downtown core. However, his mistakes and his controversial personality overshadowed his accomplishments; until the day he died … then everyone in the media had nothing but good things to say about him.

It is important to note that Melton was a complex and contradictory figure. He was a brilliant and visionary leader, but he was also known for his temper and his erratic behavior. He may have done somethings, well different, during his time in office, but he also made a significant positive impact on the city of Jackson.

Frank Melton was sworn in as Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi on Tuesday, July 5, 2005. He died on Thursday, May 7, 2009 from cardiac arrest after losing his bid for re election as Mayor. He was considered to be the front runner in the race and was widely expected to win … but that did not happen.

He was a dedicated and passionate public servant even with all his flaws. He will be remembered for his successes and his failures, but there is no doubt that he was a complex and compelling figure.

You can find out more about this dynamic city leader by reading the articles below. I encourage you to read them if you would like to know what I think city mayors in troubled cities should be doing other than holding down a desk.




That’s it for today … thank you for reading this.

Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC

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