Gay mayoral candidate found dead in Mississippi

3:33 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
Clarksdale, MS mayoral candidate Marco McMillian (MarcoMcMillian.com)
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JACKSON, Miss. (USA Today) -- Law enforcement agents on Wednesday afternoon confirmed that the body found near the Mississippi River in Coahoma County is that of Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian, who had been missing since early Tuesday.

The Coahoma County Sheriff's Department made the announcement at a news conference.

The body was found around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday near the levee between Sherard and Rena Lara.

A person of interest has been taken into custody, but sheriff's officials didn't provide the name or where the person is being held. The Clarion Ledgerreported that authorities have identified the person as Lawrence Reed, 22, of Clarksdale.

Charges haven't been filed.

Condolences started pouring into McMillian's Facebook page and Twitter account on Wednesday, mourning his loss.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly LGBT candidates in Mississippi," tweeted the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidates.

Jarod Keith, McMillian's campaign spokesman, confirmed the candidate was openly gay but said it never came up during the campaign. Keith said he was in shock over the incident.

"We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life," Keith said in a statement issued after the news conference. "Tragically, that life has been cut short."

McMillian was discovered absent after an accident involving his SUV around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday near the Coahoma County-Tallahatchie County line. Reed, who was driving McMillian's SUV, had collided head-on with another vehicle.

McMillian wasn't in his SUV at the time of the accident, thus prompting a search for his whereabouts.

Reed was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. The other driver was taken to a local hospital and since has been released. A hospital spokeswoman said Reed was in good condition Wednesday afternoon.

McMillian had entered the highly contested mayoral race earlier this year, saying he wanted to combat crime and high unemployment. Politics likely wasn't a factor in McMillian's death, said Coahoma County coroner Scotty Meredith.

A graduate of Jackson State University with a master's degree from St. Mary's University in Minnesota, McMillian was CEO of MWM & Associates. The firm provides professional consultations to nonprofit organizations.

He also had served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, executive assistant and chief of staff to the president of Alabama A&M University, and assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement at Jackson State University, according to his bio.

McMillian was living in Memphis before returning to his hometown of Clarksdale several months ago to run for mayor. He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997, and his family still lives in the Delta city where he grew up.

Family members couldn't be reached for comment.

The Coahoama County Sheriff's Department listed McMillian's age as 34, but his Facebook page lists him as 33.

Longtime friend Damon Ray called McMillian a mentor and the kind of person who would help anybody.

"He always believed in helping," said Ray, an Indianapolis-based event planner. "He told me he wanted to do the same in Clarksdale, to help out with crime and unemployment."

Also running for mayor are attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett and state Rep. Chuck Espy, whose father currently serves as mayor. Both are Democrats.

Espy, who has known McMillian casually for many years, called him a dynamic and energetic candidate with numerous ideas about how to change Clarksdale.

Espy offered his thoughts and prayers to McMillian's family.

Luckett had met McMillian for the first time at a "Beans and Greens" Democratic Party function in Clarksdale Saturday.

"He was a very articulate, clean-cut young man," Luckett said. "It's a bizarre and tragic situation."

Other candidates include Democrat Dorris Miller and independent Brad Fair.

(USA Today)

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